Velier Isautier 16yr - Cane Juice Vs Molasses
Updated: Mar 20
An awesome head to head today. Two rhums, both from Isautier distillery on the island of Reunion (South Indian Ocean), both selected and bottled by Velier, both distilled in 2005, both bottled at a huge 65% and both aged in Reunion's warm tropical climate for an incredible 16 years!
So, which is the winner, the cane juice (Agricole) or the molasses (Traditionnel) ?
First time tasting rhum from Isautier for me, although I am a big fan on the rhum from another Reunion island distillery - Savanna. I reviewed the Savanna Métissage series a couple of years ago (here).
Isautier has significant heritage, being establish way back in 1845, so it's overdue that I try some of their rhum. And oh boy am I starting big - these two single cask monsters are revered as pretty much top of the tree for Isautier.
For more detail on the distillery I highly recommend you peruse the excellent article from rhum maestro SingleCaskRum (here)
I've poured around 15ml each of these rare rhums and left them to open up for 20mins. Nosed first and then tasted. Assisted today by the groovy sounds of The Staple Singers.
Velier Isautier Rhum Agricole, 16yr, 65%, 502 btls
Aged in ex-bourbon cask the rhum has a dark but bright amber hue.
Nose: You're in no doubt it's a big one, but the impressive alcohol integration belies it's true strength. I was worried that 16 years would leave this over oaked but the fruit is positively bursting out.
Tasted blind I'd swear this was an outstanding aged Martinique! You get a tonne of spicy clove & tannic oak but not overwhelming and balances perfectly with the fruit. A rich nutty nose. Hints of citrus, a tiny touch of soap, a good dose of floral cane and plenty of roasted, rather than stewed tea. Flambee banana pops up after a while. Quite dry, sort of dry caramel. Impressively fresh and very, very inviting.
Mouth: Wow. A real treat. A flavour journey with very few faults. Tannic, bitter, nutty spice to start, then a wave of honeyed fruit comes crashing through with peppery spice tingling the taste buds. A little floral, even perfumed, super fresh and slight menthol - which balances the spicy tannic oak really well. A little roasted nutty nougat and lots of dried fruit (fig or prune perhaps). A long delicious finish. Perhaps not offering the wow factor for 90 pts but an outstanding quality rhum [89-pts]
Velier Isautier Rhum Traditionnel, 16yr, 65%, 546 btls
Also aged in ex-bourbon, an almost identical colour. If pushed I suppose the Agricole is possibly the tiniest fraction darker.
Nose: Another big, deep, rich rhum - yet quite different. Alcohol is less well integrated on the molasses, and it's definitely less complex.
Less of the dry cane fruit, more dried apricots, pastry and salted nuts. And quite different spice, heavy roasted spice blend on this one. Again the oak isn't overpowering the nose but it is definitely more woody and less fresh than the Agricole. A little honey alongside a lot of tannin. Good, but on the nose the cane juice wins.
Mouth: Quite soapy, a good splash of tropical fruit, plum pudding and lots of caramel pastry to start.
Fiery alcohol - not nearly as balanced as the Agricole.
The wood is not working as well here - a little too much astringent, spicy oak which is overpowering the fruitier freshness as the taste progresses. A lingering bitter finish [84pts]
Conclusion: What an interesting head to head. And what an awesome pair of venerable old rhums. A clear win for the better balanced and more complex cane juice rhum today.