Review: Damoiseau Rhum Agricole Complete Lineup


Rhum agricole (made from sugar cane juice instead of molasses) is a French style of rum-making made almost exclusively in the French West Indies, specifically on Martinique, where the majority of agricole producers (at least 14 of them) can be found.

Less well-known in the U.S. is rhum agricole from Guadeloupe, which is the home of Damoiseau (among many other distilleries). Damoiseau has been producing spirits for 70 years and is now is imported into the U.S. by Rhum Clement, which makes its own highly-regarded agricole line.

The distillery produces four different bottlings. All are reviewed below. Thoughts follow.

Damoiseau Rhum Agricole Blanc 80 Proof – Single distilled and rested in an oak vat for six months before being brought down to proof. Color is completely clear and transparent. Quite cachaca-like on the nose, with heavy overtones of petrol mixed with super-sweet tropical notes, white sugar, and notes of white flowers. On the palate, the rum is a bit thin, with the myriad overtones present in the nose dialed way back on the tongue. The floral elements are the strongest of these, with some mushroom and earth elements emerging in time. A touch of chocolate on the finish adds a bit of nuance where I wasn’t expecting to find much of any. Interesting, at the very least. 80 proof. B / $30

Damoiseau Rhum Agricole Blanc 110 Proof – Overproof cane rum isn’t common, but here we have Damoiseau’s, aged in oak for three months and bottled with a tinge of yellow left behind. The overall character is very similar to the 80 proof, but with more of a vanilla note on the palate. The already intense petrol notes are enhanced by the abv here, but they manage to remain enough in check so that you can sip on this rum without water — though, again, it is obviously designed for use as a high-test mixer in tiki and other exotic drinks. Worth keeping on the back bar for special occasions. 110 proof. B / $34

Damoiseau Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP – Aged for a minimum of four years in ex-bourbon barrels. Here we see more classic old rum character — notes of brown sugar, banana, coconut, caramel, and baking spices, all whipped up into a concoction you could sip on any time, but particularly alongside something sweet to eat. While the nose isn’t as expressive as the body, the overall impact is both expressive and complex, a subtle smokiness emerging on the finish to add to its mysteries. 84 proof. A- / $42

Damoiseau Rhum Vieux Agricole XO – Aged for a minimum of six years in ex-bourbon barrels. Heady Cognac overtones lead the way to this XO bottling, which is a bit winey, floral, and fruit-heavy on the nose, with notes of incense popping up. The body takes on herbal notes of thyme and rosemary, its muted caramel sweetness backed up by some not insignificant barrel char notes, a modest slug of raisin and dried cherry, and a drying, slightly tannic finish. This is a rum not particularly showcasing “extra old” character but rather exhibiting its turbulent adolescence, offering ample contradictions and only a hint of underlying sweetness. 84 proof. A- / $70

Review: Don Q Rum Signature Release Single Barrel 2005

don q

Destileria Serralles, producer of Don Q Rum in Puerto Rico, has just launched its latest expression: A vintage rum that was distilled in 2005 and spent 10 years in barrel. The first of a new line of single-barrel releases (a first for Don Q; a 2007 release comes out next year), this rum is a massive departure compared to most rum, which relies heavily on blending to acheive its flavor profile.

Surprisingly sedate, Don Q 2005 offers a nose of modest wood notes, backed up by the essence of a vanilla ice cream sundae with hot fudge sauce. On the palate, the rum drinks younger than you’d think — a bit grainy, a little herbal, with modest brown sugar notes. The palate moves to notes of banana and creme brulee, then takes an interesting and welcome spin on the finish as it echoes notes of dark chocolate and coffee.

All of that is great stuff, but the body is so light and feathery that none of these flavors really has a chance to truly take hold on the palate. Don Q 2005 is not an “anejo” rum in any sense of the word. Rather, despite a not insignificant age, it’s closer to a mid-level amber expression, one which continues to wear its youthful heart on its sleeve but offers a glimpse of what the future may hold.

Seems like a crime to recommend mixing with a $40 single barrel, vintage-dated rum, but that’s where this Don Q expression finds its greatest utility.

80 proof. 6000 bottles produced.

B+ / $40 /

Review: Saint James Cuvee 1765 Rhum Vieux Agricole

SAINT JAMES - Cuvée 1765Saint James is a massive Martinique rum operation with dozens of product offerings in its vast lineup. Oddly, few of them seem common on U.S. shores, though that may slowly be changing as the distillery’s footprint grows larger.

Cuvee 1765 is the company’s latest offering, bottled to commemorate the company’s 250th anniversary. There’s no real product information to offer here — or rather, it’s all written in French on the neck tag on the bottle — but as with most of these types of releases, it’s clearly a barrel selection of older rums fit for the big occasion that have been put into a fancy bottle.

Saint James Cuvee 1765 offers a quite heated nose, pungent with traditional agricole notes — hot rubber and asphalt, but balanced with burnt sugar and some nutty notes. On the palate, the rum opens up while maintaining that agricole funkiness at its core. Light brown sugar and caramel, some flambéed banana, pungent vegetal notes, and a lengthy, cane-driven sweetness that endures for quite awhile. There’s ample alcohol here, but Cuvee 1765 is warming without being hot, decidedly of the earth without being “green.”

All told, it’s a fine example of a moderately-aged rhum agricole that showcases the uniqueness of this style of rum — and a spirit that is fun to explore as you both sip and mix with it.

84 proof.

B+ / $57 /

Review: Afrohead Aged Rum XO 15 Years Old

Afrohead XO - Front

Last year Afrohead Rum, a capable 7 year old, hit the scene. Today we turn out head toward Afrohead XO, a 15 year old blend from the same Bahamas-based distillery (bottled in Barbados) and featuring the same afro-headed mascot on the bottle.

