By now two things are clear about these older Bally rhums – aside from some educated guesswork, we don’t know how old they are, and by this time, 1979, the AOC noted on the label is somewhat of a puzzler, unless the thing is seventeen years old, in which case it would hardly be labelled a mere “rhum vieux” but an “XO”. So maybe after the initial ageing they stored it in tanks or flagons and only bottled it after 1996…or, more likely, it came under a previous version of the official 1996 AOC designation. At this point, it’s somewhat academic, though — given it was made nearly forty years ago, it presents as a rhum that shows something of the evolution of the agricole world over time.
Colour – Amber
Strength – 45%
Nose – Pungent, grassy, clear and quite light, quite dry. There were olives in brine, grapes, black tea, some citrus peel and aromatic tobacco, but also something softer, milder: strawberries and bananas, I’d say, forming a nice counterpoint. It takes its time opening up, once this happens, it gets somewhat fruitier, while never entirely letting go of the grassy, herbal aromas.
Palate – Creamy and salty, black bread and cheese. It’s also somewhat sharper and more more tannic than the earlier Ballys from 1992 and 1993, with wood taking center stage, and a taste of something green, like grass, fresh sap, Japanese tea. So also somewhat bitter, and the clean purity of agricoles with which we are more familiar has receded – fortunately I could still taste tart apples, lemon zest and raisins, plus whiffs of dark chocolate and some unripe fruit.
Finish – Pleasant close out – dry, edgy, warm. White guavas and pears, plus the tartness of soursop, pencil shavings and perhaps too much oak. Not entirely a success here, perhaps a shade too peppery and not as well balanced as the nose or palate.
Thoughts – Here we have moved away from the almost standard profile of the ’80s and ’90s demonstrated so clearly by the newer Bally rums, and returned to agricole rums’ roots…but also something of a tangent from those profiles we are now used to. A solid rhum, but not one that ascends to the heights.
Other members of the Collective have written about the rhum as well, on the official website.