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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

November 12, 2017


Extreme malternatives,
Neisson to the bone

Neisson’s the smallest distillery on La Martinique, and, I believe, the only one that’s fully independent. Rather consequently, it’s also become the one that’s attained the highest reputation amongst ‘connaisseurs’. All right, amongst ‘connoisseurs’, if you really dig Old French. So we’ll do quite a few Neissons today, vertically, and while thanking our friends Cyril (of Durhum fame) and the rumaniacs.


Neisson ‘XO Full Proof’ (54.2%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 2017)

Neisson ‘XO Full Proof’ (54.2%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 2017) Four stars This fairly new Neisson is said to stem from the 2006 vintage, which means that it’s around 11 years of age. Colour: amber with copper tones. Nose: rather rounded, very pastry-like, with tons of notes of warm tartes and cakes, specifically apricot and probably papayas. There’s a little milk chocolate as well, a fistful of raisins, and some rather delicate (given the high strength) notes of fresh cane juice. In the background, touches of earthy roots, celeriac, sweet potatoes, perhaps even manioc… With water: earth an roots up, pastries down. Superb notes of wallflowers. Mouth: very very good, tenser, starting with this typical lime-y note, almost acidic, and going on with herbs and grasses. A touch of salty liquorice as well, Thai basil, and much less roundness than on the nose. With water: gets a tad fudgy, while the liquorice would never give up. A touch of oak. Finish: rather long, a tad drying (tea tannins, unsweetened cocoa powder). Notes of lime playing with the back of your tongue. Comments: perhaps not one for your brandy snifter, rather for your hipflask. Having said that, we’re already flying quite high. SGP:461 - 86 points.

Neisson 2005/2014 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole)

Neisson 2005/2014 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, cask #11169) Five stars It’s to be noted that these 43% vol. are fully natural, so this is cask strength rum. We know some Scots who’d have written 42.9 or 43.1% instead, don’t we? That goes to show the spirit behind Neisson. Colour: amber. Nose: sublime arrival, ridden with wallflowers, chamomile, orange blossom… then rather dried apricots, stewed peaches and papayas, sultanas, milk chocolate, cigarette tobacco… Tends to become sharper and fresher, with more citrus, but also touches of peanut butter and chestnut purée that keep it kind of soft and wonderfully balanced. This is very complex! Mouth: indeed, cask strength, you kind of feel that no water’s been added indeed. Starts with pineapple jam and the slightest touches of grated coconut (but its not pina-colada-ish at all), and gets then fresher again, with lovely oranges and tangerines, as well as a… small oyster, ala Caol Ila. Not that it’s smoky, it isn’t, but it’s got this wee saltiness indeed, playing with your lips. An adorable feeling. Finish: a class act indeed, and one cannot not think of those old Macallan 15 yo from thirty years ago or more. Old Sauternes, tangerine jam, pink grapefruits, more milk chocolate again, and a wee feeling of charcoal and ashes in the aftertaste. Comments: this wonder has got something that many other rums don’t have IMHO: a huge complexity. If Caroni’s the Port Ellen of rum, Neisson may well be its (old) Macallan. No? SGP:641 - 92 points.

Gee, we started too high, I’m afraid. What’s going to happen with the rest?... At least we already have a benchmark…

Neisson 2004/2015 (45.4%, OB for LMdW, Martinique, agricole)

Neisson 2004/2015 (45.4%, OB for LMdW, Martinique, agricole) Five stars I think I already tried this baby when it came out (WF 89), but better be sure… Colour: amber. Nose: firmer, les delicate, starting with wee whiffs of burnt tyres, getting then much more chocolaty and prune-y. If you will, while the 2005 was a Macallan this one’s rather an old armagnac. Black Russian tea, pipe tobacco, maduro cigars, a bag of warm brownies, then rather small herbs, rubbed mint leaves, lovage, wood garlic, parsley, bouillon… Maybe a tad less subtle than the stunning 2005? Mouth: closer. Superb notes of chocolate-covered orange zests, thin mints, chlorophyll chewing-gum, then more black tea, a wonderful earthy side (pu-ehr this time), some black liquorice… Amazing! Finish: rather long, and very dual. Citrus on one side, and chocolate on the other side. Tarry menthol in the aftertaste. Comments: in a way, it’s the opposite of the 2005. I think I’ve been too shy last time, it’s very brilliant rum! SGP:461 - 90 points.

