The Clement Rhum X.O. is a rare blend of aged rums including the highly regarded vintages of 1952, 1970 and 1976, which have been recognised to be the finest ever in Martinique.
What is the difference between Rum and Rhum?
The simple difference between Rum and Rhum Agricole is that RUM is always made from Molasses (an industrial by-product of sugar production) while Rhum Agricole is made DIRECTLY from freshly-pressed sugarcane juice. Rhum Agricole can be made only when the sugarcane is at its peak of maturity, limiting production to a short season of just over two months – from early March in southern Martinique through late May in northern Martinique. Upon harvest, the sugarcane is immediately pressed to extract the free-run juice, which naturally ferments with organic yeast from the outside sheath of the sugarcane stalks, producing Vin de Canne or sugar wine. Since 1996, the agricultural rhums, such as Rhum Clément, from Martinique are the only rums granted with a French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (A.O.C.). A.O.C. Martinique Rhum Agricole is at the top of the official French quality scale and must comply with legal restrictions on cane varieties, yield, distillation, aging, and especially production zone.
The careful production process of Rhum Agricole results in a pure spirit, encompassing the natural aromas and earthy, vegetal character of the sugarcane that is only present in A.O.C. Martinique Rhum Agricole. “The difference between Rhum Agricole and other rums has been compared to the difference between Whiskey and Single Malt Scotch,” says Benjamin Melin-Jones, Managing Director of Rhum Clément, “It’s a different fresh flavor profile not seen in any other style of rum and its distinctive character is derived directly from Martinique’s terroir and its glorious sugarcane.” The bulbous aromas and classic cane flavors in Rhum Agricole are captured in the long fermentation process and a lower distilling ABV. This makes for a sharp contrast with molasses-based rums. If the sugar is cooked in process, the finer qualities of the terroir and the dry grassy herbaceous flavors from the sugarcane will have been stripped from the spirit.
Rhum Agricole production in Martinique began in 1887, when Homère Clément purchased Domaine de l’Acajou in Martinique and converted it into a Rhum Agricole plantation and distillery. At the height of the great sugar crisis, sugar production came to a halt and the molasses, from which rum was distilled, was no longer available. Homère analyzed and mimicked the Grand Cru wine producers in France and the distillers of the great Armagnacs to perfect his method of rum production known today as Rhum Agricole. He treated the sugarcane like a fruit and pressed them like grapes to extract their fresh natural juice and fermented a wine to distill into an eau de vie. The complexities and nuances of Rhum Agricole are now being re-discovered by a new generation of rum connoisseurs. The unique flavor profile of Rhum Agricole makes way for the creation of stellar and memorable rum cocktails, capturing the attention of the growing mixology community and cocktail aficionados. The aged varieties are comparable to fine small-batch Bourbons, Single Malts and Cognacs; and are becoming increasingly recognized as smooth and stellar sipping spirits.
Rhum Clement Facts
Established by Homère Clément in 1887, Rhum Clément is the leading producer of A.O.C. Martinique Rhum Agricole. The opposite of industrial rum produced from molasses, Rhum Agricole is a true representation of what it means to be pure, natural rum. Rhum Agricole begins with the finest selection of sugarcane, pressed to extract a free-run aromatic sugarcane juice, which is distilled into a crisp and earthy vegetal spirit from the world-renowned terroir of Martinique. Rhum Agricole is only produced two months out of the year from fresh sugarcane juice and is exclusive to the French West Indies. A.O.C. Martinique Rhum Agricole is exclusive to Martinique.
- The Harvest - Rhum Clément is made from a selection of the finest A.O.C. certified sugarcane from Habitation Clément. The harvest season for sugarcane begins in early March in the southern Martinique and finishes at the end of May in the northern part of the island. Each cane stalk is chopped as low to the ground as possible in order to get the highest concentration of glucose. The Clément distillery is within view of the sugarcane fields because the sugarcanes must be of ultimate freshness to distill the world’s finest A.O.C. Martinique Rhum Agricole. Within one hour of sugarcane cut, the sugarcane is crushed to deliver the freshest and purest flavor of the exceptional terroir and character of Rhum Clément’s estate-grown sugarcane.
- The Fermentation - Only A.O.C. certified sugarcanes are pressed to get their natural free-run juice, or Vesou. An organic house strain starter yeast initiates fermentation, which is carried on by the organic field yeasts, which exists on the outside sheath of the sugarcane stalks. Fermentation is strictly controlled in open-top fermentation tanks. The fermentation period can be anywhere from forty-eight hours to as long as seventy-two hours, resulting in Vin de Canne, or sugar wine, which ranges between five and seven percent ABV. Fermentation into this sugary wine is what develops the full-bodied flavors and aromas. The longer the fermentation process, the higher the concentration of aroma and flavor.
- The Distillation - Rhum Clément’s Rhum Agricole is distilled in a Créole single-column copper still, modeled after the classic Armagnac still. This allows for the strength of the spirit to remain very low and consistent. The length of the distillation as well as the strength of the Vin de Canne plays an important part in this process, as does the physical makeup of the still. Small stills produce a heavy and low strength spirit, while the tall stills yields a higher strength and lighter spirit.
- Rhum Blanc and Preparation for Aging - After distillation, the fresh cane spirit is placed in stainless steel tanks to mellow. Each stainless steel tank has a small-perforated pipe and a release valve at the top. A stream of filtered air flows gently through the pipe, creating tiny bubbles, which pass through the rhum. This removes any unpleasant esters, which would take away from the full-bodied flavor of the rhum. Over a period of nine months, the rhum is reduced gently with slow agitations in preparation for aging or bottling.
- The Barrels, Rhum and Time - A complex mix of Limousin and American oak barrels are used to age Rhum Clément. The superb alchemy of rhum and wood orchestrated by the cellar master is what gives Rhum Clément its distinctive character. The two different woods impart their characteristically intense fragrance and fine complex aromas as well as their lively, persisting flavors. During this maturing period, the tannin in the barrels imparts its amber color to the rhum. After being placed in the barrels and stored in the cellars, the rhum begins to age. Due to the intense tropical climate of Martinique, there is a rapid loss of rhum that evaporates through the barrel. This is commonly known as the “Angel’s Share.” Rhum Clément gradually loses between 8- 10% of aged rhum per year. To help off-set this loss, each barrel is topped-off continually with rhum from the same vintage so Rhum Clément’s aged rum is 100% from its true vintage.