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.
The next step was to develop the methodology for evaluating each rhum, which was determined to be:
- Blind taste each rhum neat
- Blind taste each rhum in a Ti Punch
- Tabulate the data and present the:
- List of the rhums with tasting notes
- Best rhum served neat
- Best rhum in a Ti Punch
- Best rhum overall
Here are the twelve rhums up for evaluation:
So without further adieu: alons-y!
|Batiste 45%||Acetone, brine, grass and kiwi||Thin, moderate spice, licorice||Rubber, ketones, black pepper, roasted fennel, guava||Bitter, spicy|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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 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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
Having 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%|
|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.
- Capovilla PMG
- Clement Canne Bleue
- Clement Premiere Canne
- Damoiseau 40
- Damoiseau 55
- JM 40
- JM 50
- La Favorite
- Neisson 52.5
- Neisson Esprit 70
Do you have a favorite Ti Punch rhum not listed above? If so, please let us know in the comments.