Rhum Bologne VSOP

Rhum Bologne VSOP-RG2

Product of:   Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, FWI  
Age:  4-8 years
Price: €38 at the distillery’s boutique
Alcohol: 42% ABV 
Sugar:  0-5g/L (estimate)
Context: Rhum Vieux Agricole
RG Rating:  9.5

Tasting Notes
Rhum Bologne VSOP shows the golden brown color of bronze.  A light swirling produces an impossibly large number of beads at the top of the rhum smear inside my glass, several become legs that are in no hurry to return to the rhum below.  Can the visual teasing be played out any longer?

A rich, sensual bouquet of rhummy sugarcane wafts seductively through the air, as my just-poured tasting glass sits a mere 30 inches away, beckoning me to stop writing, as if saying Try Me!

The aromatic indulgence begins with scents of sugarcane both fresh and fermented, mild anise, oaken vanilla (Bologne mentions Bourbon vanilla of course), nutmeg, tropical fruit (papaya, banana), mild walnut with sufficient tannins to add crispness to the overall tasting experience.  A single sip delivers all the flavors hinted in the aromas already detected, presented with a refined sweet taste that elevates the palate’s awareness and gives one pause to mutter pleasure under their tongue.  Suitably, the body is creamy, medium-heavy in weight, and retains it’s density throughout the finish.

Rhum Bologne is doing incredible things inside the distillery, aging warehouse, and in the bottle.  Treated to a thorough tour of the facility [photos here] during March 2017, I was left with the solid impression that these folks were doing it right –  holding onto their traditions of excellence in making rhum using three well-tuned, independent column stills, using only red and black sugarcane for specific flavor qualities, yet also improvising in many ways. Bologne is investing in building a new purpose-built aging warehouse with an intended capacity of 1,000 barrels (up from the 500 in early 2017) that was designed from inside out to support the complex tactical operations of moving rhum from still to resting tanks to aging barrels to bottling line, etc.  The casks’s contributions to the rhum are respected, as the distillery is experimenting with aging rhum in ex-Cognac French oak barrels from Tonnellerie Leroi (medium char) and American oak (heavy char) barrels previously used for aging Bourbon.  This rhum VSOP was aged in used French oak barrels for 4-8 years.  The vast majority of Rhum Bologne’s barrels are from Tonnellerie Leroi.

Bologne VSOP is produced from fresh cut red and black sugarcane -mostly estate grown - that is fermented for 24 to 48 hours (preferably  36-48) in eight stainless steel  tanks for 50,000 liter capacity.  A “special” strain of yeast (not Baker’s yeast) is used to bring the vinasse to an ABV of ~5.5%.  The resulting Vinasse is then distilled in one or more of the distillery’s independently-operated column stills.  La Distillerie Bologne’s stills are relatively short, each containing approximately 20 plates.  One still is all copper, the other two are copper and stainless steel.  They produce raw agricole at 70-75% ABV.  

Directeur General Francois Monroux attributes Rhum Bologne’s excellence to three factors: “One is … the exclusive use of only Red and Black varietals of sugarcane. And only the black cane grow in the Bologne estate’s fields.  Second is the volcanic soil found on Basse-Terre’s hilly western side” [as opposed to the flatter lands on the eastern side and on Grande-Terre].  Monroux credits the distillery’s location, facing West overlooking the Caribbean Sea, as the third factor in Bologne’s unique rhum.  Note that all three factors are contributed by Mother Nature, not the stills, nor the expertise of their operators.  The man’s humility is impressive.  

Packaging is understatedly elegant and masculine.  From the top, the cap is adorned with Rhum Bologne’s signature ship logo (a Brig, to be precise) and sealed by a natural cork stopper.  Big rounded shoulders, thick glass, and a heavy, 7/8-inch thick solid glass base anchors this bottle inside your rhum locker.  Does it matter?  Not really, as long as the rhum inside lives up to the expectations it by it’s physical, store-shelf presentation.  In the case of Bologne’s VSOP, the rhum is deserving.

Rhum Bologne VSOP is an amazing harmony of flavors and aromas, nearly perfectly balanced between its sugarcane origins, the vanillins from oak aging, mild spices and fruits all supported by a deep, sweet body.  Bologne's VSOP is all to easy to enjoy, pausing before every sip to sniff and beginning the entire discovery again, encore after encore.

Reviewed: March 2017 while touring the Rhum Bologne Distillery on Guadeloupe, and again in June 2017 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017