Clément XO (up to 2015)

Clement XO Bottle

Product of:  Martinique
Aged: blend of rhums from  vintages 1952, 1970 and 1976 
Price: $135
Alcohol: 44% ABV 
Sugar: 0g/L
Context: Rhum Vieux Agricole
RG Rating: 9.5 

Tasting Notes  
A Jewel-like color of light brown walnut or a darker amber is a telling indication of the fine rum you’re about to experience.  Elegant, almost heady aromas of brown sugar and dried plum, apricot, hints of clove and lavender, mild caramel, vanilla and sweet French oak all in a balanced complexity that transports you straight into the aging room.  Rather than present fine aromas, Clement XO expresses its organic origins as a revelation in the ultimate expression of agricultural art. The initial taste is serious, with surprisingly concentrated herbal flavors of anise and licorice, sweet buttery vanilla, followed by subtler tobacco and dry leather.  A medium-light body accelerates the flavors across you tongue, quickly relinquishing control to a finish that has a smooth leathery texture and just off dry, with enough sweetness to prolong the flavors. Tasting Notes

Anecdotes
Clement proudly describes its X.O. as a blend of vintage rums, including the highly regarded years 1976, 1970, and 1952 – regarded as three of the finest years in Martinique’s history for cane growing and rhum production.

In a private note, Benjamin Melin-Jones, Managing Director of Rhum Clément in USA and fourth-generation descendant of the founding family, explains the vintages blended into Clement X.O.:  “the vintage rhums were each pulled from their barrels about 15 years ago and that they were stored in large glass demijohns until we bottle them, in small batches. The 1976, 1970 and 1952 are considered exceptional vintages in Martinique as well as others too. But these are highly sought after vintages. Vintage rhums are deemed to be exceptional by the brix level of the sugarcane juice, a tasting of white rum 3 months after distillation while it is resting in stainless steel, and how the cellar master perceives the rhum to age over time…”

Starting with the freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice that is de rigueur for agricole rhum, then fermenting with yeast extracted from the cane stalks, Clement produces a spirit directly from the cane, complete with all its natural essences and flavors.  Using both French Limousin and American oak barrels to age the spirit, contact between wood and rhum is skillfully managed by the cellar master to further develop Clement’s distinctive character.  

As befitting the wonderful aromas, taste, and heritage, the bottle makes a stunning statement.  An elegantly feminine teardrop shape sits above a 3/4-inch thick glass bottom foundation, giving substantial heft and balance.  Of course, natural cork under a wide, gold trumpet bell-shaped top cork seals the spirit inside.  No label could do justice to the shape, so each bottle is proudly etched with the Clement name and crest, with minimal other adornments, allowing this beautiful rhum an unobstructed illumination.  The bottle exudes quality, with proportions perfect for displaying on any collector's shelf. 

For a brief history of Rhum Clément, click here.

November 2015 Update
Clément’s reserves of this iteration of X.O – and it's iconic teardrop bottle – have run dry.  The occasional bottle will drip thorough distribution channels, but a successor had to be nominated.  Clément’s remarkable 6 Ans got the approving nod, and was repackeged as the new Clément X.O beginning in 2016.  It’s both big on flavor and true to the Martinique A.O.C. definition of how long an X.O rhum must mature in oak.   As much as I enjoy my bottles of the old X.O expression, I have consumed the 6 Ans rhum vieux at 3X its rate.

Opinion
It’s not often that I am fortunate to sample rum that’s older than me.  So I gave Clement due respect, approached slowly in deference to the wisdom of its master blender, considered carefully how I conduct my palate, then took my best subtle sniff.  I could have stopped right there, as the aromas are exceptional, and reward prolonged retakes.  Like a fine painting that so completely saturates your senses that it  leaves you unable to appreciate any other art works in the gallery — after sniffing Clement X.O., you don’t have to taste the rhum to be completely satisfied.  But do proceed…

Reviewed: November 2009 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017