Rhum J.M 1998 Millésime 15 Year Old

Rhum J.M 1998 15 YO-RG4-USE

Product of:  Martinique
Aged:  15  years
Price: €79 ($96) at the Rhum J.M distillery's boutique on Martinique
Alcohol: 43.7% ABV 
Sugar: 0g/L
Context:  Rhum Vieux Agricole
RG Rating: 10

Tasting Notes
Rhum J.M 15 year old 1998 Vintage. radiates a brilliant copper/amber color in a tasting glass.  And not that they indicate much, but the many long legs produced by swirling add considerable pleasure to the viewing.

J.M’s artists present the entire Caribbean spice portfolio in this aromatic vintage rhum.  It's bigger and bolder than the 1995 15 year old.  Yet the beauty isn’t about the quantity of delights, it’s the finely balanced presentation and sequence that truly shines light on the cellar master’s art.  Sniffing lightly rewards your nose with a bouquet of tropical fruits (pineapple, banana), then deeper aromas of spices (clove, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, anise) and mild tobacco and thin new leather.  The dance on the nose segues perfectly to the flavors and introduces dried fruit (dates, tamarind, orange), some oaken vanilla, of course sugarcane grassiness, while the finish is smoothed with mild almond flavor and the distillers’ ever-present licorice/anise taste.  

Anecdotes
Regarding the age of this rhum; 1998 indicates the date of harvest, and more specifically the date of distillation (according to AOC regulations).  Distillation occurs a couple days after harvest - time is needed for fermenting.  Belgian baker’s yeast developed specifically for alcohol beverages is used as a starter, but augmented with the natural yeasts on the cane stalks and wild airborne yeasts that find their way into the open top fermentation tanks.  

Rhum J.M 1998 15 YO at distillery gift shop-RG1

After resting for a few months to rest and balance the raw distilled spirit, it was placed in re-charred 200 liter American oak ex-Bourbon barrels for aging in December 1998.  The rhum was bottling fifteen years later, on November 25, 2014.  Rhum J.M’s 15 and 10 year vintages are bottled undiluted from cask strength.  However, the bottled rhum has a lower ABV than when it first entered the barrels.  The Angel’s take their share during aging, removing just less than 1 degree of alcohol per year.  J.M’s location in the relatively humid microclimate surrounding Mt. Pelee causes the alcohol to evaporate more rapidly than water, this lowering the ABV gradually with time.  After maturing for a full 15 years, as much as 70% of the original spirit has gone to the Angels.  Reviewed here is bottle No. 001329. 

J.M’s renders their typical label in leather for their special 15 year old rhums, and seals the bottle with a thick green wax to cover the natural cork stopper.  The bottle is delivered in a wooden box of mahogany that adds a certain panache to the overall presentation.  Those few subtle differences are all the clues provided to honor this incredible expression of the master’s art.

To see a short video about Rhum J.M, click here or go to: Rhum J.M - YouTube

Opinion
Rhum J.M Millésime 1998 Vintage 15 year old rhum strikes me as a little more delicate, perhaps more sophisticated and understated when compared with many of J.M’s other aged expressions.  The rhum completely satisfies my yearnings for a finely balanced, exquisite, elegant, and thoroughly matured rhum agricole.

Reviewed:  December 12, 2014 in Rhum J.M’s tasting room while visiting Le Distillerie Rhum J.M – only two weeks after the rhum was bottled.  Yes, of course I brought home a bottle and completed my tasting notes at the Rum Gallery, USA. 

© Dave Russell 2017