"If you enjoy lighter, spicier rums, or rhum agricole in general, this would be a very good choice for you. This would also be a great rum for a whisky drinker looking to expand their horizons."
Full disclosure: this is the first rhum agricole I ever tasted. My initial thoughts were not that positive. Taste-wise, these are not my first choice when it comes to rum, although I have tried a few rhums agricole lately that threaten to change that opinion. I have also developed a greater appreciation for the history and production methods of French rums as I continue to read and learn about them.
Pronounced long-toe, Longueteau VS is a rhum agricole produced in Basse Terre on the French island of Guadeloupe. It is identifiable by the French spelling of rum with an "h", and the appellation "agricole", which indicates that it is a produced using sugar cane juice as opposed to molasses, as is the case with many other types of rum. "Rhum agricole" typically comes from former French colonies and protectorates such as Haiti, Martinique, Saint Martin and, in this case, Guadeloupe (the final 'e' is silent for those who like to say Gauadelou-pay).
Not a lot of information is available about la Distillerie Longueteau. Its website claims origins dating back to 1895, when the Marquis of Sainte Marie paid off a gambling debt to Henri Longueteau with land that is said to be at the site where Christopher Columbus had landed more than 400 years earlier. The estate was named le Domaine du Marquisat de Sainte Marie and is where Longueteau has been producing rum ever since.
This rum is designated by Longueteau as 'vieux'. While there are no rules or laws that apply to the production of rum in Guadeloupe, this essentially means that the rum has been aged for a minimum of three years. While not formally bound by Martinique's laws setting standards for the production of 'Rhum Agricole', distilleries in the other French West Indies tend to follow the rules when it comes to designating their products as 'rhum vieux' (old rum).
For an excellent review of 'rhum agricole', including Martinique's "Appelation d'Origine Controlée" (with English translation), read Cocktail Wonk's "The French Connection - A Cheat Sheet for French Caribbean Rhums and the AOC".
Sugar cane used in the production of Longueteau's rums is cultivated exclusively from le Domaine du Marquisat de Sainte Marie. As is the case with 'rhum agricole', the cane juice is then distilled in column stills. The Longueteau VS is a blend of rums aged for between three and six years in former cognac oak barrels. It is bottled at 42% alcohol by volume.
The price at The Port (Nova Scotia Liquor Commission) in Halifax, for a 700ml bottle is $73.67.
Longueteau VS comes in a 70 cl (700 ml) squat and sturdy bottle made of thick clear glass. There are three labels - two on the front and one on the back of the bottle. The larger label on the front is a dark blue and provides the name of the rum and a stylized picture of the estate where the rum is produced. It also boasts the distillery's age stating "depuis 1895" (since 1895). A smaller gold label, also located on the front of the bottle, displays Henri Longueteau's signature and the distillery's address in Basse Terre. The back label contains information similar to what is available on the website about the history of the Longueteau Distillery. The print is gold on dark blue so it was difficult to take a picture that would make it easy to read.
The rum also comes with a square, dark blue box that mirrors the images and information on the bottle. Unfortunately, I have misplaced the box and was not able to photograph it here.
The rum (rhum) is clear and a light amber colour in the bottle and in the glass. It is light enough to be considered golden, but is lighter than most dark or amber rums. Swirled in a glass the legs are long and narrow. There is a greenish hue around the meniscus of the rum indicative of ageing.
After swirling the rum in the glass, there is an immediate scent of fruit - dried cherries or apricots is what I pick up. A longer, deeper sniff reveals a harsher scent that burns the nostrils a bit. Here, the scent is more like leather and spices. The nose of the rum mellows out significantly by adding ice or water.
Tasting the rum I am struck by how much it tastes like a single malt Scotch. Served neat, it is very dry and gentle in the mouth. It has a wet and woody, or peaty, taste. There is a little spice there too, but not as much as you would expect from the scent. The dried fruits do not reveal themselves in the mouth as much as in the nose.
There is a long finish, but it is fairly soft and gradual. The rum has a light and mellow taste with a little bit of a burn once it reaches the belly.
Adding ice or water to the rum hardens the flavours of the rum but softens the alcohol burn. The spice and fruit disappear altogether and the peat taste turns almost chalky.
Generally speaking, I prefer English and Spanish style rums over French rhum agricole. That was certainly the case when I first tasted this rum. I have since tried a few more rhum agricoles that threaten to change that opinion.
The Longueteau distillery has an excellent history, and this a well-crafted rum, but I prefer mine to be sweeter than the VS. I look forward to trying the VSOP and XO as the tasting notes I have seen indicate that they are not as dry.
I would recommend drinking Longueteau VS neat, or with just a tiny bit of water. I am no expert on cocktails, but a Vieux Punch is about as far as I would go in mixing this rum.
If you enjoy lighter, spicier rums, or rhum agricole in general, this would be a very good choice for you. This would also be a great rum for a whisky drinker looking to expand their horizons.
As I noted earlier, Longueteau VS appears to be a neglected rum online. In addition to there being very little information available, there do not seem to be any reviews from the usual experts. A few sites offer some tasting notes, but few make a rating.
Rum Ratings rates this rum as as 7.6/10 based on the votes of 7 members.
Two members at Québec Whisky, a French Canadian site, have reviewed and rated Longueteau VS. One, Patrick gives a score of 90% and another, RV, comes in at 87.5%. Both provide brief tasting notes in French that I'm not going to translate here. Cut and paste it into the Google machine if you want it bad enough.
The Lone Caner has a review of the Longueteau Grande Reserve which provides some insight into the brand's history and one of it's other high end products.