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Spirit Type: Rhum
Bottle size: 70clDescription:I sprang for the Casimir and the Vaval (plus a Sajous of my own) at the first possible chance, full of the get-up-and-go imparted by the monumental meeting that was the Sajous. Because, let's face it, originality and breaking the mold are dwindling notions in the rum industry, and it's uncommon for rum to be so fantastically, startlingly off-base that it's in a completely different league.The Clairin Vaval was one such rum, manufactured by Fritz Vaval of Haiti in his endearingly retro column still. If you can believe it, it was made with leather trays and a condenser made from an ancient gas can.Luca Gargano of Velier was the driving force behind the effort to introduce Haitian clairins to a larger audience a few years ago, even as he rose to more recognition for his own rums and his advocacy for a clearer classification system for the spirit.He did well to use his bully pulpit for such a good cause. Despite the fact that not everyone enjoys clairins, the palate was essentially the same, with more of it. On the initial onslaught, it was oily, salty, and somewhat rubbery, with sweet water supporting it. Naturally, it was quite strong and nearly sharp—it was 52.5%—but it wasn't unrelentingly vicious or out for revenge.Instead, it was warm, thick, and nearly greasy. The billowing and extremely heated flavors of white sugar, olives, fresh-cut grass, a flirt of vanilla, and some more of that kerosene were apparent once the initial tastes moved on and it opened up (aided by a little water).Vivaciously, firmly, and passionately. When tasting this rum, you need to take a deep breath after each drink. The show's finale was drawn-out and not at all dry, with a touch of pickle in the background and some lemon zest as the show's final note. The flavors on this one linger for a very long time, and you almost want them to.What a cocktail that was. On their own, or when tasted separate, they may all seem fairly similar, but they're not. It wasn't until I experienced it in combination with the other two that its own personality became more clearly visible. Each is as distinctive as a note on a nearby piano key.Like the Sajous or the Casimir, I wouldn't recommend this to the majority of rum drinkers without any reservations; nevertheless, if you can, give it a try, very gently, just to see what rum might be capable of if it really wanted to. Because when you drink one of these men's rums from Haiti, you might be tasting rum as it was in its infancy because they might be the last remaining microdistillers who still make rum in an entirely traditional, organic manner.
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