By Alexander Britell
There is a particular passion in the production of rhum agricole in Martinique.
There is a thought, a contemplation, a level of sophistication that seems to transcend what you find in much of the rest of the rum world.
They do things differently in Martinique, and it shows.
It’s the kind of thing you can do when your rum has terroir, when you grow the sugarcane on your own estate, when your rum tastes different every year just because of the harvest, when you can set aside a small corner of your plantation to experiment with one variety of sugarcane, or release tiny bottlings that might never make commercial sense at a larger company.
The Habitation La Favorite distillery, just on the outskirts of Fort de France in Martinique, has been at it since 1842.
In recent decades, it’s gained international renown (and high demand among collectors) with La Flibuste, a 30-year vintage bottled and sealed with wax, a sought-after collector’s item that can typically only be bought on-island in Martinique. (And then the Privilege de La Favorite, a 30-year blend).
Of course, that’s just one example of what has become an impressive portfolio for the company, from its Cuvee Andrey Dormoy to the more recent Riviere Bel Air, a white rum made from a corner of the cane field using exclusively “red” sugarcane. There’s always something new, some new experiment.
Everything from this distillery is unique, everything quintessentially Martinique, and everything artisanal.
There’s no puffery, just legendary rum.
And one of its most recent expressions is no different.
On a recent journey to the island, we obtained a newly-released bottle of La Favorite’s Reserve du Chateau 2002.
The 2002 Reserve du Chateau is a small-production rhum blend of 12 and 14-year vintages aged in both former cognac and bourbon barrels, with just 10,000 bottles per vintage, with every bottle wax-sealed by hand. It’s bottled at 43 degrees.
So what is it like?
The aroma is marked by notes of chocolate syrup, pepper, orange peel, tropical fruit and spice.
The flavor profile is dominated by milk chocolate, orange peel, spice and even a hint of champagne truffle.
It’s got a wonderfully luxurious, velvety texture true of many of the best agricoles, while the finish is a wonder: there’s a feeling of spicy descent, peppery and bold but also grand.
You can taste whispers of the Flibuste, hints of rums yet to come, hidden away in the oak. And some of the more quintessential La Favorite notes: the licorice, the cacao.
For lovers of La Favorite, it can be explained a bit more simply: it’s got the sweet, luxurious qualities of La Flibuste, but with a bold, spicy personality. It’s an uncanny, remarkable combination, the sort of marriage of flavors and multi-layered finishes you only find in rhum agricole.
It’s just another reminder of how unbelievably good — and how different — the rum from this island really is.
Martinique’s rhums don’t need to be taken elsewhere and bottled or aged in other places. There’s no need for “aftermarket” rum.
They’re grown here, made here, bottled here and drunk here.
And they’re spectacular.
La Favorite Reserve du Chateau 2002
Rum Journal Review: 95 Points
Where to Find It: La Reserve du Chateau can be purchased at many stores on Martinique, including at the Aime Cesaire International Airport. We recommend going straight to the terrific boutique at the Distillery.