As with its forebear, Afrohead XO showcases a somewhat rustic and simplistic style. On the nose, some petrol notes are cut with cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, some coffee, and a touch of banana. Light acetone notes emerge with time, but they aren’t overt enough to make a huge impact. On the palate, gentle caramels lead into a touch of orange oil, some overripe apple notes, and a bit of petrol, all on a moderately light body. Overall balance is iffy, but fair enough. The coffee character from the nose makes a resurgence in time, with dusky cloves and dark chocolate dusting the finish.

The rum holds together well, but it lacks the density of flavor and the silky body that makes old rum so compelling. What’s here works well enough, but it’s tough to see this standing out against other products in this price class.

Update: Price cut from $60 to $45, which improves its attractiveness.

86 proof.


Review: Angostura White Oak, 5 Years Old, 7 Years Old, 1919, and 1824 Rums



While best known for its ubiquitous aromatic bitters, Angostura is a major rum distillery, and it’s been producing spirits in Trinidad & Tobago since 1824.

We tasted five rums spanning a wide range of production from the company. All are 80 proof, with comments on each below. Enjoy!

Angostura White Oak Rum – You’ll find “Angostura Limited” in small type underneath the much larger White Oak banner. This white rum (barrel aged and filtered to white, though no age information is offered) is the number one selling rum in its homeland of Trinidad, and it’s easy to see why. Fresh citrus is prominent on the nose, with crisp lime notes. The palate lacks the raw character that so many white rums exhibit, hitting the tongue with spice and some gentle notes of canned peaches in syrup. The finish is lackluster, flabby, with notes of acetone — but what white rum is a dazzler, anyway? Not widely exported to the U.S., but bottles do show up from time to time. B+ / $15

Angostura Caribbean Rum 5 Years Old – A gold rum with five years of age on it. Caramel and cinnamon on the nose give this a bit of a cinnamon roll character, though the buttery body brings the spice on more strongly — think red hot candies instead of cinnamon toast. The finish is heavier with clove character and lengthy brown butter, but recalls a bit of youthful petrol character as it fades out. All told, it’s a solid though youngish bottling. B+ / $18

Angostura Caribbean Rum 7 Years Old – Though only two years older, this rum is significantly darker in the glass and richer on the nose — with notes of coffee, dense vanilla, and chocolate right up front. These sweet notes lead to a nutty, toffee character as the finish builds, taking you to a big and bold conclusion that offers hints of baking spice while it lingers for quite a while. An impressive sipper, it’s a bold spirit that showcases all the best characteristics of rum at this age level. A / $20

Angostura Caribbean Rum 1919 – This golden-hued rum offers no aging information but it makes up for that with a hugely spicy profile. If you’re a fan of spiced rum, Angostura 1919 will be right up your alley. Toasted coconut, huge vanilla notes, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice are all present and accounted for — and in a stronger show of force than your typical aged rum. Everything in 1919 seems pumped up to 11, with that unctuous butteriness just oozing on the finish. All told it’s an impressive rum — provided its stylistic flourishes are what you’re looking for. A- / $30

Angostura Caribbean Rum 1824 12 Years Old – A blend of clearly well-aged rums, though unlike the 1919, this one offers an age statement on the bottle. As with the 7 year old, notes of coffee and chocolate are immediately present on the nose, with spicy tobacco notes underneath. The body is intense with those coffee notes, rounded out with roasted nuts, vanilla, and sweet milk chocolate. A classic, well-aged rum, the lengthy finish makes for a perfect late-night sipper, but it works just as well as the key ingredient to spike your favorite rum punch. A / $60  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Bacardi Tangerine Rum

Bacardi_TangerinI’ve never had a tangerine that tasted anything like this, but Bacardi Sunny Delight Rum probably would’ve gotten the company into hot water.

What we have here is an indistinctly orangish-citrus, petrol-laden rum that is simultaneously super-sweet and incredibly artificial in the way it comes across. (As always, “natural flavors” are promised, per the label.) The finish is lengthy and enduring and reminiscent of a children’s cough syrup.

Pass on this one.

70 proof.

D+ / $11 /

Review: Monkey Spiced Rum

monkey rum spicedIt must happen to all of us. Zane Lamprey got so tired of drinking spirits that he figured he should just make his own. The result of that ennui with the drinking world is Monkey Rum (named for Lamprey’s stuffed monkey that is omnipresent on his televised boozing adventures), which is available in both Spiced and Coconut expressions.

We got the Spiced. The Coconut broke during shipping to Drinkhacker HQ.

Monkey gets its rum from Angostura in Trinidad, aged two to three years. It is then blended with cinnamon, vanilla, a hint of coconut, and “buttery caramelized flavors,” which I would take to mean caramel except that Monkey says that no caramel color is added to the product.

That said, Lamprey sure doesn’t lie about that buttery tasting note — right from the start, this is oily, gooey, unctuous buttered popcorn, injected with the essence of pure vanilla. Cinnamon is almost nonexistent, as the essence of melted caramels blended with pure, softened butter really takes center stage. That toasted coconut does make itself known on the finish, but otherwise stays hidden in the background.

Fans of deeply cinnamon- and clove-flavored spiced rums will find Monkey to be quite far afield. In fact, it’s a lot closer to a standard gold or aged rum than it is to Captain Morgan. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, that depends on your perspective. If you elect to drink spiced rum because of the spice, Monkey is a letdown. If you elect to drink it because of the rum, you might just be enchanted by this oddball novelty.

70 proof. No monkeys added.

B+ / $22 /