Traditional column still, Single distillery
Batch number: 1
Outturn: 413 bottles
I like this bit of the site. It gives me a chance to really dig into the history of the places producing these spirits and so appreciate the effort that goes into bringing the finished product to market.
So, Bellevue distillery, or Bellevue le Moule to give it it’s full name, is in Grand Terre, the eastern island which makes up half of the main archipelago of Guadeloupe in the Lesser Antilles (French Caribbean). Originally built in 1687, it was bought by the Damoiseau family in 1942 along with a shed-load of debt – this was paid off in 1986 with bulk rum sales and is still under the the same family (Herve being the current lead), who have released a number of Agricole expressions which I have not yet had the opportunity to try. Something for another day then. The distillery uses fresh sugar cane juice, so mainly an Agricole producer, on column stills but this has been made with molasses, so I’m expecting less of those grassy, vegetal notes.
I’m a great fan of the work done by the Boutique-y Rum family. They champion unadulterated (by which I mean, unsweetened, uncoloured) rums from distilleries all over the world. Their global brand ambassador, Peter Holland, is a great source for learning more about everyone’s favourite spirit and I’d encourage you all (if you’re not already doing so) to follow him on Twitter under his handle @thefloatingrumshack. I’ll place a link to the Boutique-y website below, in particular their take on rum classification.
Edit (11/06/20): I reached out to speak to Pete about this product and he was able to share some of his thoughts on it. The belief is that it was most likely distilled, as suspected, on their column still, potentially to 70% as per their agricole. The explanation for why molasses was used as opposed to the usual sugar cane is not clear, but he pointed out that the Leeward islands did suffer from quite a bad hurricane in 1997, which MAY (again, complete supposition here) have meant a temporary reliance on molasses distillation to maintain a distillery output. This was distilled in March 1998 and shipped to Europe in 2005 before being re-filled into once used bourbon barrels in 2012. In 2018, ATOM (the parent company which owns both Master of Malt and the Boutique-y ranges) bought the barrels and bottled them in September of that year with minimal filtration – 50micron polypropylene (i’ll go into filtration as a topic on a later date). Prior to coming over to Europe, they may well have been stored in French oak, American oak or even inert containers.
Personally, I’m leaning on the side of American Oak with this.
Back to the subject of todays review:
Presentation – As with all Boutique-y products, this is a 500ml bottle. Lots of information on the label, with none of the usual marketing fluff. Distillery, production method, ABV, outturn and age all clearly laid out on the front. Nice, solid synthetic cork with a quality wooden top. I need to take a moment to talk about the company’s labels. They’re designed by the fabulous Jim’ll Paint It in his signature MS Paint style and each one tells a story, often featuring Peter Holland. In this case, the first draft of bottle labels showed the Gardel distillery on the nearby island of Marie-Galante; during my research, it turns out that this is a pretty common mistake so completely understandable. The labels were redone and we are left with this masterpiece!
Nose – Smoke first, with dark muscovado sugar, sweet lemon and a tiny bit of saline. It’s surprisingly soft and unassuming for the alcohol content.
Palate – This is where the magic happens. Almost whisky like to start, quite high powered with light liquorice and menthol moving into damp wood, sugared grapes and marmalade transforming into a slight bitterness at the back end.
+ water – That initial punch takes a backseat. Now some cola, caramel and oak but still a light, pleasant burnt note at the back, giving it a really lovely savoury note to end on.
Finish – Savoury, hangs around in the back of your throat with a lasting warming sensation.
Scores on the door:
Notes: My first of (hopefully) many reviews. If you disagree, let me know! I may revisit old pages in the future and re-look at my interpretations but will keep the originals to help compare. Here’s the aforementioned link to Boutique-y.
How the rating system works:
Its’ entirely arbitrary but I’ve weighted it towards the things that matter most to me when looking to buy a new bottle. Hence, the greater emphasise on taste say compared with presentation.