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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Papa Rouyo unaged side by side review

A super interesting new distillery creating quite a stir in the rum world. Papa Rouyo, located on the east coast of Guadeloupe's Basse-Terre* produced it's first rum in 2021.

*The distillery is sited on the volcanic island of Basse-Terre, but their canes and mill are in Le Moule on Grand-Terre. An ideal location - clay-limestone fields on an exposed coastal area that offers the benefit of salt deposits on the cane protecting it from diseases and sunburn.

Named as a tribute to Charles Alfred Ruscade known as "Papa Rouyo", a master cannier from 1920 to 1980. The first completely new distillery in Guadeloupe since 1942 (other than Rhum Rhum who's pot still is located within an existing distillery on the smaller island of Marie Galante). Papa Rouyo is a community project - 5 local farmers collaborating to create this new brand with clear focus on terroir and a heritage approach to cane choice and farming techniques.

Testament to their intent of flavour over commercial efficiency, Papa Rouyo have chosen to use native Guadeloupean yeast, long fermentation and double distillation on a copper pot still. I'm hoping for big bold flavoursome rums.

For more detail on this exciting new project, I point you toward a recent Velier interview with the Papa Rouyo team (here).

It will come as no surprise that limited release cane juice rums, produced with with labour intensive methods at an artisan micro distillery such as Papa Rouyo don't come cheap. I paid around £60-£70 each for these from LMDW in Paris. We will see how the taste stacks up.

Now to the fun part, 4 unaged rums, 25ml of each, left to open up for 20 mins, nosed first then tasted, in increasing abv order. Assisted today by the mononymous legend, Prince.

Papa Rouyo, Le Rejeton, 56%, 500 bottles

A blend of red sugar cane (R579) and Matos cane juice (B80.689). Nothing added, no chill filtration, reduced using water from St Claude (as with all these rums).

Nose: Pretty aggressive alcohol starts proceedings. Find your way past that and you're presented with a pleasingly semi-dry, earthy nose, a touch floral with a big splash of menthol. Quite peppery. A decent fresh grassy nose with a smidge of acetone. Not as complex as some of the greats and a shame about the sharpness from poor alcohol integration.

Mouth: Tasty stuff. If I'm being critical it's a touch light and the flavour finishes a little quick leaving you with just alcohol burn and a some sweet cane & biscuit taste. No bad notes. Solid cane juice rum. [84pts]

Habitation Velier, Papa Rouyo 2021, 62%, ?? bottles

100% pure Matos cane juice (B80.689), grown by Tim Synesius, one of the distillery's master canniers, on the original 4 hectares of the namesake Papa Rouyo (Charles Albert Ruscade)

The canes were picked by hand before being crushed on site.

Nose: Bigger, rounder, more complex and more exciting than Le Rejeton. Fresh and grassy but with deep tropical notes that add a lot to the nose. Very inviting. A touch of saline, some floral biscuits and less sharpness than Le Rejeton leaves you salivating to get stuck in.

Mouth: A rounded, moorish, sweet cane taste. Spicy, peppery menthol. Maybe not quite living up to the promises of the nose in terms of depth and complexity but a really warm full bodied rum with a super clean cane profile. [86pts]

LMDW Antipodes, Papa Rouyo - Blanc Mature 450 jours, 64%, 1065 bottles

100% R579 (red cane), this version was rested for 450 days, or 15 months, in vats and was then very slightly reduced to 64%. Having been previous impressed by the effect of resting rums in steel, I'm excited to try this one.

Nose: Dry musky perfume, well integrated alcohol, a little orchard fruit and a some dry citrus. Not quite as complex or enticing as the HV but a beautiful earthy nose that feels wonderfully true to the sugar cane.

Mouth: Cripes that's spicy! The dry, musky profile from the nose persists onto the palate. Quite a step change from the more fruity HV. A flash of sweet cane fruit leads quickly on to a very dry, almost bitter mid taste. A slight cologne edge pops up that I'm not sure about. Very peppery.

A particularly dry cane profile. Reminiscent of super high cocoa chocolate. The 90% stuff. I like it, even the way it dries your mouth out. This won't be for everyone! But different is key in the rum world and this is unique and tasty [85pts]

LMDW Antipodes, Papa Rouyo - Blanc Mature 120 jours, 66.5%, 1130 bottles

Also 100% red sugar cane variety R579, this version was 'aged' (or rested) for 4 months in steel vats before being bottled.

Nose: Initially the most closed nose of the lineup. The high abv needed another 20 mins to really start opening up. Heavily perfumed and predictably fiery given the 66.5% abv. Sweeter and more floral than the dry musky profile of it's longer rested sister. A big earthy cane juice nose.

Mouth: Amazingly different from the 450 day version. This starts with layers of semi-sweet fruity, floral taste, then we get that cologne edge and finally it runs into a long, super dry cane forward finish. A little too perfumed for me, but yet another excellent and different rum. [84pts]

Conclusion - impressive rums from this young distillery. I can't wait to play with these in 't punch and daiquiris. The authenticity rings through from start to finish and makes the fairly steep price tag much more acceptable. Are there better unaged cane juice rums for less, yes. Am I happy I bought these, absolutely yes. A privilege to try these unique and special rums.

And the pick of the bunch? The 450 day Antipodes is unique and exciting but the Habitation Velier wins today.

UPDATE: Results of daiquiri test and the 450day took a suprise gold ahead of HV, with Rejeton in bronze.

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