Neisson 2003/2012 (43.1%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 207 bottles)

Neisson 2003/2012 (43.1%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 207 bottles) Four stars Once again, this baby was bottled at cask strength. It is actually a 10 years old. Colour: amber. Nose: what a trip! It’s really like tasting a bunch of 1950s Macallan, and I’m not making this up. This time we’ve got more jams, tamarind, bananas, apricots… It’s also a bit dirtier (not a bad thing at all in this context), with notes of fresh concrete, gravel… Perhaps a touch of brine as well, dried bananas, mango chutney, pickled fruits… There’s a very long development happening, things keep moving and changing, so this is a movie-rum, not a simple picture. Mouth: rather rougher than the others this time, spicier, grittier… In a way, we’re closer to the XO that started this wee session. Lime, a touch of curry, some spicy (ginger) oak, a wee bit of turmeric… Really excellent, but it hasn’t quite got the ‘wow’ effect of both the 2005 and 2004. IMHO, eh. Finish: medium, with a touch of sugar, then quite a lot of cinnamon and black tea Comments: excellent, just not extraordinary. Remember, as always, all that from a whisky lover’s POV. SGP:451 - 86 points.

Let’s jump over a few years, if you don’t mind…

Neisson 1997/2012 (44.7%, OB for Velier and LMdW, Martinique, agricole, single cask)

Neisson 1997/2012 (44.7%, OB for Velier and LMdW, Martinique, agricole, single cask) Four stars and a halfThis baby was actually distilled in 1996, but they only filled the bourbon cask in 1997. Colour: deep amber. Nose: chocolate, liquorice, cake, menthol. Then raisins, kougelhopf, panettone, baked bananas, roasted nuts, raisin bread, dried currants, then cigars, wood smoke (just a little), praline crunch, and guess what? A little malt whisky! Perhaps Mortlach, or Benrinnes… And there, a wee feeling of old oloroso sherry. And yet it’s a bourbon cask… Mouth: it’s a fighter. Pepper, cloves and caraway at first sipping, then these unexpected malty flavours again, a large bag full of various kinds of oranges, and perhaps some praline crunch again, and a little chestnut honey. A few green spices are keeping it as ‘fresh and vibrant’ as Keith R. Finish: long, rather more liquoricy, firm, with some tarry oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: just perfect, once again, just a tad more rustic than the stunning youngsters, and than the more recent 1997/2017 that we tried the other day. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Neisson 1995/2014 (48%, OB for Velier and LMdW, Martinique, agricole, single cask, 290 bottles)

Neisson 1995/2014 (48%, OB for Velier and LMdW, Martinique, agricole, single cask, 290 bottles) Five stars Aren’t Velier and LMdW in all good moves these days, as far as rum’s concerned? Colour: amber. Nose: I find this one rather fresher again, more floral, and fruitier. That would translate into more wallflowers again, honeysuckle, elderberries, some softer praline, stewed quinces and apricots, then rather classic figs, dates and raisins (perhaps ala Glenfarclas), some lovely milk chocolate (drop palm oil and other oils in chocolate, please!), a little eucalyptus, and a touch of heather honey ala Highland Park. Hope no one’s taking umbrage when I mention malt whiskies in my rum tastings! Mouth: massive, punchy, partly citrusy, and partly cake-y and nutty. All that works in sync, naturally, only a slightly green oak in the background is adding a little disturbance (a faint sour bitterness). Green grapefruits, grass, green tea… That adds an almost sauvignony side to this Neisson. Or bone-dry chenin blanc? Finish: rather long, green, lemony, extremely fresh. Indeed, chenin blanc, matured in an ex-Brora cask (indeed, there’s a wee coaly smokiness in the back of the back). Comments: perhaps not a very subtle Neisson, but in fact, I just love everything it does. Love angular rum ;-). SGP:461 - 90 points.

Neisson 18 yo 1994/2012 (43.6%, OB, Martinique, agricole, single cask, 1000 bottles)

Neisson 18 yo 1994/2012 (43.6%, OB, Martinique, agricole, single cask, 1000 bottles) Five starsWhy some vintaged bottlings carry age statements while other don’t, I don’t know. Any ideas? These bottles are already very expensive, I’ve just seen it at 600€+ in Germany. Colour: amber. Nose: a softer, rounder, cake-ier one again, with pastries, brioches, praline, roasted pecans, cappuccino, banana cake, as well as something I haven’t really found so far, obvious vanilla. Now if you nose deeper, you’ll find a little menthol, eucalyptus, wild mushrooms, tobacco, and even wee hints of chives. One cherry too. Mouth: love, wit five Os. Liquorice and mint, 80%-chocolate, coffee, drops of raspberry eau-de-vie (in that coffee, naturally), still-wet fresh marzipan (okay, crushed almonds), and then all things orange-y, including proper marmalade, made without too much sugar. Finish: long, a tad rawer, earthier, with a lovely sour/tart ending. Lemons! Comments: simply another grand Neisson, but we’re still looking for one that would defeat the 2005. SGP:461 - 90 points.

