^ The BBS La Mauny distillery is located in the south of Martinique
Rum has been predicted by many experts to be the next big thing in the spirit world. Yes, it’s known as the party drink to beat all others, with a host of iconic classic cocktails and mixed drinks – think Cuba Libre, Mojito and Daquiri. But rum has grown up, and there are some seriously complex, ageworthy versions out there.
There’s also a style of rum not widely known – in fact, it only accounts for 3% of all rum production: agricole. Made with pure sugar-cane juice as opposed to molasses, rum agricole is clean, fresh, grassy and aromatic, with a funky fruitiness.
This style originates from the French Caribbean islands, particularly Martinique and Guadeloupe, and it’s the former that’s home to the winner of the IWSC Rum Producer Trophy: Groupe BBS (Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs).
BBS covers three key brands: Maison La Mauny, Trois Rivières and Dusquesne, all of which are made in the same distillery in the south of the island, but all differ due to where the sugar cane is sourced and the terroir where it’s grown.
BBS president and CEO Nathalie Guillier-Tual explains that Maison La Mauny is produced from sugar cane that grows in deep valleys, giving rums are fruity and generous; the raw material for Trois Rivières grows along the sea in very dry soil, helping create a mineral, floral character; and Duquesne is more of an entry-level style, made by blending white and young aged rums for a fresh, citrusy style.
Guillier-Tual is a firm believer in the agricole style. Not only does she believe that using fresh sugar cane locks in the aromatics, creating ‘very pure, delicate and elegant’ rums, but as agricole is tightly regulated as an AOC, banning the addition of sugar or any other flavours, this style offers authenticity and craft – ‘a growing trend for millennials and connoisseurs’.
^ Barrels of Trois Rivières rum ageing in the warehouse, and (right), Trois Rivières 12 Ans D'Age Rhum scored an impressive 96/100pts and won a Gold Medal
The IWSC judges were hugely impressed, too, with a host of Gold Medals awarded to BBS rums, including Maison La Mauny Extra Old Rhum, which scored 96/100pts and wowed with its aromas of dried flowers and sweet wood spices accompanied by a palate of sweet fudge and juicy dried fruit.
Another high scorer was Trois Rivières 12 Ans D'Age Rhum, with its ‘complex nose of sweet poached pears, pineapple and banana with a pinch of spice’. Rums aged in the Caribbean mature much more quickly than in chilly Scotland, and casks aged in tropical climates lose around 7-8% of their contents each year, compared with 2% for whisky or brandy. As a result, Guillier-Tual says that a 10-year-old agricole rum is equivalent to a 30- or 40-year-old whisky or Cognac – yet more proof that age is not everything with spirits.
So, what can we expect from BBS in 2021? Guillier-Tual remains tight-lipped: ‘We never know when we will release a new rum; we release it when we think it is aged enough. If we need to wait an additional year, we wait. That’s why we keep our releases secret.’
Agricole rum is still something of a secret to many spirits drinkers, but while BBS continues to win big awards like the IWSC Rum Producer Trophy, it won’t be a secret for much longer.