Review #14: Clairin Vieux Sajous 4 years old

to age or not to age?

Haiti seems to be the place to be in the recent years. This of course is due to the interest that Gargano brought to the island with the bottlings of the Clairin r(h)ums and his recent endeavor of opening a distillery on the island and making Providence Rhum.

These rums are mainly unaged with the exceptions of some clairin ansyens. Which have been aged for a limited amount of time, ranging in the 10 to 20 month timeframe. The production and consumption of unaged Haitian rum and Clairin is normal for the inhabitants of this island, or for that matter almost any other island and its respective rum. This is chiefly because aging was deemed unnecessary at first. Rum was only barrel aged for a significant time due to necessity, when it was being transported out of the island. On the island however, rum was consumed unaged.

This is probably why the general and longstanding European mindset of “ALL AGED EVERYTHING” and “ugh, I don’t like white rum” is seen as pretentious and completemy senseless as fur coats to the islanders. The fact that Europeans get off on every year of barrel aging must be absurd to the Caribbean population who know what’s up with unaged pure rum. Because let’s be honest, unaged rums like clairin, rum bar, rum fire, river Antoine,… are understated giants in the European market and they should get way more credit than what is given to them at this time.

And in this train of thought we seamlessly segue to the topic of today. The 4 year aged Clairin Sajous Vieux, because what would get the Europeans more excited than aging something that’s perfect the way it has been for ages. This might be a great moment to see if rum that is made to be drunk unaged actually works “on the barrel”.

After a further deep dive for information (by reading the back label) I have uncovered more information. This being that this rum is a blend of 12 barrels, previously filled with single malt whisky or rum. Also the rum is bottled at a respectable 50.6% ABV.


Very light golden colour. About the same you’ll get from a 12 year old single malt (tropical aging strikes again)


I Don’t recognize any Clairin Sajous in this at first, it’s very mild straight out of the bottle. One could almost mistake it for a light whisky aged on rum barrels. After a second nosing, the grass and fruity “hogo” become more outspoken.

The notes I mainly get is some vanilla, nougat some red meat, grass and some glue.


On the palate the first thing I notice is the woodiness. It has a rather warm, charred, oaky flavour. And the Vieux Sajous is as dry as they come. This woody and “dark” base is covered by a layer of the  grass, varnish and glue. I find the rum to be quite pungent and rather sharp, it doesn’t quite fill my  mouth with goodness (hehe) as I like with other rums, which possess the ability to blow me away.


As “warm” the rum was with the first sip, as “cold” the finish is. The finish is mainly characterized by a medicinal and almost metallic feeling. Leaving the tongue sort of numb. This does allow the rum to stick around for a while, though it’s not necessarily exceptionally pleasing thing.

This is a weird one. I adore the unaged original Clairin Sajous (regardless of the whole batch to batch difference), but this doesn’t quite win me over. For me it’s to sharp or to “hard” to be a good sipping rum and it’s overpriced to put into cocktails. It isn’t a bad rum overall, just not really a good at what it’s supposed to be. To me it has lost the true spirit of Clairin with the prolonged aging. And it comes up short as an aged rum because the rum is really meant to be drunk unaged.

So, here we are. It’s clear (to me anyways) we don’t need to age everything, just because the market wants to have everything aged. I can do nothing mut commend Gargano for the experiment, but it’s not doing anything for me.



Review #11: Clairin Sajous

As you may already know thanks to my previous reviews (hampden, habitation velier, royal navy), I adore funky, in-your-face, “hogo” rums. There’s just something about smelling and tasting these types of rum that make me feel awake and tingly.

So, today I’ll be reviewing one of the better discoveries of the 21st century so far (really hoping the whole space exploration will rekindle, but this’ll do): Clairin, specifically the Sajous.

Clairin is the native spirit of Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world and one that’s been hit with its fair share of misfortunes since its incredibly brave fight for independence, which gave the country its sovereignty on January 1st of 1804. Despite being poor and politically not the most stable country in the world, Haitians are apparently rather happy and Clairin might be a big influence on this happiness.

Despite being produced from fresh sugar cane juice or syrup, Clairin is not classified “Rhum Agricole” per se, it’s more comparable to the cachaca-to-rum relation. Technically it’s an Agricole, but then again it’s not. (if someone has a clear idea on the exact classification, please do contact me). The spirit is made from sugarcane juice, in its most natural form, the sugarcane is non-hybridized and mostly grown polycultural. This means that the canes aren’t grown to human specifications and the fields where the cane grows is also used for other naturally growing plants such as bananas, mangos,… (click here and here for more on the subject). Basically, the cane juice is grown in a pre-efficiency focused way. Without careful cross-breeding, segregated crops or chemicals; this puts the focus on the cane as a purely natural product and it adds another level of “terroir” in rum. Add to this natural, long fermentation and very rudimentary moonshine-like distillation rigs and you have a wonderfully artisanal spirit.

There are a couple of variations in the Clairins that are being bottled. The main bottles are: Sajous, Vaval, Casimir, Le Rocher and communal (which is a blend of some of the distilleries); all of these also have some aged variants. These 4 single rums are only a small sample of what Haiti has to offer. There are numerous tiny distilleries throughout the country.

But for today, I’ll just focus on the Sajous version. The ‘Sajous’ part in the name refers to the founder, owner and distiller of his distillery, named Chelo. the distillery is located in the middle of a sugar plantation, of which all the sugar is used for distilling this wonderful liquid. No, there’s no actual sugar being produced here, because who needs sugar production if you have rum, isn’t that right Worthy Park? The sugar cane juice is concentrated into a syrup which can be stored for over a year, making year-round distillation possible.


Clear as can be


The initial nose has a thick and buttery note, which quickly fades away form more grassy and vegetal notes. This fresh nose showcases the pure terroir way of production. Though it must be said that this freshness also comes with a rather sharp alcohol tone. With this sharpness comes some potent varnish, oily and brine-y hints.


The first couple of seconds of the first sip don’t reveal a lot of flavour due to an overwhelming alcoholic punch in the face, but after getting used to the sharpness of the alcoholic numbness some fresh herbal tones come popping up. Accompanying the herbal, grassy and hay-like notes is a more dirty character; one of oil, varnish and a bit of tar. The taste is all over the place, dragging me from open fields full of cane to a dirty building with a dismal safety and health protocol. The rum truly mimics its production from natural fields to fermentation and distillation in conditions that would make any whisky distiller cry and run away.


This powerful dram sticks around for a while, but not quite as long as one might expect. After the initial power of the actual sip, the might dwindles somewhat and leaves an impression of a meeker Agricole.

Clairin might be one of the last frontiers of rum in this world. Since its discovery a couple of years ago it’s gained more popularity, and rightly so. A natural and artisanal product like no other. Though I do believe that you have to be a true tough person to drink it neat on a regular basis, and Haitians definitely are, more so than I am (however hard I try).

For me this rum will serve better in a good ti punch or a feisty daiquiri. The aggressiveness of it can be overwhelming unless tempered by some lime, sugar and a bit of ice.