Saint-Etienne (HSE) Rhum Agricole Extra Vieux Sherry Finish

HSE Sherry Finish-RG1-USE

Product of: Martinique
Aged:   6 years, prior to finishing in Sherry cask
Price: €44.50 on Martinique (approx. $US61)
Alcohol: 45% ABV 
Sugar: 0 g/L 
Context:
 Rhum Vieux Agricole
RG Rating: 9

Tasting Notes 
Extremely Smooth.  Habitation Saint-Etiene (HSE) Rhum Vieux Sherry Finish shows a like a beautiful dark bronze, but shines brilliantly in a tasting glass, leaving long legs to ponder … and smells exactly as it’s double aging suggests. The initial scent is rather powerful for a bouquet, with stewed fruits and dry cocoa from the Sherry barrels, then followed by deeper spicy aromas of anise, sweet and grassy sugarcane – expressing the traditional smoky-oak aged rhum agricole herbaceous scents.  This is a beautifully intriguing first impression. One taste unleashes undeniably powerful flavors of spice, grassy cane, cocoa and sherry sweetness and smoked wood rush to coat your palate, yet the effect is pleasant, gentle and welcome.  The medium-weight body is subtle and extremely smooth, through to the wonderful smoky sherry finish.  Bravo!  Encore!

Anecdotes 
Saint Etienne’s facilities – including their old copper stills – were acquired by the large Simon Distillery on Martinique in 1994.  Simon moved the distillation equipment to their distillery in order to preserve the unique flavors and taste of Saint Etienne rhums. Today, le distillerie Simon produces rhum for Clément and HSE.  Of course, a degree of competitiveness between the two historic Martinique marques is natural.  Despite their co-location, the two Habitation’s brands maintain exclusive use of at least one still apiece, and access to sugarcane grown in different estates, adding up to two excellent, but distinctly different tasting rhums agricole.

HSE’s packaging is substantial yet without guile.  A heavy cap made of real wood and natural cork stopper top off the hefty glass bottle, reinforcing the noble sensations delivered by this heady rhum.

Take a photo tour of Le Simon Distillerie on Martinique, and see how sugarcane is turned into rhum agricole for Habitation Saint-Etienne. 

Opinion
Habitation Saint-Etiene (HSE) Rhum Vieux Sherry Finish is a thoroughbred of a rhum agricole.  I suspect the base rhum vieux, sans Sherry casks, would be quite a treat on its own.  After secondary maturation in casks that previously aged Spain’s signature sweet wine, the combined effect is magnifique. Whether you enjoy it for refined sipping or as an after dinner digestif, HSE Sherry Finish  is all the rhum agricole vieux you need.

Reviewed:  December 2013 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017