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Rum Reviews

Clairin Vaval, 2016, Arawaks Distillery, Cavaillon, Haiti, 48.8% ABV, La Maison & Velier


Also part of the original trio, Clairin Vaval features Clairin made by Fritz Vaval at his distillery Arawaks, that sits on the southern Haitian coast in Cavaillon. His family has run the 20-hectare distillery since 1947 and produces the spirit using Madame Meuze varietal sugarcane which is crushed to raw sugarcane juice that is then fermented using a column still that unbelievable as it may be, still uses leather trays and a condenser made of discarded petrol cans. 

I have been told that due to a natural disaster that occurred in 2015, Arawaks’ proximity to the shoreline made it an unfortunate casualty to floods that happened as a result, causing damage to its sugarcane plantations. As with most Clairins’ use of wild naturally occurring yeast, the damage to the plantation also therefore affected that key part of the process, resulting in some variation in profile for Vaval’s Clairin pre- and post-2015. Take note, that this review will cover the 2016 harvest.


(Image Source: The Whisky Exchange)


Color: Crystal clear.


Heavy on the mint water, sides of olive brine and balsamic. (Image Source: Thirteen Thoughts, Spruce Eats, Simply Whisked)


Nose: Again, the same initial ethanol, gasoline notes spring forward, but really not as aggressive as you might think. Here there’s a very dominant note of mint jelly or mint infused water. It has more depth than the other Clairins, with other notes of balsamic, olive brine, fennel – it comes across somewhat game-y and Mediterranean.


The freshness coupled with a light vegetal touch could easily be mistaken for watermelon rinds or perhaps cucumber. (Image Source: Healthline)


There’s a freshness and bitterness that is reminiscent of watermelon rinds, a sort of wetness that is evocative of a mangrove shoreline. The base note of sugar cane juice is more apparent here as well. It is a very distinctive aroma the Vaval has.


A perfumery potpourri on the palate. (Image Source: The Spruce Crafts)


Palate: The mint infused water on the nose carries on to the palate. Thick, buttery, yet awfully smooth texture, coating the palate. The fresh mint is quite stark on the palate but it is accompanied by a woodiness that one might associate with a potpourri. 

The herbaceousness here is very fresh and juicy, but also quite rich, you could almost mistake it for chlorophyll, or eating sliced cactus (a fairly common snack in South America). There are other notes of lime zest and salt, green mangos and some honey sweetness. Quite vegetal but not in any way offputting.


Very big on the green notes - sliced cactus, green mangoes, lime zest. (Image Source: The Bossy Kitchen, Fine Dining Lovers, Freepik)


Finish: Longer this time, the minty notes lingers along with the gasoline notes, which surprisingly gets more honeyed and sweeter over time. But otherwise, clean and crisp.


My Rating


Lots of greens, salad lovers take note! It reminds me of one of those vegetable water cleanses people get up to. Very squeaky, clean, crisp, salad bomb. It'll take you by surprise.