Recently, I was given the opportunity to travel to Japan, immersing myself in the food and drink culture of good ol' Nippon. So, I did what any normal person would do and dove straight into the rum.
Japan has a great respect for rum. I went to many a knowledgeable bar where bartenders bewildered me with rums from near and far, many I had never heard of before. Japan's ability to take even the most niche interests and elevate them to near perfectness doesn't leave rum untouched. At Havana in Shinjuku, I was reminded of the simplistic beauty of a properly made Mojito - Havana Club 3 year, mint, raw sugar and soda, just teased with a muddler. Each step meticulously and laboriously performed; such deft service that can only come from Japan. It might take five minutes to get a drink, even though no one else is there, but the show is captivating in its own right. Anyone concerned with the mundanity or repetition of their own job only needs to watch a Japanese bartender to recapture their mojo.
Tafia was another bar most certainly worth mentioning in regards to rum. Over 300 rums and not a single cocktail. You can get a Ti Punch or rum and tonic, but our request for a daiquiri was met with a polite,"We don't do that here." So, here in this shrine to sugar cane, surrounded by 300 rums, you are meant to sip and ruminate over each and every one. Heaven. Prices were extremely affordable and the staff was as curious about rum here in the New World as I was about rum in Japan. We were fortunate enough to find Tafia in a relaxed mood, but I guess that's what you get when you arrive at 3AM. Our fellow rum lovers that we met there divulged that the Japanese drank "French" rum as one would a cognac - neat. White rum had only recently come into vogue, due in part to a Japanese bartender inventing a cocktail containing white rum, grapefruit and tonic - Sol Cubano. Also, the mojito had been a big hit for the first time the summer before. Such stark contrast compared to the States where we swim in flavorless white rum and drowned-out cocktails.
"French" rum was indeed present most everywhere. While getting away from it all in the sleepy beach town of Kamakura, I watched waves lazily crest and fall while sipping Dillon Vieux from my perch in Seedless Bar. This, an establishment where you can munch on French fries and popcorn while sipping Blue Hawaiians. While rum from the French islands of Martinique and Guadalupe were omnipresent, other representations of agricole style rums came from Japan and Laos. Yes, Laos.
Laodi Rhum Agricole 112pf
What happens when you have rum fever and only the best will do? Two Japanese men had such an affliction and succumbed. The answer for them was to head off to Southeast Asia and find land with suitable terroir for such a nuanced spirit. The internet has very little information about Laodi that isn't in Japanese, so I'm going to have to fight through the haze of those late nights to remember. Three different expressions are available, all organically made. Two whites - one lower proof and the one I have here, a 112 proof, as well as a slightly aged rhum. The distillery is near the capital, Vientiane, but the closest I can get to pinpointing the actual location is through pictures on their blog. .
When I first opened this bottle back in November, I distinctly remember a strong smell and flavor, like biting into a salted lemon peel. It was bracing, but the bitterness was refreshing, perhaps best cooled down with a piece of ice. Now, opening this bottle again to take note, aromas of funkiness, but fruit funkiness, emerge. Musty pears and coconut water are evident. Upon sipping, I'm first hit with a lime and tonic combo, which mellows into a tempered salted lemon peel, and then finishes with clean coconut water and cantaloupe. Citrus is the dominant note, but it strings together the rest of the flavors nicely. While I'm used to a bit of truffle or artichoke in my agricole, the dried out coconut earthiness was a pleasant deviation. The heat is not too obvious and, overall, a tasty and unique rhum. I wouldn't put it in a Ti Punch - too much citrus is already present - but maybe with a splash of soda or tonic. Or, you know, sip it on it's own.
On the whole, I'm really impressed with this rum. Perhaps, for the ardent agricole lover, it doesn't follow true to form. But, the bright citrus notes and tropical flavors remind me a hybrid between agricole rum and a softer gin, like Tanqueray Malacca. So, if you like agricole rhum, or funk in general, I do recommend giving this rum a swill.