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Damoiseau XO Rhum Vieux

Damoiseau XO
Rhum Vieux


By Robert Plotkin

The island of Guadeloupe in the French West Indies is one of the most beautiful and scenic places to handcraft Rhum Agricole in all of the Caribbean. Rhum Agricole is the French term for a rum distilled from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice rather than molasses. If you've ever tasted highly refined molasses—also known as black strap molasses—you'll appreciate the character difference between rums produced from molasses and those made with fresh pressed sugar cane. Viva la difference!

It just so happens that the former French colony is also a near perfect place to cultivate sugarcane. The soil composition, temperature, humidity, water quality significantly impact the quality and character of the local variety of sugarcane. In wine terms, the combined affect is known as terroir. It also suggests because of its unique growing conditions, Rhum distilled on Guadeloupe could not be made anywhere else and taste the same.

The greatest name in Guadeloupe Rhum is Damoiseau. You see the brand everywhere on the island and it is the leading export. Damoiseau is made at Distillerie Bellevue in the village of Le Moule entirely from first-pressed, estate grown sugarcane and pure spring water. The Rhum is distilled in traditional, copper alembic stills. After distillation, it is transferred to charred, American white oaks barrels for maturation.

The youngest marque in the esteemed range is the ultra-suave Damoiseau Cane Rhum Agricole Blanc. It is rested in large oak vats for around 6 months, after which it is gently filtered to remove any oak-induced color and rendered to 40% alcohol (80 proof) with spring water. The finished Rhum has a shimmery, ideally clear appearance, a satiny, medium-weight body and a lively bouquet saturated with tropical fruit aromas. Its long, dry finish makes this Agricole Blanc a natural choice for use in mixed drinks and craft cocktails.

The Damoiseau V.S.O.P. Rhum Vieux is a Caribbean gem matured for a minimum of 4 years in ex-bourbon barrels. The resulting 82-proof spirit has a deep, amber/red appearance and a brilliant bouquet of guavas, bananas, mangoes, vanilla, cinnamon and a hint of caramel. The longer you allow the Rhum to breathe, the more of its delightful aromatics come to the forefront. The palate is a sophisticated, skillfully balanced offering of tropical fruit, baking spice and toasted oak with a dry, spicy finish.

The Damoiseau V.S.O.P. deserves to be sampled neat—or with a solitary ice cube—to be fully appreciated. That said its pronounced character makes it an inspired choice as the foundation of a fresh Daiquiri cocktail. Mixed or sipped neat, the Damoiseau V.S.O.P. is a creative tour de force behind the bar.

The elder statesman of the range is Damoiseau X.O. Rhum Vieux, which spends a minimum of 6 years resting in charred, American white oak barrels. The hot and humid days and temperate tropical nights have a considerable affect on the aging Rhum. The heat slowly absorbs the Rhum into the oak, while the chill of night constricts the oak grain and pushes it back out. This daily interaction between the wood and the aging Rhum helps to explain how it derives so much flavor.

The Damoiseau X.O. Rhum Vieux is indeed an elegant spirit, one well suited for sipping neat after a grand meal. Its lustrous appearance is paired with a medium-weight, velvety textured body and an alluring bouquet of fresh cut flowers, mocha, vanilla, caramel and toasted oak. Its lavish aromatic signature is well worth the price of admission. The entry onto the palate generates nary a trace of excess heat. The Rhum immediately fills the mouth with the flavors of vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel and toffee with light spicy notes. The finish is long, dry and thoroughly satisfying.

The Damoiseau family has been producing Rhum Agricole according to the French Caribbean tradition since 1942. The denomination of origin guarantees that Damoiseau will continue to craft Rhum Agricole according to their valued tradition and expertise for generations to come.