By Alexander Britell
Just to the side of a centuries-old stone villa in the northeast of Martinique is what just might be the most exciting boutique rum distillery in the entire Caribbean.
And all it makes is white rum (for now, at least).
Yves Assier de Pompignan boutique distillery has quietly become a force in the world of rhum agricole — and a symbol of what makes this rum so special.
With a series of small-batch rhum blanc releases, A1710 continues to display the meaning of terroir in Martinique.
But it’s also showing something else: that it’s time to rethink white agricole.
I recently had a long conversation with a spirits importer who was new to the world of agricole.
He was amazed with the quality and personality of white agricoles — they are almost their own category, he said.
And you know what? He was right.
While they’re terrific in a ti’ punch, the best white rhum agricole expressions are eminently sippable, oozing with character, flavor and terroir — a palpable connection to the soil that makes Martinique just such a special place.
While Martinique’s aged expressions are in a class by themselves, the white expressions are equally impressive — and, one might argue — an even more direct connection to the terroir, to the sugarcane itself.
More and more, Martinique’s producers are highlighting and experimenting with special-release white agricoles, from La Favorite’s wonderful red-cane varieties to Rhum Clement’s continued standard-setting with its blue cane rums.
But it’s A1710 that is at the forefront, making a concerted effort to show that pure white agricole is an ultra-premium product.
And its latest release achieves precisely that.
This is La Perle Brute, a white rhum made from black, yellow and “Pen Epi Let” cane varieties coming from the plot of a single farmer named Paul Octave.
So what’s it like?
This copper-still expression has a clean aroma of only the subtlest whispers of licorice, white pepper and cane stalk; magnificently fresh on the nose.
And what about the taste?
The peppery edge of the rum dances around the core flavor like a spicy cane helix, with notes of licorice, raw cane stalk, a hint of stone fruit and vanilla bean.
At once delicate and robust, it’s a playful duet of a glockenspiel and a timpani — with the latter a result of a decidedly robust 66-degree bottling.
It only underscores the standalone brilliance that so many white agricoles have — and that it’s time to start viewing them through a new prism.
Indeed, these expressions are some of the most artisanal, authentic, and mysterious spirits on the planet.
And they don’t get more exquisite than this one, one of the best white rums you will ever try.
Rum Journal Review