The 1980 Damoiseau was no fluke, as this 1989 forcefully demonstrates.
Last week I wrote about the Longueteau Grande Reserve which I tasted in tandem with this excellent Damoiseau (and five or six others), and wow, did this one ever stand out. At the risk of offending that actually rather pleasant and inoffensive Grande Reserve, I think the Damoiseau shows what it could have been with some egging on. (Actually, this is what the Pyrat’s XO could have been had they ever found their cojones, lost the oranges and dialled the whole thing up to “12”, but never mind).
Because frankly, I believe that the dark orange 58.4% twenty year old beefcake is one of the better rhums to come out of Guadeloupe – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, there are few, if any, missteps of any kind (unless you count the paucity of any single sterling point of achievement as a misstep) — there’s so much that’s right with it, that it seems almost churlish to point out where it fails to ascend to the heights of brilliance achieved by, oh, the Chantal Comte 1980 or even Damoiseau’s own 1980 older brother.
Consider first the smell of the thing: it was amazingly full bodied, with a charging, yelling, joyous nose – if Braveheart ever visited Guadeloupe, it’s this he would have been drinking and all the Scots would be speaking creole and we’d never have heard of that obscure Hebridean tipple. Candied light oranges started the revels off (here’s where my reference to the Pyrat’s came in – observe the tact with which the citrus was presented here versus the overripe nonsense Patron has been selling). Peaches, apricots, and brown sugar soaked in lime juice, which sounds a little loopy until you actually taste it. And after letting the rhum open up a bit and settle down, lovely aromas of honey, licorice and sweet soya came forward to lend piquancy and heft to the experience.
There were fond memories of other agricoles issued at cask strength in my tasting, and I felt no particular amped-up over-aggressive heat from the 58.4% ABV at which it was bottled. The sharpness burned off in no time, leaving a warm solidity of the honey and soya to carry forward from the nose. And then it was like slow fireworks going off – strongly heated black tea, coffee, chocolate, earthy, waxy and citrus notes detonated on the tongue in solemn grandeur. Some fleshy fruits (more apricots and peaches), lemon zest and yes, those candied oranges were back again for an encore, dancing around the backbone of the other, firmer notes. The control of the oak, by the way, was pretty good, and in no way intrusive – at most there was some background of vanilla and vague tannins, and even that was in no way offensive or overbearing.
I was looking for the herbal and grassy profile of a true agricole, and must confess there were just about none. It was just a really well-constructed panoply of tastes both strong and subtle, leading into a slow, warm finish as post-coital languor in a courtesan’s boudoir – you almost want to break out the newspapers and some shag for your pipe as you enjoy long, pleasant closing notes of coffee, orange peel, and bitter black chocolate. What a lovely piece of work indeed.
As I’ve observed before, I have a slight, sneaking preference for Guadeloupe agricoles over Martinique ones (though both are good, of course – it’s like asking me who I love more, Little Caner (my fast-growing cheeky son) or Canerette (my just-graduated, far-too-clever daughter)…a pointless exercise since both have aspects of real distinction which get equal adoration from their papa). I must simply sum up by stating that the way traditional, classic agricole components in this rum have been melded with something that is almost, but not quite, a molasses product, is masterful. This, for its price, is a rum to treasure.
(#278 / 88/100)
- Distilled April 1989, bottled January 2010, so, a whisker under 21 years old
- Tasted in Paris in 2016, courtesy of Christian de Montaguère and Jerry Gitany. I bought seventeen rums and tasted a raft more, which we all thought was fair. Merci beaucoup, mes amis.
- Nope, I never managed to acquire the Velier Damoiseau 1989 for a comparison. But now I really want to.
- €100 for this? Great value for money. BUT….In an odd (but not entirely uncommon) coincidence, Serge Valentin of WhiskyFun wrote about this rhum this same week. He rated it at 78, remarking on its ‘indefinite’ character. Also, Single Cask Rum ran three Damoiseaus past each other (1989, 1991 and 1995) and it lost out to the other two…so balance their reviews with my more enthusiastic one. If you can, try it yourself before buying.