Clairin Casimir (batch 2) hails from the Douglas Casimir Distillery in Baraderes, Haiti. The Clairins (Vaval and Sajous) are series of three different Clairins from three different distilleries all on Haiti. Exported from Haiti by Velier for the European market.
Clairin is a spirit distilled from sugar cane juice rather than molasses. It is technically very similar to rhum agricole. Due to the relatively lo-fi nature of the distilleries and their traditional methods clairin is much less refined and more “raw” than most rhum agricole.
It is very cheap on the domestic market and is often drank as the cheaper alternative to white rum. It is viewed by those who have tried it to have similarities to Cachaca and Aguardiente in terms of flavour. Vegetal and very grassy.
As mentioned it has been brought to the UK market in a series of two batches of three different Clairins. Each comes in an elegant tall thin clear bottle with art deco style labelling and a nice cardboard sleeve. This Clairin Casimir (batch two) comes bottled at a hefty 54%. When available the Clairins retail for around £35 which make them the cheapest of Velier’s bottlings to date.
The rawness of these cane juice rums is due to the fact they are produced in very tiny distilleries on small pot stills. Technology is not at the fore front of such operations. Prior to Velier bottling these “rhums” little was written or really known about the Clairins. An article on the Clairin “scene” in Haiti can be found here courtesy of Bunnyhugs. It should be noted at this stage that it seems the Clairns imported by Luca Gargano are from “artisanal producers” rather than some of the mass market cheapo producers.
I’ll take all this talk of “artisanal” with a pinch of salt, after all we are talking about a crystal clear unaged spirit which is only a step away from home brew. This rhum is double distilled.
So there is the background to this cane juice spirit so lets put it to the test.
The nose is pretty easy to describe to anyone who has encountered low end Cachaca. (If you are in the UK and are ever curious about such a spirit then pop in a branch of Las Iguanas and order a short for around £3.50 – it may well save you some money!). In simple terms, especially initially before the alcohol vapours have had time to die down it stinks (I think that is the best word to use). It smells very strongly of alcohol and has a very young vegetal smell. It smells very immature and unaged. Rough and ready.
Once the Clairin has been in the glass a little while the strong alcohol vapours subside slightly, leaving perhaps one of the strangest noses I have encountered. To say it smells like Methylated Spirits might seem a little harsh but perhaps only if you haven’t actually smelt it………
It’s like a sweet smelling paint stripper, maybe nail varnish or even petrol. There are some notes of more familiar Jamaican Overproof funk. There is strong hit of white vinegar and maybe just a hint of some spices such as turmeric. It’s all very interesting if maybe not quite so pleasant on the nose.
Sipped neat it really is a very strange drink. For all the pungency on the nose it doesn’t offer quite as much flavour as I was expecting. Certainly not upfront. It kind of tingles on the tongue and you get a kind of kickback of vegetal flavours when you swallow. The finish reminds me of boozy nights drinking Wray and Nephew mixed long in coke. It leaves a very strong grassy after taste.
The initial taste is high on the varnish/harsher notes in the rum and the middle to finish is more about the more grassy/vegetal elements. The finish is very boozy almost petrol like yet strangely and worryingly addictive.
My initial thoughts were that this Clairin would tread a similar path to Jamaican Overproofs. In some ways its similar but the Clairin is very much its own drink despite the obvious comparisons to both Cachaca and unaged Jamaican whites.
I personally don’t think this is a briiliant rum. It’s not something I would recommend to anyone really than the hardcore. Those who are at the “try anything that’s noted as being different” stage. Lance of the Lone Caner being one. His more colourful review is here. He disagrees with me quite a bit on this one (many others do as well).
The Clairin mixes pretty well – but again there are many rums that mix well and a great deal that mix a lot better.
This was interesting but for me not a patch on a good Jamaican Overproof and far to near unaged Cachaca territory. It’s interesting and has a fair amount going on but I don’t think its great. If you enjoy Cachaca especially the younger variants then you will get a lot of enjoyment out of this. Unfortunately I just didn’t.