Review: Rhum Neisson Réserve Spéciale

I was in the mood for an easy-sipping rum for an evening sitting on my balcony, and decided I’d give my Rhum Neisson Réserve Spéciale a shot. This aged rhum agricole is a bit unusual in that it comes in a 1 liter bottle, although at $65 at Binny’s, you’re not exactly getting a bulk discount by going with the larger size. I’ve typically stocked various types of Rhum JM in my home bar, so when I needed a refill, I decided to go with this one since I’d had a positive experience with Neisson’s unaged blanc.

For a bit of background, rhum agricole is a type of rum distilled from sugarcane juice, typically from French territories and other French-speaking islands. This bottle is from Martinique, which, as far as I can tell, is the source of most of the rhum agricole you’ll find in the United States – as well as the only region to have a legally-protected origin designation (AOC or appellation d’origine contrôlée). According to the website of the importer (Caribbean Spirits), the Neisson distillery is a family-owned concern (unlike some of the more common rhum agricole brands, which are owned by multi-national spirits companies). There are no specific age designations on the bottle, although the importer website says the blend contains rhums “up to 8 years” old – which makes me think this is a relatively young rhum. It’s bottled at 42% ABV, which is slightly lower than other agricoles.

Alright, that’s all great, but let’s talk about what the actual rhum is like.

The first thing you notice on the nose are prominent grassy, vegetal notes – the typical signature of a rhum agricole. If you dwell for a while, you’ll start to pick up some sweet, caramel notes in the background.

Mouthfeel is pretty light, and easy to drink. The grassy notes follow through to the way it tastes, and the finish lingers well after. I’m not personally detecting a ton of complexity in this one. A few additional sips didn’t reveal anything I didn’t catch during my initial taste.

Overall, this is a fine example of an aged rhum agricole, but not anything particularly special. It plays the agricole role well in cocktails, and supports other spirits without getting in the way. At the price, I’d probably opt for a different bottle next time – I remember enjoying the Rhum JM and Clément expressions I’ve had before more, and would like to do a direct comparison.