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Agricole Challenge

What’s the Best Rhum for a Ti Punch?

In the French Overseas Departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe, there are more than a dozen distilleries spread over a combined land area smaller than the state of Rhode Island. With that number of producers distilling rhum from the fermented juice of freshly pressed sugarcane, the diversity is as remarkable as one might expect. The cane variety, the soil, microclimates, harvesting peculiarities–they all play a role in creating the flavor of the rhum, and because rhum agricole blanc is merely rested in steel tanks before proofing and bottling, the terroir and provenance are allowed to take center stage and create an experience I call “shelf stable farm-to-table”.

In the French Caribbean, rhum agricole blanc is traditionally served a la ‘Ti Punch. The drink is famously served in a deconstructed fashion so the imbiber can create the drink to their own liking, or “chacun prépare sa propre mort” which means “each prepares his own death”. It’s pretty great from an entertaining perspective–just put out limes, cane syrup, rhum and call it a day. Many don’t even use ice! (The no ice thing is a holdover from when there as no ice to be had, and many still prefer it that way.)

So in looking at the Ti Punch–a drink that is remarkably simple–it’s obvious that although limes and cane syrup will have an impact on the flavor, the biggest variable in creating the drink is the rhum. So having asked myself the question “which rhum agricole blanc is the best for a Ti Punch?” I decided to provide my own answer and share my findings with you.

Now in the French Caribbean, there are many different rhums agricoles blanc from which to choose, but here in the States, we have just twelve. So as sad as that is, it made procuring the necessary  products rather easy.

twelve-rhum-agricole-bottles

The next step was to develop the methodology for evaluating each rhum, which was determined to be:

  1. Blind taste each rhum neat
  2. Blind taste each rhum in a Ti Punch
  3. Tabulate the data and present the:
    1. List of the rhums with tasting notes
    2. Best rhum served neat
    3. Best rhum in a Ti Punch
    4. Best rhum overall

Here are the twelve rhums up for evaluation:

Brand Marque Origin Distillery ABV% Price mL Price/mL Price/1.5oz
Batiste Blanc Marie Galante Bellevue 45 37 750 0.05 2.22
Capovilla PMG Marie Galante Bielle 50 90 750 0.12 5.40
Clement Canne Bleue Martinique Clement 50 33 750 0.04 1.98
Clement Premiere Canne Martinique Clement 40 28 750 0.04 1.68
Duquesne Blanc Martinique La Mauny 50 32 1000 0.03 1.44
Damoiseau Blanc Guadeloupe Bellevue 55 35 1000 0.04 1.58
Damoiseau Virgin Cane Guadeloupe Bellevue 40 30 750 0.04 1.80
JM Blanc Martinique JM 50 26 750 0.03 1.56
JM Blanc Martinique JM 40 26 1000 0.03 1.17
Neisson Blanc Martinique Neisson 50 37 750 0.05 2.22
Neisson Esprit Martinique Neisson 70 72 750 0.10 4.32

So without further adieu: alons-y!

 

Marque Aroma Entry/Mouthfeel Flavor Finish
Batiste 45% Acetone, brine, grass and kiwi Thin, moderate spice, licorice Rubber, ketones, black pepper, roasted fennel, guava Bitter, spicy

batiste-rhum-agricole

Capovilla PMG 45% Buttered corn, citrus zest, brine, roasted squash Hot and spicy entry with fruit and roasted vegeatbles Red pepper and cinnamon combined with creamed corn and roasted fennel bulb, grilled pineapple, brine and licorice Bitter and fruity

capovilla-pmg-marie-galante-rhum-agricole

Clement Canne Bleue 50% Raspberry jam, butter and brine, black pepper Fruity, spicy, balanced Raspberry jam, mango, papaya, rubber, grass, black peppr, herbed butter Spicy, bitter, phenolic

rhum-clement-canne-bleue

Clement Premiere Canne 40% Butter cream, licorice, fennel bulb, brine, blackberry Light and graceful if not a bit thin Black and red pepper, a hint of cinnamon, sushi nori and cut grass, blackberry preserves Bitter, slightly hot, saccharin

rhum-clement-premiere-canne

Damoiseau 40% (Virgin Cane Rum) Mango, black pepper, brine, cantaloupe, butter cream Thin, watery Fennel, black and red pepper, melon, citrus zest, green olives in brine, pickled garlic Long, dry, bitter

damoiseau-virgin-cane-rum-40

Damoiseau 55% (Pure Cane Rum) Young coconut water, brine, vanilla cream, strawberry papaya Spicy but balanced Roasted fennel bulb, green olives in brine, cereal, blueberries, sushi nori, white pepper Mild bitterness, hints of fruit, medium-length

rhum-damoiseau-pure-cane-rum-agricole-55-110

Duquesne 50% Pear, brine, hint of nail polish, citrus zest and cinnamon Briny, peppery, with buttery elegance Roasted fennel bulb, rubber, butter cream, papaya, sushi nori, brine, black olives, black pepper Well-balanced, medium length finish with mild bitterness

