Exploring The World Of Rhum Agricole With Rhum JM Master Blender Karine Lassalle

Rhum agricole is a favourite choice for rum aficionados across the world, thanks to the efforts of brands like Rhum JM in Martinique. The personification of the rhum agricole style, Rhum JM is a distillery with plenty of history and tradition behind it. 

Visiting Martinique and exploring the distillery is on my bucket list and I was able to get my first taste of what that would be like on a webinar hosted by The Rum Lab with Rhum JM’s master blender Karine Lassalle and rhum agricole expert Kiowa Bryan.

A virtual tour 

The webinar began with Karine speaking about her backstory. Originally from the southwest of France, she gained a degree in chemistry and planned to work in the perfume industry as a ‘nose.’ But when she discovered spirits, that all changed. Karine joined Edition Jean Lenoir and created 54 aromas for their ‘Nez du Whisky.’

On visiting Martinique, Karine fell in love with rhum agricole and kept returning to the island, eventually getting a job at HSE Rhum in 2014. In 2017, she moved to the Rhum JM distillery and earned the title of master blender.

Karine was kind enough to take us on a virtual tour of the distillery, showing how it looks in the off-season. Highlights included seeing a great view of Mount Pelée, the volcano that is crucial to the production of the rhum, watching casks be collected for ageing and a view into the beautiful storage room where the rhum is aged. 

The distillery also has an olfactory room, which is unique to Rhum JM. Its where certain aromas are recorded and act as a blueprint for the overall profile of the finished products.

A bright future 

While Karine gave the tour, Kiowa helped to fill in the background about the distillery and revealed what the brand is looking to release in the future. Something to look forward to is a range of Rhum JM bitters, which cacao, fleur d’Atoumo and piment bondamanjak (which translates to ‘fire ass’ according to Kiowa).

Sustainability is another key tenant of the Rhum JM creed. The distillery is focused on recycling its bagasse to help provide electricity for the rest of Martinique and to be used as compost for the sugarcane fields. 

Karine and Kiowa make an awesome team and their enthusiasm is refreshing. Through their efforts, rhum agricole will continue to gain traction in new places and markets and Rhum JM will continue to lead the conversation. 

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