Père Labat - 5 rhums reviewed
Updated: Feb 28
Père Labat or father Labat is a rhum brand of the Poisson distillery in Marie Galante. A small picturesque island off the coast of Guadeloupe. At just 10 miles in diameter the island has an impressive reputation for the rhums produced at it's few distilleries. The most famous of these is probably Bielle, with Père Labat still languishing a little in the shadows - not achieving the following that I feel it deserves with it's impressive quality and great value rhums.
Marie Galante is a very traditional island still growing highly flavoured heritage cane varietals, cut by hand and transported to the distilleries by ox cart. Not long ago these would have been pressed using ancient windmills, the remnants of which can still be seen on the island.
Père Labat's relatively small rhum production is made using fresh cane juice which, after fermentation, is distilled in a Coffey column still. It meets the criteria required to be called Rhum Agricole de Guadeloupe. Only a small fraction of this rhum is aged, generally in ex-bourbon barrels, making it quite rare and relatively expensive. In contrast the unaged rhums are incredibly well priced - some of the best value spirits you'll find anywhere!
Today I'm tasting a selection of both aged and unaged Père Labat rhums. The first time I've tried aged versions so really looking forward to this.
My previous tasting of unaged Rhums from Marie Galante, in which the Labat offerings faired extremely well, can be found here.
25ml of each, nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order.
Assisted by the sexy sounds of Boney James.
Père Labat L'Or - 45%, 3yrs
The distillery's lightly aged regular release. Diluted to 45% for bottling and widely available in Europe at around £30.
Nose: The lower abv and 3 years of barrel aging have softened the nose. Which feels a bit of a shame. However, it has added some interesting creaminess and nuttiness - almost nougat. I'm noticing some bitter herbs and (oddly) cologne too. Unquestionable a cane juice rhum, just not sure about the limited aging - feels like we're losing some of the zest and liveliness without gaining much additional depth or richness,
Mouth: Too thin for me. The alcohol is there, not particularly well integrated in fact. But after that the flavour is lacking. A little creaminess and some decent cane forward fruit. No real bad notes, just not doing much for me. [81pts]
Velier Père Labat 2010 - 57.5%, 6yrs
A blend of two barrels released by the iconic bottler. I can't find a bottle count but I expect this will be in 500-600 range. Rare stuff that will set you back around £300 for a bottle.
Nose: Yum. Hard not to go straight for a sip - really inviting stuff. Lots of fruit, some tasty rich vanilla oak. Cherry pie. A slight bitterness & astringency. The barrel influence working very well and yet at the same time maintaining lashings of lively, zesty, earthy cane juice. Very well balanced.
Mouth: Rich and deep. That's lovely. Swings between fresh grassiness and old raisined, roasted spice flavours. Cloves. Leather. Apples. Lots of wood - almost too much & too tannic, but the rhum holds on and it works pretty well. The aged side reminds me of Armagnac, and then quickly you're back to tasting lively cane juice flavours. Very enjoyable. A moorish lingering finish that brings you quickly back for another sip [87pts]
Tamosi Hiali Père Labat 2013 - 57.5%, 7yrs
An intriguing offering from the relatively new bottler Levy Lane based in Amsterdam. This rhum was aged at the distillery for 7 years before being transported to Holland where it was further aged for 9 months in an ex-calvados cask. It's still available at the eye watering release price of almost £200. My first taste of a calvados cask finished rhum - should be interesting...
Nose: On the nose I'm not noticing much immediate influence from the calvados. My first impressions are of a beautifully aged cane juice rhum. Big bold flavours. The lively, earthy cane is there in spades, with a perfect vanilla oak core. If anything, this is more rounded than the 2010 - the calvados cask finish seems to have softened any bitterness. Impressive stuff. Some apple notes do pop up - actually closer to pear. Apples & pears, layered with raisins, vanilla and a little spicy liquorice.
Mouth: Wow, I really like that. Would it be enough to say that it's a bigger, chewier version of the 2010? No, ok I'll try :-) Pear sherbet. Really well rounded. Better integrated oak. Lots of bold autumn fruit. The addition of sherbety pear drops is close to overpowering the amazing cane juice, but it doesn't. It works really well. Shame it's so damn expensive. The best Tamosi release I've tried. [89pts]
Père Labat – 59%, unaged
The standard, unaged regular release from Poisson. Priced at an absolute bargain (under £30).
Nose: Whoop whoop - Peppermint, rhubarb, lime zest. A massive, earthy cane forward super exciting nose. Everything I expect and want from an unaged cane juice rhum. Very very inviting.
Mouth: A staple at the secret rum bar, and for very good reason. Proper cane juice rhum. Quite unbelievable value. The balance of floral, mint, zest, earthiness and minerality are quite incredible. A deep earthy, grassy style of rhum – balanced, complex, complete, excellent. [88pts]
Père Labat 70.7 Brut de Colonne - 70.7%, unaged
Still strength Labat. Expecting fiery stuff!
Nose: The huge alcohol is there as expected. It's a little hard to get past. After the initial onslaught I'm finding the usual Labat flavours - the peppermint and earthiness - but slightly less vibrant. With an added edge of brine and engine oil. The nose reminds me of an old petrol lawnmower. The higher abv has closed things off a bit and masked some of the fruit.
Mouth: As with the nose, tonnes of fire, but a slightly 'smaller' taste than the 59%. A new barbequed meat flavour has popped up. I quite like the dry, engine & meat notes but it's not as enjoyable or as complete as the standard unaged Labat. [85pts]
For completeness, I also had a dram of Rhum Rhum PMG [Labat] - an outstanding rhum.
It would marginally be the winner of this lineup. A really beautiful drop [89+]
So.... high abv and aging isn't the be all and end all. If you're rich, buy the Tamosi - and send me a sample :-) The big winner today is the unaged Labat 59% - don't tell anyone, otherwise it might not remain such a bargain :-)