On-Site Martinique: Sampling Beautiful Rhums with Chef Hot Pants at Le Petibonum
Awhile back, we touted the supreme culinary surprise that is Le Petibonum, the humble (in apparance only) beach shack sitting directly on the volcanic sands of Le Carbet Beach in northern Martinique. Le Petibonum is marvelously uncommon in every way, its rustic decor and happily haphazard structures running directly counter to its exceptional gourmet cuisine on-par with the finest eateries this side of Paris. An afternoon spent here is a foodie’s dream, especially if said foodies also relish a sultry beach scene, strong cocktails, and, in a bit of a surprise to me, exceedingly great rhum!
Somehow, on each of my two prior visits, I never noticed the great rhum selection here. On my last visit this past November, though, it was impossible to miss. Guy Ferdinand, Le Petibonum’s owner/head chef and the man who’s single-handedly bringing sexy back to gastronomy with his trademark “hot pants,” made sure of that! After a warm welcome, a refreshing sea-dip, a hearty meal and some laughs, Guy asked the magic question:
You want to try some rum?
Now, as we’ve noted before, Guy is a bit of a character. Okay, more than a bit. He’s charming and funny, with an over-the-top style that could only work for him. His countenance: mischievous, in a manner that hints at his artistic culinary brilliance, his love of life and all beautiful things.
I have something beautiful to share with you.
He disappeared, somewhat theatrically, of course. Moments later he returned with the three bottles pictured above.
These are the best new rums to come out of Martinique.
You should’ve seen his face when he said it. There was such pride, such unrestrained glee in his eyes – it was almost like a first-time father presenting his newborn triplets to a beloved friend for the first time. With the first successive sip of each one, it was easy to understand Guy’s excitement.
All three are the product of Habitation Saint-Etienne (HSE for short), producers of the some of the most-prized rhums of Martinique. We’ll publish more in-depth reviews of each of these beautiful rhums in future Friday Happy Hour posts, but suffice it to say, they are all special treats for true connoisseurs of the rum-makers art.
The Single Cask (blue labeling) was distilled and stored for aging in 1998 in Cognac oak casks. The Single Malt Finish (green) is aged in oak casks for six years in the method used traditionally for HSE rhums, then further aged in Smokehead barrels used for Single Malt Scotch from the Island of Islay in Northern Scotland. The Sherry Finish (red) is also aged six years, with additional aging carried out in Sherry barrels from the Ian Mac Leod distilleries in Scotland.
The unique aging and finishing techniques employed by HSE create amazing flavors and complexities, each rhum offering its own, separate and distinctive top shelf sipping experience.
Sampling these rhums anywhere would be a nice treat, but sitting at Le Petibonum and trying them with a master chef like Guy, a man who truly understands the highest forms of gastronomy, was really special.
Unlike my experience as a rum judge in Barbados last year, this is a unique experience anyone can enjoy. Guy is almost always at Le Petibonum, and he’s always eager to show off the very best of Martinique, whether it’s his food, or rare and special rhums like these.
For more on Le Petibonum, click here to visit them online.