duquesne-rhum-blanc-50

JM 40% Fennel bulb, citrus zest, grass, touch of green mango Well-balanced Dusty licorice, fennel, grass, white pepper, cinnamon, hint of papaya Bitter, citrus and phenolics

rhum-jm-blanc-40

JM 50% Nail polish, tangerine zest, brine and fresh grass, a hint of bacon and oregano Hot and spicy with pepper and butter combined with seaweed Hot and spicy with ripe mango and kiwi, a touch of rubber, black pepper, brine, papaya and fennel Spicy and long with loads of pepper and a bit of rubbery bitterness

rhum-jm-blanc-50

La Favorite 50% Fennel, brine, cream, sushi nori, rubber Hot and spicy , rubber and ketones Hot and spicy, with rubber and cinnamon, red and white pepper, roasted fennel, brine and black olives Long, spicy, quite bitter

la-favorite-rhum-blanc

Neisson 52.5% Citrus and seaweed, mango and blackberry, marasca cherry Hot, spicy, fruity Firey ketones and brandied cherries, rubber, seaweed, licorice and roasted fennel bulb Very long and spicy, moderately bitter, citrus zest

rhum-neisson-blanc

Neisson L’esprit 70% Butter, fresh cut grass, papaya, cantaloupe, orange zest Hot and spicy with firey rubber bitterness and fruity esters Loads of fruit, raspberry jam, orange marmalade, roasted fennel bulb, rubber, black pepper and cinnamon Long, spicy, moderate bitterness

rhum-neisson-esprit-70Having tasted each rhum on its own and in a Ti Punch, the results were tabulated. Here are the scores for each category:

Position Best Served Neat Best in a Ti Punch Best Overall
1 Damoiseau 55% Damoiseau 55% Damoiseau 55%
2 Duquesne Clement Premiere Canne Duquesne
3 JM 50% Duquesne Damoiseau 40%
4 Neisson Esprit 70% Damoiseau 40% Clement Premiere Canne
5 Damoiseau 40% Clement Canne Bleue JM 50%
6 Capovilla PMG JM 50% Neisson Esprit 70%
7 Clement Canne Bleue Neisson Esprit 70 Clement Canne Bleue
8 Clement Premiere Canne JM 40% JM 40%
9 Neisson 52.5% Neisson 52.5% Neisson 52.5%
10 La Favorite Batiste Batiste
11 JM 40% La Favorite La Favorite
12 Batiste Capovilla PMG Capovilla PMG

 

Granted these scores area very subjective (and the distribution was pretty tight as seen in the full results here) but for me there was one clear choice–hats off to Damoiseau 55% for sweeping all three categories. Not bad for a spirit costing just $35 per liter (around here, anyway). Incidentally, if you’re looking to purchase any of these rhums online, click on the links below.

Do you have a favorite Ti Punch rhum not listed above? If so, please let us know in the comments.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2016 8:00 am

    That’s an amazing array of rums you’ve tested here! My main question is whether the ABV has an influence here. Especially with rhum agricole I noticed that higher ABV almost invariably leads to tastier results. From your tested Neisson, JM and Damoiseau, this seems reproducible for you as well. Lesson learned: Always look for high ABV in rhum agricole, at least in blancs.

    My personal favorite for Ti’Punch, by the way, is La Mauny 50°.

  2. September 27, 2016 9:15 am

    Hey Josh… yet another of your comparative series, bravo! I personally really appreciate the neat comparisons (my own fave is JM50). Now as my partner would be the first to say, comparing these cane juice rums blind in a mixed drink is another matter.
    .
    Why is that? Mixologists – and those who like to cook (or watch any of the cooking shows) – know the answer. Recipes are always, and must be – flexible. You’ll often see a chef (and even sometimes a mixologist) “adjust” the recipe as he/she goes, but especially at the end.
    .
    Although the profiles of cane juice rums – which I love – are similar your neat reviews were uh, pretty neat and quite informative – revealing many subtle and not so subtle differences among them. It is the cane juice that remains the star – the lime and sugar (in various proportions) work to bring out the best of each. No fixed amount of these mixers can benefit them all.
    .
    I wonder – can you conceive of doing a series of blind tests with these finishing adjustments to allow each rum to show its best?

  3. September 28, 2016 12:39 pm

    Nice work sir! We’re pretty partial to Damoiseau 55%. + Almost every ti punch we had sailing the Lesser Antilles was made with it.

Trackbacks

  1. What’s the Best Rhum Agricole for a Ti Punch? | Inu A Kena
  2. 10 Easy Rum Drinks You Can Make Right Now | Inu A Kena
  3. Neisson L’Esprit 70⁰ Blanc Rum – Review – The Lone Caner

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