HOW IT'S MADE
Rhum J.M is estate grown and located in a close proximity to the distillery. Thusly it goes from sugarcane in the fields to crushed into juice within 1 hour. There is no fresher sugarcane crush in the world. This is imperative to the flavor of the Rhum J.M because normally sugarcane begins to oxidize and ferment within the stalk as soon as it is cut causing bacteria and unfavorable flavors to develop.
There are currently 5 varietals used in Rhum J.M:
Canne Roseau (reed)
Canne Rouge (red)
Canne Bleue (blue)
Canne Paille (straw)
Canne Paille and R579 originate from Reunion while the other varieties are from Barbados.
The AOC dictates that any variety of sugarcane wishing to be added to the approved varietals list spend 4 years in an acclimatization period. Currently there are about 20 varieties of approved cane. The AOC also requires sugarcane juice from said cane to have a Brix level of 14º or higher.
Because of the AOC laws, sugarcane can only be harvested Jan 1st to August 31st. This is because this period is a dry season and the brix (sugar content) is more concentrated.
95% percent of sugarcane in Martinique is cut using transformer like sugarcane harvesters as seen here. This is not only very efficient but much more humane than the physical labor of hand harvesting. In addition, Martinique is part of France and workers benefit from the same benefits such as 35 hour work weeks, 25 days paid vacation, free healthcare, and free education.
After sugarcane is crushed and maximum extraction is achieved, the juice is pumped into fermentation tanks and French bakers yeast is added to begin the open tank fermentation process.
At Rhum J.M we ferment for 24 hours until the sugarcane wine reaches an ABV of about 4.5%. This lower than average ABV for sugarcane wine makes for ideal reactivity with the copper still and results in the preferred flavors for Rhum J.M.
The AOC rules for fermentation state that fermentation must be discontinuous and no sugar enrichment techniques may be used (in particular the addition of sugar by-products to the juice). Maximum fermentation time is 120 hours and the ABV of fermented juices may not exceed 7.5%.
Rhum J.M is crafted following the purest traditions of Martinique Rhum Agricole, with expertise passed down from generation to generation and the benefit of two traditional Creole copper columns.
Our rich fermented sugarcane wine collides with steam between the copper plates of our Creole stills to create pure rhum vapors. Once cooled and condensed, Rhum J.M comes off the still at 71-72% ABV.
Over the course of the following six months, the pure rhum is slowly reduced by adding scant amounts of estate sourced volcanic spring water every couple of weeks, gently agitating, and then allowing to condition for bottling or aging.
The Martinique AOC requires distillation in a continuous multi-stage column still with reflux. Rhum must be distilled to between 65% and 75% ABV.
Rhum J.M uses its own volcanic mineral-rich spring water, sourced 200 meters above sea level, from Mount Pelée, on Habitation Bellevue. This rich and flavorful water is used at every point in the production of Rhum J.M and is a key asset to the exceptional quality of our rhum.
"It is this river that feeds our distillery with water to be mixed with our cane. It's pure water here in Macouba, the best in the world” says Nazaire Canatous, Master Distiller.
Nazaire has been the master distiller at Rhum J.M for the last 45 years – following in the footsteps of his father whom had been master distiller for 40 years before him. He began working in the distillery as soon as he was legally able, working his way from cleaning bottles to running the stills with his father. Recently, J.M’s second-generation head distiller Nazaire Canatous, retired after 45 years at the helm, which is notable since his father ran the distillery the previous four decades. Canatous remains on-site, working in tandem with head blender Karine Lassalle and transitioning his expertise and recipes.
According to the Martinique A.O.C., in order to be called “Aged Rhum” or “Rhum Vieux”, rhum must age a minimum of three years in oak casks. The addition of sugar is also prohibited.
In Martinique, the evaporation (angel share) represents + or - 8% of the total volume of the barrels every year, and approximately 1-2% of abv. per year. Because of the constant 90% humidity and high temperatures year-round in Martinique, the aging process is highly accelerated compared to that in Kentucky or Cognac.
Known as the “nose” among her colleagues, Karine’s education and background in perfumery has been an asset to her role as master blender for Rhum J.M. She focuses on Rhum J.M’s aged products, where she has experimented with different French and American oaks, various char levels, and a range of timelines to create some of Rhum J.M’s iconic and award-winning blends. She believes in capturing the natural beauty of Martinique in the character of every rum, with continuous innovation as the driver to success.
Originally from southwest France, Karine first used her chemistry degree from the University of Montpellier to design the well-known aroma essence kit “Le Nez Du Whisky,” applying her specialization in perfumes and flavors to the spirits world. Shortly thereafter, she was introduced to the world of rum, and she began to consider a move to Martinique—she was up for an adventure to the place she believes produces the best rum. After serving as the Quality Manager for the Distillerie du Simon and HSE Rums for two years, Karine began at Rhum J.M as rum quality manager and protege to then cellar master, Nazaire Canatous. Before his retirement, she spent years extracting his philosophy and codifying his methodology to take over the role of Master Blender in 2018.
Karine also serves on the AOC jury for the appellation of Martinique and actively provides tasting training for employees of the Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyana; she previously served on the board of CODERUM.
When she isn’t mixing distillates, she takes advantage of the Martinique lifestyle, boating to neighboring islands, making dinner with friends and family, and dancing salsa.