One look at Nosy Be 104‘s bright, bright gold color, and you know you are in for a different kind of overproof rum. The aromas appear in well proportioned layers, beginning with pleasantly sweet and creamy caramel, coconut, vanilla, butterscotch, walnut oil and oak, followed by more subtle nutmeg. Overall, it’s buttery, like shortbread pastry, and the alcohol bite you expect from a 52% ABV spirit is surprisingly light. Initial tasting brings all of the flavors you enjoyed in the aromas. That wonderful coconut taste is enhanced, providing structure that wraps around your tongue. A substantially thick and sweet body texture carries through to a medium-length finish.
Dzama Nosy Be rum is distilled from molasses derived from sugar cane grown on Nosy Be island off the northern Coast of Madagascar. The island is covered by vanilla and ylang-ylang, a vine used in the manufacture of perfumes. Both contribute significantly to the falvor of Nosy Be rum. According to it’s producers, from the very first day Dzama was conceived by Lucien Fohine, father of the current owners and successors, the special flavor profile of the rums emanating from Nosy Be was his intent to capture.
Dzama is obsessed with cleanliness in their production facility. Entering the bottling plant requires one to don a cap, white coat, and face mask. Even the walls are painted twice a year to impede the persistent growth of mold, which results naturally from ethanol released into the surrounding atmosphere. Their vast portfolio of rums are distilled at different levels of alcohol and with different yeasts designed to detach and highlight the specific terroir-produced character.
Initial barrel aging is controlled to elaborate the desired characteristics and top notes of each rum. The final ageing is conducted in different oak casks – used whiskey casks from Chivas, or new Limousin oak. Water for diluting Dzama rhums is filtered through a five-step process, including: Sand to remove solids; Carbon to remove odors; Cation (electrical method) to remove unwanted chemicals; Cartridge to remove minerals, and; Ultraviolet to kill germs.
Once again, Dzama blurs traditional rum boundaries. Of course their Nosy Be 104 overproof packs a potent alcohol punch, but it’s a velvet hammer that sneaks up on you with its exceptional smoothness. Nosy Be 104 carries the kind of delicious aromas and flavors we normally associate with fine aged rums that have matured in oak for far more years than this rum humbly admits to. Dzama Nosy Be 104 is better than it has to be.
One proud company representative wrote to me with the following claim: “Dzama is totally devoted to successfully make products that are smooth and complex in the mouth while generating a warm sensation upon swallowing, without burning - even in the overproof. The blends are done with that strong purpose in mind, not just to achieve a citrusy or spicy character … but the feel, the friendly approachability that are of paramount importance to the flavor signature.” I’d say they nailed it.
Sip it neat, use as an topper on cocktails that require a flavorful overproof rum, or use in sophisticated cocktails that reward mild caramel and vanilla – Dzama Nosy Be 104 plays very well.
Reviewed: December 2012 at The Rum Gallery, USA.