The eastern Atlantic coast of Martinique is full of winding roads and banana trees, a place of imposing villas and plantations and endless fields of sugarcane.
And here, hidden in an old stone estate up a hillside on the N6 highway, is one of the great secrets of the world of Caribbean rum: the Habitation du Simon.
You see, in recent years, a number of smaller Caribbean distilleries have been finding renown among rum enthusiasts, as more and more spirits lovers find their way into the romantic world of the noble spirit.
They are all fine rums – but if you’re looking for the artisanal, the boutique, the hard-to-find, the sought-after rums, your destination still needs to be the French Caribbean — the global capital of rum and the most creative, diverse rum-producing region in the world.
That includes three rhum agricole destinations: Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante and Martinique. But it’s Martinique that has the largest number of distilleries and brands and remains Mecca for rum lovers the world over.
And nowhere in Martinique is there a better example right now than what is arguably the Caribbean’s ultimate small-batch distillery right now: the Habitation du Simon.
The distillery, the brainchild of entrepreneur Yves Assier de Pompignan, is the essence of artisanal rummaking, with a tiny team that harvests the cane by hand and fertilizes the land with help from a band of mules.
The rum is distilled in a seven-tray copper column still the company calls “La Belle Aline.”
And when we say small-batch, we don’t mean boutique. We mean small.
The rums of A1710, which launched in earnest in 2016 with La Perle, a high-end rhum blanc, are instantly collectible.
Every release is thoughtful and rare: some certified organic or “bio.” Others cultivated using just a single varietal of sugarcane on a single parcel of the plantation.
And they don’t make much of it: a given release might be just a few thousand bottles — or less.
What the company has quietly developed is one of the most extraordinary white rum portfolios in the world, expressions oozing with personality, terroir, boldness and bravado.
And the company’s latest expression is rather special: it’s the first true aged expression from A1710, something aficionados have been waiting for.
And just 822 bottles have been produced — and we were lucky enough to obtain one.
It’s called Cheval Bondieu, named after a horse of legend in Martinican culture, and this ultra-small-batch release is a blend of rums aged between 18 and 36 months in French and American oak barrels.
It’s bottled at 48 degrees in a slick, gold-and-black bottle and case.
So what’s it like?
The first thing that jumps out is the sheer force of cane stalk in the aroma, reminding you that this is still a somewhat young rum and that it has not given up the bold, essential soul of A1710’s white rums. The aroma is filled with cane stalk and an edge of spice and anise.
The flavor profile is a journey; it begins with striking notes of white pepper and sugarcane that turn into whispers of butterscotch and creme brulee.
The finish is rather unique — it’s almost as if this rum has been blended in a temporal crescendo — you can almost taste the aging process — experiencing the story from the raw cane to the barrel. You can feel the progression as the flavors begin to get richer and broaden.
It’s a dynamic rum — with the vibrant energy of A1710’s white rums and an elevated elegance and finesse.
This first aged expression by A1710 is the start of something we think will be rather special.
And as you sip this rum and close your eyes you can, for a brief moment, hear the rustling of the banana trees and a comforting gallop in the distance.
And that — more than anything — is what Caribbean rum is all about.
Rum Journal Review
A1710 Cheval Bondieu
For more, visit A1710.