Dzama Rum Amber Cuvée Noire Prestige

Dzama Cuvée Noire Prestige

Product of:  Madagascar
Aged:  3 years
Price: $60
Alcohol: 40% ABV 
Sugar: 0-5 g/L 
Context:  Premium Aged Rum
RG Rating: 8

Tasting Notes
Cuvée Noire Prestige is certainly attractive.  It shows a bright, copper color, with multiple quick short-lived legs, the kind of dripping appendages you’d expect from a rum aged three years in oak.  The vanilla aroma and flavor are more pronounced than in many enhanced rums - this would easily pass for a flavored/spiced rum in a blind tasting.  The more subdued aromas are largely masked by the wonderful Madagascar vanilla, which makes them difficult to discern.  With some effort and patience, you’ll ultimately detect lesser scents of caramel, toffee, coconut, the slightest tinges of cardamom, orange citrus, banana, ginger, and finally some mild alcohol.  A creamy, sugary body delivers the primary flavor of vanilla, with mild coconut milk, a bit of oak and citrus zest in keeping with the aromas.  In the end, the sweet vanilla flavor influences the entire tasting though to the finish. 

The rums of Dzama are sourced from sugar cane planted in three geographical areas: Nosy Be island off the northern Coast of Madagascar; and two other areas in the northwest and northeast of the mainland. Each one of these locations is chosen for its particular terroir. Nosy Be is surrounded by vanilla and ylang-ylang plantations, the second area by citrus fruit cultivation, while the third has a concentration of clove plantings.

Like the oh-so-French Caribbean island of Martinique, Madagascar’s terroir and agriculture affect the aromas and flavors of it’s rhums.  Sugar cane grown in the different regions are affected by the surrounding fruit, aromatic plants, and spices. Adding complexity to Dzama’s products is the fact that their various molasses-based washes are with different yeasts, each designed to detach or highlight, the specific  terroir-produced character of each rum separately. Finally,  Dzama distills their spirits to different levels of alcoho, adding yet another tool in their bag of tricks used to achieve the desired flavors.  Aging is performed in different types of oak casks.  Some are used whiskey casks sourced from Chivas, others are new French Limousin oak.

Dzama representatives insist that no artificial products, additives or enhancers are used in the making of their rhum - an assertion that’s nearly incredible given their overwhelming flavors.  The explanation given to me was: The Volcanic soil of Nosy Be adds minerality and depth, and The plantations of Ylang-Ylang, a vine used in the manufacture of perfumes, or plantings of Clove trees, Vanilla, Oranges, Lemons, etc. are believed to transmit their essential oils to the sugarcane while it is growing, both through airborne means but more likely from the intermingling between the roots of  sugarcane and the roots of old roots from plants that were previously grown in the cane fields.  Hmm, makes me want to visit Madagascar to do some field research!

Dzama Tasting

Finally, Dzama points to several processes used to ensure quality:  Cleanliness - Entering the bottling plant requires you to don a cap, white coat, and face mask. Even the walls are painted twice a year to impede the growth of mold, which result’s naturally from ethanol released into the surrounding atmosphere.
Water - for diluting Dzama rhums is filtered through a five-step process, involving; Sand to remove solids, Carbon to remove odors, Cation (electrical method) to remove unwanted chemicals, Cartridge to remove minerals, and Ultraviolet to kill germs.

Madagascar is about as far away from my home in California as a person could get while standing on terra firma, and it’s about 40% greater in land mass.  The French influence on the island is reflected in the pronunciation (phonetic spelling: Zahm).  Thus, Dzama rhum has been a distant foreign treasure to me, available only at a few rum festivals I have been fortunate to judge. Their success is continuing.  In 2012, Dzama has finally secured importation permission and a distribution partner for the USA.  Five of it’s fine rums are now coming stateside.

I’m of two minds about Dzama’s Cuvée Noire Prestige.  While the distiller intended it as a mildly aged, premium rum, yet it has all the aromas and flavors to compete with and win against most flavored/spiced rums.  In the aged rum context, Cuvée Noire Prestige offers supple vanilla flavor, is incredibly easy to drink neat, and very satisfying.  Aa a spiced/flavored rum, it’s even better.  

Reviewed: September 2012 at The Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017