Where does a rum begin?
Is it in the yeast? Is it in the still? In the case of a rhum agricole, is it in the cane itself?
But it’s just as important — if not more important — where a rum ends.
In recent years, a number of rum producers have been exploring the universe of barrel aging — particularly, using barrels that previously housed other wines and spirits.
At the forefront of this movement has been Rhum HSE, the Martinique-based rum producer that’s among the most innovative spirits companies, well, anywhere.
For several years now, HSE has been experimenting with a range of “special finish” expressions, finishing their rhums in everything from sherry casks to Islay whisky casks.
What they’ve shown again and again is just how much the barrel matters — from the charring to the type of oak to, of course, the duration of aging.
But that’s just the beginning — the team at HSE has taken the art to new levels — from ultra-specific charring profiles for the barrels to even looking at barrels made exclusively with oak from particular forests.
One of HSE’s more unique expressions is particularly lovely, though.
This is the HSE Chateau La Tour Blanche Finish.
After eight years of aging in American oak barrels, it spent an additional year maturing in barrels that formerly housed Chateau La Tour Blanche, the famous Bommes-based dessert wine.
So what is it like?
The color is a classic golden amber, with a mild aroma of oak, caramel, brown sugar and a hint of dried apricot.
The flavor profile is marked by dried apricot, a hint of orange zest, black pepper, white wine, cane sugar, tropical fruit, even a hint of Moscato.
This is a classically velvety rhum from HSE, with a slightly bold but well balanced finish.
The sweetness of the Sauternes is in there, to be sure.
But it doesn’t overwhelm like so many other special finish rums.
It’s subtle, dancing around the flavors, never taking over. But it adds so much.
It’s the most important ending for a rum — in your glass.
Rum Journal Rating: 95 Points