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.


Colour:

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

Nose:

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.

Taste:

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.

Finish:

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.

5.5/10

Review #7: Compagnie Des Indes Guyana, Diamond 14 years

“average, yet not averagely Guyanese”

Today we’ll be visiting Guyana. And the only distillery that’s left in the country: The Diamond Distillery. But in an independent way.

We’ll be visiting it through the lens of Compagnie des Indes, an independent bottler from France.

The idea behind the company is to bring back the memory of the East India Company. A bit like rebooting a movie franchise but in rum trade. Let’s hope they don’t adapt the business model of “shafting the colony and absurdly enriching the homeland”. All kidding aside, CDI really wants to bring some of the best rums in the world to Europe and that’s a good thing, because we can never get enough rum, can we?

Compagnie Des Indes sells 3 types of rums.

– Blends “for beginners”, which have added sugar in them to make it more palatable for people who are getting into rum.

– Blends that are not for beginners, these blends will bring out the full flavour of the rums that have been mixed together.

– Single casks, pure expressions of one cask that should be a great representation of what the distillery can do. These single casks are of course limited in production, and are in some cases very sought after.

Today I’ll be going over one of these single casks. The Guyana Diamond distillery 14 year.

But before we go into the tasting, a quick word about the Diamond distillery and Guyanese rum-production.

In the early 1600’s the Dutch “discovered” and settled in what is now Guyana. They settled (amongst other places) near the Demerara river. The cunning Dutch irrigated the banks of the river, thanks to their absolute mastery of water control. This lead to massive plantations perfect for sugar and rum production. In the early 1800’s the British took the Dutch settlements… by force (the British really loved their forceful occupations back in the day), and they took over the production of the sugar and the rum.

After a while the Demerara region was one of the most prolific rum-producing places in the colonies. This lead the rum produced at the banks of the river to be a massive part of the Royal Navy Blend and thus a pretty essential part of the British empire.

Rum production in Guyana thrived until it (together with all of the rum producing countries) got hit with a heap of setbacks. From the increase in sugar beets in Europe, prohibition (kind of), the world wars and various other reasons. These setbacks eventually caused the closure of all distilleries, except for one.

The sole survivor of the (what I shall call it henceforth) “gruesome Guyanese gutting of rum(production)” is the Diamond distillery. A distillery that’s been nationalized after Guyana became independent. Since then it’s been privatized again.

Fortunately we don’t completely have to miss out on what Guyana could have been if it wasn’t for all the closures. Because DDL (Diamond Distillery Limited) has bought the main stills from some of the most iconic Guyanese distilleries throughout the year. And this is the ace up their sleeve. With such an amazing array of legendary stills; column (enmore,) and pot (Versailles, port mourant) there is a lot of fun to be had for both the good folk at Diamond and the thirsty crowd.

This is an extremely short and unprofessional summary of the immense history behind this region and its rum. So again, for people who want to know more about the whole story, I’ll direct you to Mr. Matt Pietrek.

Before we begin tasting, let’s go through the quick spec sheet. The rum has been aged for 14 years, it’s bottled at 43% ABV in France, from barrel GDD46 (for those interested, or with a emotional attachment to the number 46… or something)

Righty then, tasting time


Colour:

The colour is very light golden with a slight green tint. It very clearly shows continental aging, or carbon filtration (but that would be immensely stupid). The first thing I thought (and I apologize in advance to CDI) is “wow, this looks like how a healthy person’s pee looks like (yeah, I’m really sorry… but this doubles as a friendly reminder to stay hydrated!)

Nose:

On the nose, this tipple starts of rather fresh, fruity and a bit vegetal. I can really draw a parallel between the smell and the colour: light, fresh, green-ish. Although this is bottled at a mere 43% I can smell a certain alcoholic presence, it is however not disturbing.

After a little while, some creaminess comes floating up. But like a whale that comes up once in a while, it disappears quite soon in a sea of fruity freshness.

Taste:

Taking that first sip reveals a sugary note which went undetected in the nosing. This accompanies the ever-present note of fresh fruit. The combination of these are delightful for a moment, but get dull quite soon. Luckily this rum has some fresh spiciness, a little barrel-influenced bitterness and the return of the creamy flavour. These added elements make sure that one can enjoy this rum for more than a couple of sips.

After some more sips though, the rum becomes a bit boring. Nosing it again doesn’t reveal anything new and the tasting experience is stuck on a plateau of ‘slightly above average’ flavour.

Finish:

After swallowing the rum, the spiciness tickles the back of my tongue for some time and the sweet creamy notes linger for a while, but nothing particularly spectacular happens here. The finish is short to medium.


To conclude, this is not your average Guyanese rum, since most rums that come from this historical rum-place are smooth, sweet, liquorice-y goodness. It is however a pretty good rum, but that’s all it is, pretty good. It’s a solid recommendation for someone who’s not a fan of “big flavour” and who wants something else than what they’re used to in Demerara rum.

5.5/10