By Alexander Britell
It was the first rhum agricole I had ever tried. And, instantly, rum was never the same.
I was at a dinner at the Royal Riviera hotel in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat in 2006, when the waiter brought around the digestif cart.
He pointed to a worn-looking bottle with a taupe leather label.
This is something to try, he said.
The bottle was an old Rhum JM, a Martinique rum appearing providentially on a digestif cart on the Cote d’Azur.
I had never tasted a drink like it, and while I was already a devotee of rum I had certainly never tried any rum like it.
What was this stuff?
And so began my love affair with rhum agricole, though at the time Rhum JM and Clement had not even launched in the U.S. market where they are now a growing presence (as rhum agricole in general finds momentum in America).
Ever since, JM has occupied a sentimental corner of my rum affection, legendary, classic, beloved.
And that’s the way it is in Martinique, too. The boutique distillery at the base of the Mont Pelee volcano in Macouba is revered, loved, admired, set aside in the jewel box of the island’s psyche.
And in a place like Martinique, where rum production is both respected and executed with near monastic devotion, that is really saying something.
Because JM is special. And it isn’t like the others. It’s even hard to get to, set away in the rainforest, a long journey from just about anywhere on the island, something that only adds to its considerable mystique.
And then there’s the artisanal stuff: they char their own barrels, they use their own water, they have their sanctified volcanic-soil cane.
But there’s something else, beyond the method and the land.
So when I found a small green bottle on a recent journey to Martinique that I hadn’t seen before, I was intrigued.
While JM is known for its vintages, this was a relatively new undertaking.
It’s called the Multimillesime, a term that is most commonly found in the world of cognac: the multi-vintage, typically a trilogy of vintages.
And it’s a welcome entrant to the world of rhum agricole.
The newest Multimillesime is a combination of JM vintages: 2002, 2007 and 2009.
So what’s it like?
The Multimillesime, bottled at 42.3 degrees, has a perfect amber color, and an aroma with notes of black cherry, cedar, peppercorn and hazelnut.
The flavor profile is marked by dried fruit, black pepper, tobacco, fennel and vanilla.
It is exquisitely controlled, with a crescendo toward the finish: the rum almost seems to glow, the cask-strength edge marrying smolder and balance.
It is a masterwork, one that takes the excellence you expect from JM and raises it to another stratum with the power of three.
If you ever needed a reminder about the magic of JM, it’s this.
The verdict? A new classic. And if you ever find it on a drink cart, don’t think twice.
Rhum JM Multimillesime
Rum Journal Review: 97 Points