The rhums of Chantal Comte have been of consistently high quality throughout my relatively brief acquaintanceship with her brand. Mme Comte, you may recall, is an independent bottler with the twin advantages of having a long association with spirits (she is the owner of a wine making chateau in France) as well as a boatload of familial connections and wasta in Martinique. The La Tour L’Or HSE, the 1980 Trois Rivieres and the 1977 Trois Rivieres rhums were all products that impressed, and I had thought so even when my experience with agricoles was more limited. There was something about the richness and subtlety of the final products she issued that simply could not be ignored and many of them were under ten years old, which was and remains its own endorsement.
After the positive experience of the 1977 Trois Rivieres and the purring incandescence of its cousin the 1980, one wonders whether such a run of great agricole bottlings can be sustained, time and again, from various other distillerie (La Favorite in this case), each new generation topping the previous one. In short, not really – these are variable rhums, pricey rhums, not always easy to get: and the 2001 Reserve Speciale, while no slouch by any means, didn’t quite ascend to the heights as some others did.
That’s not to say this is a bad rhum, or even a merely-average one. Oh no. It’s quite a delectable drink. Consider first the nose which started off relatively easy, as befitting its 45.5% strength, providing aromas of faint rubber and acetone, green apples and pears and florals. It didn’t stop there either, with a sort of creamy, nutty cheese, plums and apricots, a flirt of oak and vanilla and nougat adding to the panoply. It occurred to me that this was hardly a standard profile for an agricole at all, what with the lack of clear, herbal, grassy, sugarcane sap smells – but you weren’t going to hear me complaining too loudly, because what slowly billowed from the glass was quiet and pleasant in its own way.
The palate of the golden coloured juice from La Favorite sort of broke up the melange by pivoting to tastes that were more precise and distinct. It was warm, medium bodied, and quite firm. One could sense peaches, more plums and fresh-cut apples, cider, plus sea salt and white pepper and ginger cookies. After resting and with just a smidgen of water, there was more: lemon zest, florals, vanilla for the most part, and I have to admit, I liked it a lot — it presented as warm and musky and earthy and clean, all at once, in a sort of quietly enjoyable amalgam of flavours, not too many, but well and carefully assembled, so they don’t elbow each other all over the place. The finish was kinda short, and dry, but in this case that was okay, since it closed up the experience in a calm and easy fashion, without any spicy aggression that threatened to skewer nose or tonsils. It was, compared to a very good beginning, somewhat weak, and nothing new came to my attention aside from the earthy tones and light fruits and florals.
This rhum was distilled in 2001 and bottled in 2008, making it seven years old and had an entirely respectable 3100 bottle outturn. It makes mention of being a ”Appellation Martinique Controlée” product but since this is not an AOC designation one can only wonder what that was all about or whether it was a misprint. I merely mention it because it seemed so odd.
So, in fine, it was enticing, tasty, well rounded, without harsh notes of any kind, I liked it a lot and consider it a worthwhile addition to anyone’s agricole shelf. The title is also something I appreciated, even though it had nothing to do with the product itself. It translates into “Traveller’s Tree” and is a symbol of hospitality on Martinique — it provokes images of dusty travelers in lands far away, stopping to relax under its shade so as to rest weary feet and aching body, and partake of the water caught in the gently swaying fronds. And maybe have a shot of this rum. The romantic and storyteller in me likes the concept, because after a tough day at any endeavour, I could just see myself pouring a shot or two of this quietly delectable seven year old and shedding all cares. Maybe even under a tree.
Rum Corner reviewed this rhum, much less positively. We both sampled the thing at the same time, at the famous 2016 ‘Caner Afterparty in Berlin, so this must come down to a difference in palate and final opinion. Cyril of DuRhum also tried and wrote about it…way back in 2013. Always ahead of the curve, that man.