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Rum Reviews

J. Bally Millesime 1999 LMDW 18 Year Old, 54.5% ABV

J. Bally Millesime 1999 LMDW 18 Year Old, 54.5% ABV - Review

J. Bally's Millesime 1999 is the second ever Brut de Fût (cask strength or full proof) expression to come from the historic Martinique rhum agricole brand - both the Millesime 1998 (which was the first ever Brut de Fût) and the Millesime 1999 drew lots of excitement from the rum community. Whilst J. Bally's vintage releases go all the way back incredibly to 1924, distilled just 7 years after founder Jacques Bally had first moved to Martinique from Paris and had taken over the Lajus estate, there hadn't been much in the way of cask strength or natural strength expressions, which would allow fans to enjoy J. Bally's rhum agricoles in their most natural and authentic state possible - full proof rums would only become a thing in the early 2000's!


The 1924 vintage of J. Bally.


According to J. Bally, 1999 was a dry year which the brand believes produced an unusual flavour profile. This rhum agricole was produced at the Saint James Distillery using Saint James' column still, following the acquisition of Saint James and J. Bally by La Martiniquaise from Remy Cointreau, where for a period of time J. Bally's production had been moved over to Distillerie du Simon in the 1980's. However, the brand says that despite no longer using the original J. Bally Creole column stills which were engineered by Jacques Bally himself (as it was beyond repair), much has been done to keep production as authentic as possible - harvesting of the cane was still done on the original Lajus estate, and that along with the distillation was done in the driest period on Martinique, which is supposed to replicate the climate condition at Le Carbet, J. Bally's original location. Also, the rhum agricole was aged fully in 300L ex-Cognac French Oak barrels, just as Jacques Bally had himself done.

The 1999 Millesime Brut de Fut comes in at 54.5% ABV, 18 Years Old, and was bottled for French spirits distributor La Maison du Whisky, housed in the iconic pyramidal glass bottle designed by Jacques Bally himself.

With all that said, let's give this a go!

Tasting Notes

Aroma: Really dense, it’s so concentrated with a thick, heavy aroma of baking spices, oak, coffee candy, dark chocolate, super concentrated brown sugar. It’s entirely earthy and confectionary, surprisingly the woodiness while distinct and apparent, remains balanced with the other darker notes. More peripheral dark and heavy notes of treacle, cocoa powder, cacao, tobacco leaves, cola syrup. 

Going to let this open up somemore - more dried fruits of apricots, mangoes, raisins. Its more lifted, vanilla, milk chocolate, orangettes, light bit of trail mix, alittle bit of cane juice.

Taste: A really thick, syrupy texture, it’s quite grippy. There’s a strong wood presence, a little bit of lacquer, cough drops, Pei Pa Koa cough syrup, dried dates, raisins, intermitted lifted notes of vanilla and coconut cream, desiccated coconut, Turkish delight, and then it’s back to the darker bits, honey candied nuts, dried apricots, caramel popcorn. It switches between thick and dark, and then lifted and almost milky. Going back in, espresso if it was boiled down to a syrup, cacao and cocoa powder, tobacco leaves too. It somehow manages to be concentrated but mellow.

Finish: Cacao bittersweetness, coffee candy, brown sugar syrup, vanilla, the wood tannins are definitely a big presence, but again not overpowering. Coffee grounds, cocoa powder, some spearmint as well.


My Thoughts

This has all the hallmarks of super aged rhum agricoles - all the darker and earthier notes, earmarked by cacao, chocolate, brown sugar, baked pastries, vanilla, and a fairly present woodiness. It’s incredibly concentrated, dense and rich, and surprisingly balanced between the sweeter brown sugar syrup and baking spices against the wood - both intense and powerful but evenly matched. 

I really enjoyed how bold and powerfully expressed the 1999 Millesime is, really cohesive and harmonised too! That said, I do kind of miss that classic rhum agricole hit of herbal jelly that was completely absent here, that light grassiness - here it’s incredibly dense, we’re talking trading off brown sugar soup or jelly for brown sugar syrup. In that sense, there’s certainly a nostalgia for that elegant, lifted island sunset vibe of grassiness, wafts of vanilla and sweet herbal jelly. But this is what you ought to expect from an 18 year aged rhum agricole - and to that end, it completely bangs! Solid stuff!