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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Rhum Rhum Liberation Integrale side-by-side + bonus!

Rhum Rhum ... un-Googleable Marie Galante unicorns.

Ultra rare, fresh cane juice rhum from Guadeloupe. Today I'm tasting all the full-proof releases side by side. Arguably my most opulent tasting to date. And a couple of un-released bonus tracks too :-)

A little about the distillery - established in 2007... a dream, to recreate a dream.

The folks behind Rhum Rhum set about re-producing traditional pot still Guadeloupe rum without compromise. If this was to succeed, it would need the best team and the finest tools & ingredients....

Luca Gargano - rum legend. Co-visionary of the Rhum Rhum project.

Gianni Capovilla - distilling maestro. Saviour of heritage techniques. Fruit wizard. Co-visionary of the Rhum Rhum project.

Muller - manufacturer of the finest alambic stills on the planet.

Marie Galante - tiny island off Guadeloupe, recognised for producing some of the world's finest sugar cane. Largely undisturbed by technology the cane is still hand cut and often transported to the distillery by ox-cart.

Bielle* - arguably the premier distillery on Marie Galante. Selected as the initial home to locate Rhum Rhum and its stills. Bielle and its network of farmers supplied the beautiful local 'red cane' (B47.259), always at peak maturity, key to the goal of producing the perfect rhum.

Michele Lunardon - protegee of Capovilla. Michele is the Master distiller, living the Rhum Rhum dream daily, on the tiny quiet island of Marie Galante.

Chateau d'Yquem - This French vineyard produces unquestionably the world's finest sweet wines. Their used barrels were selected, along with other top-tier French (Burgundy) vineyards, in this 'no expense spared' artisanal project. More recent releases were aged partly in these original barrels, and partly in re-charred French Oak (as the original casks are towards the end of their life).

*Rhum Rhum was relocated to a new home at the Poisson/Pere Labat distillery over a protracted period from around 2019 to 2022, with no distillation taking place during this time. All the rhums being reviewed today were produced during the 'Bielle period', and largely aged there too. The remaining Rhum Rhum stock is now being well managed by Michele at their new home on the grounds of the Poisson/Labat distillery.

'Liberation', a new approach to age and labeling - Rhum Rhum have chosen to label their bottles with the year rum was 'liberated' from its barrels, rather than when the juice was distilled. This sets the focus on the end product, rather than the years in cask, and allows the team to blend different 'vintages' in their quest for exceptional bottlings. It also steers consumers away from their obsession with barrel age - a sensible move when you remember that the tropical conditions of Guadeloupe can produce amazing cask influence in a fraction of the time this would take continentally.

Undiluted, fresh pressed, heritage cane juice, fermented in open vats for 5-6 days, pot distilled, rested for up to a year in steel tanks, and finally moved to oak barrels that previously contained the greatest crus of French wine. All to produce the beautiful smelling glasses of rhum in front of me :-)

Six rhums, left to open up for at least 30 mins. Nosed first, then tasted.

As I only have 4 blenders glasses, I poured them all initially using a couple of glencairn to allow breathing. First round of tasting was the 4 standard releases. I then cleaned, transferred & re-used one of the blenders glasses to allow direct side by side of the 2015 vs 2015SC in matching glasses.

The suns out, and we're off to Jamaica in 2 weeks, so I'm assisted today by the incredible sounds of Sizzla.

Left to right: 2012, 2015, 2017, 2020.

And 2012, 2015, 2015SC, 2017, 2020 & and a smidge of the undiluted, unreleased 2023 that I managed to squirrel away.

Rhum Rhum Liberation Integral 2012, 59.8%, 1420btls

The first full-proof release, aged {I understand} for about 5 years in ex-d'Yquem & Burgundy casks - although we shall ignore this, as the Liberation approach aims, and get on with tasting the juice. Significantly darker amber than the others, which I shall put down to the casks being on their first use.

Nose: Mamma mia. Unreal. Caramel banana. Toasted nuts. Loads of spice. A thick gluey nose that's almost coating the inside of my nostrils. Rich dried fruit, fresh peaches, orange zest and a tonne of glue. Heady but not aggressive at all. Mesmerising.

Mouth: A big, big chewy rhum. Mouth coating. The pot still production has allowed for medicinal funk which blends perfectly with the layers of deep dried fruit, orange caramel and tannic bitter oak. Up there with the most complex and complete rums I've every tasted. A faultless finish that last for well over two minutes, with toasted nuts and flambeed boozy banana lingering still longer. Wonderful [93pts]

Rhum Rhum Liberation Integral 2015, 58.4%, 2112btls

Aged in tropical conditions (maybe for 6 years, but who cares) in oak barrels that previously contained "great French wine".

