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.