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Steve's Rum Ruminations - Père Labat vs Clement Private Cask vs Saint James Millésime 2000

It's a warm cloudy day here at Paradise Palms this morning and I'm determined to compare these three rums. Something I have been meaning to do for quite awhile.

Père Labat Rèserve Familiale 42%

The label says it is a Rhum Agricole that was distilled in a small 12 plate custom column still and aged in Marie Galante using Oak Barrels for 6 years, product of France. It's a pale straw color and has a significant amount of particulate in suspension creating a cloudy appearance. Best guess is that it hasn't been chill filtered and what I'm seeing are fatty clumps that have formed during it's lengthy travels till it arrived at my doorstep. Not a bad thing at all. The nose is subtle but when coaxed out shows a very floral version of the typical strong grassy, farmy agricole notes with an added layer of citrus. Not terribly complex but certainly very pleasant. I wish there was a perfume that smelled like this that I could gift for the holiday season. It's thin and watery on the palate at first but the flavors come along a beat or two later. Unusually sweet for an Agricole, it brings flavors of honey and roasted nuts, toasted citrus and wood. Surprisingly sweet...if Agricole didn't prohibit sweeteners I would suspect this of being sweetened. The longish finish is peppery woody tannin in moderation while the mid palate continues to enjoy the lingering honey nut flavors.

Overall this is a bit more than I expected from a 42% Agricole offering. A surprisingly sweet and tasty experience while being an easy drinker. This drinks a bit above it's price point and yes I would love a barrel proof version of this one.

Clement Private Cask for The Bottle Shop, 5yr, 59.75%

Rhum Agricole, barrel proof, aged in new heavily charred oak barrels, product of Martinique. A lovely ruby red/gold color that hits all my whiskey lover buttons. The nose is unsurprisingly woody/smokey with leather and meringue ghosting about in the background. It's not shy on the palate. It kicks the door open and struts it's stuff proudly. The smoke and wood show immediately, not much sweetness but some earthy notes that ground the wood, smoke and leather. It all fades rather quickly leaving a nice balance of a subtle sweetness and wood. A long enjoyable finish that surprisingly shows more sweetness than the palate.

Looking at the specs I expected this to be woody/smokey and it didn't disappoint in that regard while it added a lovely subtle sweetness that was different than I expected from new barrels. It's a good pour and to my palate among the best I have had the opportunity to taste from Clement. More complexity would push this into another league. As it stands it's a solid, robust woody pour that has a lot in common with a mature Bourbon.

Saint James Millésime 2000 Tres Vieux Rhum Agricole

"A sumptuous vintage", "from the first harvest of the 21st century patiently aged in small oak barrels", 43% limited edition product of Martinique. No mention of bottling date or age statement or total number of bottles in this "limited edition". I bought this bottle from the same place I bought one seven years ago and that one didn't have a "limited edition" sticker on it. Must have been a particularly large harvest or this is a particularly slow seller.

This rum has a shy closed nose which lowly reveals dry straw, grass, earth, mixed floral and citrus. Typical agricole notes without embellishment. Light and thin it's very easy to drink thanks to the low proof. There really isn't much in the way of distinguishing flavor, save a grassy sweetness that fades pretty quickly in favor of a light tannin prickle of a finish. Doesn't have much in the way of flavor or personality, OTOH it likewise doesn't really do anything wrong. It just doesn't do much of anything.

On revisiting these on reverse order the biggest thing that sticks out is the pronounced sweetness of the Labat. I'm curious how they achieved that with used barrels in six years. The next thing I noticed was the way the Clement mimicked some very old Armagnac I have had recently. It would be interesting to know if the barrels were French or American Oak.

Steve Leukanech.

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