Putting into port on the breezy shores of Martinique, where inlets and the sea sometimes blend into each other, is to become fully aware of the island’s Atlantic side. In a flood of light that seems artificially exaggerated, the schooner Samsara, at the table of which we are seated, swings on its anchor. The rigging turns in silence, pointing again to the Bay of Simon: toward its eponymous distillery where HSE Rum is distilled … and inland toward Gros Morne where the Saint-Etienne plantation is located. This is where the other stages of production take place.
HSE Rums incorporate this duality: the maritime facade toward Le François and then Pointe Cerisier. This is where the copper Creole column still was transferred to and where HSE Rum is distilled: enlarged stripping runs to slow the trajectory of the boling wine and prolong its exposure time between the steam and the sugar cane juice: reduced in number to allow the least volatile esters to pass through and produce complex, full-bodied and spicy spirits.
The rest belongs to the heart of the island: between Gros Morne and Saint Joseph, toward this lush part of Capesterre, in the water basin of the Lézarde River. This is where aging, blending, and bottling occur. For it was in the Maugée that HSE was built: the estate’s gardens crossed by the stone canal and holding ponds, the plantation house … and the main building, its façade, punctuated by 28 perpendicular arches that provide ventilation to the cellars. The whole testifies to an architectural heritage specific to Martinique and as such included in the island’s list of Historic Monuments.
HSE, Château Marquis de Terme Finish 2005 – World Cask Finishes – 48%
Nose: 18 months of finishing in Margaux Grand Cru barrels give this rum strong fruit notes, where aromas of red and black fruits interlace: raspberry, redcurrant, blackberry, blackcurrant ripe, mellowed by élevage, but also a light vegetal tone (ivy) that disappears after aeration. Hints of spice complement the whole.
Palate: The wood is more present and this rum needs to be opened for some time for it to fully encompass the aromatic palette. Aromas of sour cherry mix with sweet liquorice, leaving a little oil on the palate (mahogany) which adds to the depth of the macerated fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant). The whole is finally covered by aromas of violet. The mouth leaves one speechless, recalling the vegetal glaze of an old Glenfarclas from Speyside.
Finish: Precious wood, supplemented by notes of Amarena cherries in syrup and Oolong tea. The whole is gently broken down. A hint of balsamic vinegar perfects this haute couture finish. If you have a friend who is a connoisseur of cigars, they should thank you for the rest of their days. To be listed as an item of historical interest – with the Single Cask 2003!
HSE, Sauternes Finish 2005 – World Cask Finishes – 41%
Nose: Finishing for 12 months in the barrel of Sauternes Château La Tour Blanche 1st Cru Classé, this rum contains a thousand layers that open, ever so gently, on notes of dried apricot, almond honey, ripe papaya and beeswax.
Taste: Pure delicacy but always with control. Pineapple fruit paste blends with the aromas of broom flower. After a few seconds of aeration, the aromas of candied figs and dates offer an additional layer of pleasure. The ensemble is enhanced by a touch of white peach, semillon and sauvignon. Infused white grapes come back in force at the end of the mouth.
Finish: Long on gorse bush, orange bark, raisined grapes and warm spices. Here, dessert notes are light but the aromas sustained.