Nose: Fresher than the 2012. Less banana, more almond. More resin and polish than glue. A light whisp of smoke. Quite meaty. Again very nutty with layers of toasted spice. A smidge sharper and more cherry stone notes than the 2012. Another incredible nose.

Mouth: Those cherry stones, dried apricots and rubbery prunes. Light citrus pith. The touch of smoke from the nose continues to the pallet, just the right amount to provide complexity in the background without messing with the main event of the dried fruit, sweet cane and toasted spice. More oak than the 2012 but working perfectly. A moreish tannin that you want to chew on. [91+pts]

2015 SC (left) is an identical golden amber to the standard 2015 intergral (right)

Rhum Rhum Liberation Integral 2015 Single Cask, 60.6%, 288btls

A single cask, bottled separately, as part of the 2015 'liberation'. This cask was selected and released for LMDW's 60th Anniversary. Just 288 bottles were filled at a slightly higher 60.6%

Nose: To my nose, this is practically identical to the standard 2015 integral. Identically delicious :-) [cleaner and fruitier as it opens up, if you push me for a difference]

Mouth: Amazing cherry and berry fruit. The wine cask influence is dreamy. It doesn't have the medicinal edge or complexity of the 2012 but what it does, it does perfectly. The extra couple of degrees are noticeable yet it drinks beautifully. Cleaner and fruitier than the regular 2015, maybe less oak and overall less going on but I slightly prefer the single cask, especially the finish which is quite something - long, clean, rhummy, dark cherry delicousness [92pts]

Rhum Rhum Liberation Integral 2017, 58.4%, 2400btls

The third standard full proof release. Produced, as with all these amazing rums, without any added sugar, colour or flavourings. Cask aged in the warm tropical conditions of Marie Galante for several years before being liberated in 2017 :-)

Nose: Nail polish acetone and a little quality cologne. Tree sap. Toasted nuts. Immense spice. More drying oak presence than in the previous two. Baked pasty with lots of mixed spice. Missing some of the rich deep fruit. Quite a lot of Bielle DNA on the nose.

Mouth: Fresh cane fruit and lots of dusty chocolate, even a touch of milk chocolate. Sugarcane flavours very present. A floral, delicious rhum, with waves of menthol oak. Slight fruit pith bitterness leads into an excellent long tasty finish. Not quite offering the level of deep fruit or funky complexity of the first three but outstanding nonetheless. [90-pts]

Rhum Rhum Liberation Integral 2020, 58%, 2700btls

The latest releases from Rhum Rhum appeared in shops (and promptly disappeared) a couple of years ago. The full proof, or 'integral', version was bottled at 58% having been tropically aged in oak barrels that previously contained "great French wine".

Nose: Screams quality aged cane juice rhum - all those expected hallmarks of dried fruit, herbs, floral fresh cane, vanilla oak and deep earthiness. More menthol here than on the previous few.

Mouth: Floral and very honeyed. Quite different on the palate from the first three. Herbal, spicy, and with good fruit, but the tasted is dominated by menthol and lashings of bitter blossom honey. Not as complex as the first three. A lovely rhum but the profile doesn't wow me as much. [88pts]

Bonus 1: Rhum Rhum Liberation 2023, (pre-dilution 62%)

I had the great fortune of trying this, prior to dilution, at Whisky Live Paris. Rumour has it that Rhum Rhum are moving away from 2 different strength releases, to a single mid-strength bottling, so there may not be an integral version of this as we have previously known. Due to be bottled this year but as of February the rum was still in Marie Galante.

Summary Tasting: A sublime nose, harks back to the 2012 with a beautiful medicinal edge. Massive on the palate, it certainly wants a few drops of water to bring out the full flavours but I hope this isn't reduced too much. Classy and complex - Rhum Rhum at it's best. [not scoring. I'll wait to (hopefully) try the official bottling(s).

Bonus2: Rhum Rhum Liberation Integral Single Cask 2023, 57.3%

A very long aged single cask, selected by Luca, Gianni and Michele to be bottled separately.

Tasted at the distillery... I was having an amazing holiday, on a paradise island, topped off with a rum geek's 'experience of a lifetime' spending time with the delightful team of Michele and Anna ... so my opinion was unquestionably biased .... it's the finest cane juice rhum - probably the best rum - I've ever tasted! :-)

Conclusion - Some huge scores, and rightly so, for these beautiful and unique rhums. They are predictably expensive releases but given the cost and effort required to create them, they actually represent good value.

My pick of the bunch is the sublime 2012, with the 2015s close behind.

Huge thanks to Michele and Anna for their hospitality, and, of course, to the ever wonderful rum fam for helping me find and buy samples & bottles of these gems. I'm missing the 2015 SC so the hunt continues for a bottle of this beauty.


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