Historic Martinique rums find foothold in UK

Depaz rums

A range of premium rums from an historic distillery on Martinique in the Caribbean has officially arrived in the UK.

Introduced through buying group Merchant Vintners, the extensive selection from Rhum Depaz showcases the different possibilities from ageing the French-style rhum agricole, made from the pure juice of sugar cane grown in the area around the island’s Mount Pelée.

The Depaz distillery has been producing rum since 1651 apart from a brief hiatus at the start of the 20th century after it was destroyed in a volcanic eruption. The rums are now blended and aged under cellar master Nora Carrion Martinez.

Depaz has a broad portfolio of rums but it is focusing on a selection for the UK market, presented for the first time at The Spirit Show in London in November.

They are led by the complex and floral Cuvée de la Montagne white rum, at 40% ABV, which can be drunk neat but works well in cocktails including a classic Ti’ Punch. But the main appeal is the aged rums, all at 45% ABV, which are best enjoyed sipped neat like whisky.

Rhum Vieux Agricole, also known as Plantation Aged Rum, is made with rums matured in oak casks, previously used for bourbon and cognac, for at least three years – a relatively long amount of time in the hot, humid tropical climate of Martinique. Its aromas of vanilla, coconut and chocolate are matched by similar flavours in the liquid along with notes of candied fruit.

Très Vieux Rhum Agricole VSOP Réserve Spéciale is a blend of rums aged for at least seven years in small oak casks – four years more than required under French rules on the VSOP descriptor. Alongside chocolate, there are hints of dried fruit and liquorice on the nose, with a beautifully rounded character with notes of soft oak leading to a spicy finish, making it my favourite in the line-up.

Working up through the range, next is Rhum Hors d’Âge Agricole XO Grand Réserve, which is made up of rums aged for between eight and 10 years, giving it a character that will appeal to scotch whisky lovers. It has the characteristic chocolate and liquorice aromas on the nose along with vanilla and soft oak, matched by soft vanilla and oak on the palate.

Completing the core line-up for the UK is Rhum Vieux Agricole Hors d’Âge Port Cask Finish which features rums matured for at least eight years in small oak casks and finished for 11 months in casks that previously held port. This final ageing gives it rich aromas of figs and stewed fruits alongside vanilla and oak, with the character of a mature port infusing the liquid along with soft oak, chocolate, hazelnut, dried fruits and cocoa, leading to coffee and plum on the long finish.

There is more, such as Vintage 2002 and Single Cask 2003 – both aged for at least 11 years – through to the top-of-the-range Brut de Fût 2004.

Depaz is building distribution with Merchant Vintners buying group whose members range from Gordon & McPhail in Scotland to Davy’s in London. “We partnered with Merchant Vintners because we wanted to put the rums into the hands of people who understand terroir,” explained Philip Gillier, export manager for rhum agricole specialist Spiribam which has brought Depaz to the UK. “AOC rhum from Martinique is all about its unique provenance, made with sugarcane grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Pelée.”

Some of the rums are also available from Master of Malt.

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