Most rum is made from molasses. This is common knowledge. However the french opted to do the entire rum thing a little bit differently and exclusively use pure sugar cane juice for their products. Coming from parts of the French West Indies ”rum” is instead called ”rhum” and often in conjunction with the postfix ”agricole”.
Having next to no experience with agricole rums I decided to go for the higher end of the scale when sacrificing my virginity.
Behold the Damoiseau Rhum Vieux Millésimé 1980. An 18 year old, full proof beast from the Bellevue distillery in Guadeloupe.
For the details and history please refer to the official Damoiseau webpage. It is actually quite good and definitely worth the visit.
1980 was also the milestone of something else: The birth of me. And the shear concept that the liquid inside this bottle is as old as me is simply mind blowing.
The rum is bottled at cask strength with makes it a 60,3% beast not to be fooled around with. I do prefer these types of rancid rums as long as they are sufficiently well made, but I am always a little nervous when trying out these aggressive beast. They might just slaughter your throat, if they aren’t well enough disciplined.
I thought about making this a side-by-side review or even a part 1 of 2, and here is why:
There is a rum out there almost identical to this one. The Velier Damoiseau 1980 Full Proof.
Same vintage, exact same proof and both a Damoiseau. They only differ slightly in presentation. The main difference is a 4 year longer maturation period on the Velier variant. Therefore it would be very relevant to do a side-by-side to easily show off the differences. But in the end I chose to do two separate reviews. Stay tuned for the Velier-one in the imminent future.
But first: The original Damoiseau 1980.
When picking up the box you are already setting your expectations high.
A nice, heavy wooden box with magnetic seal (which had unfortunately worn off on my box).
Covered in black, but with nice stencilled details about the rum.
We have the Damoiseau-logo, the vintage and the ”brut de fût” (French for full proof or cask strength).
The insides the box are covered with a beige fabric and the bottle sits on the bottom with a nice foam pillow.
The bottle is a tall bar room style. Not much fuzz and a bit simple. It does have a reinforced bottom which adds sufficient weight to the experience.
It is closed off by a rather simple cork with a plastic stopper.
A little caution on the cork though. Due to its advanced age, the cork in my bottle is very close to simply disintegrating. See the image to the left for proof.Due to frequent exposure to the alcoholic beverage in the bottle, the cork will slowly soak and start to wear down. At some point it will have been soaked so many times that it starts to soften and ultimately fall apart.
This problem has been reported by many other rummies in the global rum community, and I will have to replace the cork very soon if I want to savour this bottle over time.
And that will be my advice to you as well if you decide to buy this bottle for drinking. Get that cork replaced ASAP.
If you are buying it as an investment. Fair enough. But I hope that you have the courtesy to inform a potential future buyer of this potential problem.
The label is a nice yellowish thing with all the proper information on it. On the back there is another label with a little more information on the rum in both English and French. No glorification here.
When poured into the glass we find a dark mahogany liquid. Twirling it around only barely makes a ring on the inside of the glass. Looking closely I discovered that the ring wasn’t solid. It was a row of many, many tiny drops.
This resolved in no drops forming from the ring. But the tiny drops made a billion thin legs which slowly faded into existence. Furthermore it seemed like the glass below the row of tiny droplets, was covered in an oily texture.
The nose jumped me as soon as the glass had been poured. It was so eager to show me all its splendours, that I decided to put a lit on it, while preparing some of the other text in this review.
When I finally dived in, I was treated with an overwhelming fresh and light scent explosion, which revealed a complex and very rich profile. I was very surprised by the way it gently caressed my nostrils despite its high proof.
Deep inside the explosion heavy notes of plums and ripe cherries ascended, followed by black grapes and salty licorice.
As the explosion lost a little momentum, it made room for the more subtle notes as well. Cinnamon and flowers – my mind told me it was daisies, but I am not really a flower guy, so I am not sure – were very suddenly present.
There was a mild sharpness lurking below making sure to remind me that it was a full proof explosive and not your average sissy firecracker.
When it first hit my palate I was surprised by is medium profile. Even though it wasn’t as fat and heavy as very old demeraras, it was just as insanely rich in flavour. And at the same time it felt perfectly balanced.
You might say that it actually felt sophisticated French and not brutally British (no pun intended my dear British readers).
At first a flowery sweetness was almost the only thing there. But it slowly opened up to reveal all sorts of niceties.
First off was a lot of fruity flavours dominated by apricots, pineapple and prunes. And then more apricots. Then a moderate sweetness of brown sugar was put on top of it all, like icing on a cake.
As it kept opening up to reveal more and more flavours, I suddenly had the sense of a fresh, green and healthy lawn which had been warmed by the mild spring sun for an entire day.
And as the finale was drawing nearer, massive notes of very salty liquorice suddenly materialised. It had both notes of brine and ammonia built into it, as if just to show off.
Taking a break for a couple of minutes and letting it all fade from the palate, left stubborn notes of black gunpowder. Perhaps it is the ammonia-notes from the salty liquorice that evolves into this peculiar flavour, but never the less ”gunpowder” was the word which kept sticking to my brain.
Taking an eternity to fade away completely, a ”long” finish is somewhat of an understatement.
Familiar notes of apricots and salty liquorice kept lingering the longest among a pleasant warmth and spicy, oily textures which seemed to clean themselves up and never get sticky.
Exhaling through the nose several minutes later still revealed notes of the salty liquorice and flowery freshness.
Rating and final thoughts
I feel very fortunate to be able to indulge my self in a historical piece of pleasure like this rum.
There is no need to discuss if this is an impressive piece of craftsmanship – because it clearly is.
The combination of medium profile and superb richness is really something special, and makes it a rum that goes down very nicely and seems to keep screaming for my attention long after the glass has been emptied.
Apart from the tiny sharpness on the nose, I found no off notes at all. Unless you want to call gunpowder an off note. As long as it refrains from blowing up in my face, I see it as more of a curiosity than an error or inconsistency.
The cork issue is somewhat unfortunate, but I guess that is one of the risks of dealing with these older vintage rums.
Right now my only regret is that I clearly need to source another bottle of this.
All this goodness puts it up there with some of the best rums I have ever tasted. So here it is, a nice, and well earned…