Holmes Cay Réunion Single Origin Rums

American independent bottler Holmes Cay has released two new unaged rums from Savanna Distillery in Réunion. The agricole, which Savanna calls “creol,” was distilled from fresh cane juice using their Savalle column still and bottled at 50%. Its companion, a grand arôme, is also column distilled, but it’s made from molasses and undergoes a long ten day fermentation before it’s distilled. This expression was bottled at 57.5%.

Holmes Cay Réunion Agricole Single Origin Edition

On the nose, I get soft plastics and a general doctor’s office vibe which I don’t find particularly pleasant. I also get grapefruit, Meyer lemon, baker’s yeast, cucumber, pool water, and green cardamom pods.

The palate tastes the way foam play mats smell, the multi-colored ones that lock together like puzzle pieces. Beyond that, there’s honeydew melon, cucumber, lime juice, mustard seed, sesame, activated baker’s yeast, green cardamom pods, and menthol. Water amplifies the menthol and plastic notes while subduing the more enjoyable fruity flavors.

While it’s certainly better than the 40% agricoles I’ve had, I’m not crazy about this one. The plastic and antiseptic qualities are distracting for me, and though there are some qualities I really like about this, they’re too far in the background to fully appreciate them. I’m bummed that I can’t quite get into this, but I’d say it’s at least worth a try if you already enjoy rhum agricole. (5/10)

Holmes Cay Réunion Grand Arôme Single Origin Edition 

The first things that come to mind on the nose are neglected sourdough starter and spoiled sweet tea. Over time, the spoiled aromas start to subside and I get fresh strawberries, muscadine grapes, black olives, Sharpie, and these things called maypops, a variety of passionfruit that once grew spontaneously in my backyard.

On the palate, I get fruits and vegetables in varying degrees of spoilage. There’s honeydew melon, mango, strawberries, pear, pumpkin, squash, and bell pepper. The old sweet tea note returns, joined by grapefruit pith, black olive, and Sichuan peppercorn. 

On my first tasting of these rums, I liked the agricole much more and the grand arôme much less. Over the course of the next two tastings, my opinion flipped – I started to like the grungy weirdness of the grand arôme, while I kept finding more things I didn’t enjoy about the agricole. Though neither has swept me off my feet, I’m still very excited to see American IBs putting out rums like this. (6/10)