What I really love with Neisson, beyond the obvious high quality, is the fact that they don’t seem to toy with weird wine casks to add width to their range and flavours to their juice. You’re right, better go on…

Neisson 1993/2012 ‘Hors d’Âge’ (46.3%, OB, Martinique, agricole, decanter)

Neisson 1993/2012 ‘Hors d’Âge’ (46.3%, OB, Martinique, agricole, decanter) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: the 2005 is back! Seriously, this one’s got a similar profile, with an incredible fruity freshness, innumerable flowers, and a luscious softness (I know, that was a little brochure-y) that’s just irresistible. Orange cake, brioches, some great milk chocolate again (remember, no oils in my chocolate!), mirabelle pie, softer liquorice, Camel cigarettes, dried mushrooms, old Sauternes, young Sauternes as well, quinces, natural vanilla… This is really endless. Forgot something… oh yes, oranges and honey. Or rather pollen. Mouth: you would have thought this would be silky and lace-y, but not at all, it’s even rather peppery. Granted, not quite old-Talisker-peppery, but we’ve got this feeling of strong black tea, old walnuts, cocoa powder… So indeed, the oak started to feel, but the fruity structure behind it perfectly keeps it afloat all along. Papayas, bananas… Finish: rather long, a tad drying. Cinnamon, cloves, gingerbread… Comments: graciously lovely, it’s just that I enjoyed the brighter (and less oaked) ones even better. I shouldn’t have started this madness with the youngest one… SGP:451 - 89 points.

Neisson 1992/2012 (49.2%, OB, Martinique, agricole, decanter, 790 bottles)

Neisson 1992/2012 ‘Hors d’Âge’ (49.2%, OB, Martinique, agricole, decanter, 790 bottles) Five stars It seems that there are various 1992s. Colour: amber. Nose: this one’s nuttier than the others, which is just as splendid. In fact we’ve got all kinds of nuts, from hazelnuts to pecans, all roasted to perfection. Pecan pie, roasted cashews, then some lightly mentholy coffee (there is one that’s got those notes, I just can’t remember which it is. A Jamaican, perhaps?) Then thuja wood, pine resin, then flowers coming out (peonies, ylang-ylang)… My god this is endless again… Mouth: love this! It’s the most ‘phenolic’ of them all so far, with some smoke, it’s even got olives and gherkins, kippers (yep), salted liquorice, then lemon and chocolate… Would you mind calling the Anti-rumporn Brigade? Finish: long, with some welcome lemons adding an acidic touch to this stunning coffee-ish, chocolaty and smoky profile. Comments: I simply adore dry spirits, and this one’s very dry. Draw your own conclusions. SGP:352 - 92 points.

Neisson 1991 ‘Hors d’Âge’ (45.3%, OB, Martinique, agricole, decanter, bottled ?)

Neisson 1991 ‘Hors d’Âge’ (45.3%, OB, Martinique, agricole, decanter, bottled ?) Four stars Not too sure when this was bottled, websites diverge a lot, with years ranging from 1997 to 2012. Ha! So, better no data than bad data. Colour: deep amber. Nose: all on liquorice, toffee and fudge, we’re almost in Demerara here, although there would be a deeper, earthier background. Notes of old red Bourgogne, fresh putty, and an unexpected game-y side. Hare belly (not Halle Berry!), which suggests old red Bourgogne, precisely. Peonies, walnut cake. Mouth: not as immaculate as the latest Neissons, and that suggests that they’ve been progressing. Which will surprise no one. Notes of preserved pineapples, chocolate cake, more Demerara sugar, more blood oranges, more marmalade… So this is very agricole, and very Martiniquan, and extremely good, just a little more ‘in the flock’ and a little less distinctive. In my humble opinion, of course. Finish: medium, with bigger cane-y notes and more candy sugar. Oranges in the aftertaste,  hoorah for oranges! A little coconut too. Comments: yes, I deeply believe that Neisson have been upping their game in recent years. Isn’t this kind of finding/feeling the whole point of doing verticals? SGP:541 - 87 points.

That was a great session for me, I really enjoyed it, a lot. I’ve just got the feeling that we’re missing a kind of signature. Hold on, I think I’ve found something…

Neisson Blanc Bio (52.5%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 2017) Three stars and a half This white organic baby’s not out yet, it’s due to come out later in December. But of course, we just couldn’t wait… Colour: white. Nose: pure, sparkling, dazzling cane juice. Nothing else, just crystal-clean cane juice. With water: rather wilder, grassier, almost ‘foxé’ at times. In French, foxé doesn’t mean foxed or foxy, it means rotten/game-y. Mouth (neat): it’s the sweetness that’s very impressive. There’s not one milligram of sugar inside, but it does feel very limoncello-y (I know). And of course, extremely sugarcane-y. Have you ever drunk fresh cane juice? With water: wider, grassier, with more lime and olives. Finish: long, blade-y, olive-y and earthy. Comments: a great spirit, but I think that unlike, say mezcals, many white rums are lacking depth. But this very one’s top notch, for sure… SGP:551 - 83 points.

As Mr Bean used to say while speaking French, ‘gracias’!

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far






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