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.
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.
Karine has been the master blender at Rhum J.M since January 2017. Originally from Maubourguet, in southwest France, Karine went to school at the University of Montpellier where she received a degree in Chemistry specializing in perfumes and flavorings. In 2011 Karine created the aromas for the well known aroma essence kit “Le Nez Du Whisky”. In 2014 Karine made Martinique her home and began work as Quality Manager at Distillerie Simon for the HSE brand. She currently serves on the AOC board for the appellation of Martinique and has previously served on the board of CODERUM.
Karine brings a modern and particular attention to detail to Rhum J.M’s aged products. By experimenting with different types of French and American oak, of different char levels, she is able to create unique masterpieces and manipulate the flavors of the rhum through blending.