Friday Happy Hour: Dzama Vanilla Vieux Rhum
True to our uncommonness, we spend most of our time at rum festivals seeking out the most exotic beauties…and no, I’m not referring to the sexy serving models. (At least not this time.)
Instead, I’m talking about the most alluring and unknown blends on the planet. Rums, rons and rhums that most have never heard of, few can even pronounce, and fewer still have ever tasted. In the course of this search, I’m always surprised at just how many of these fantastic rums actually emanate from outside the West Indies. Indeed, the quintessential Caribbean spirit is being produced in new and exciting ways all over the world. Case in point: Rhum Dzama.
Dzama is a product of Madagascar, the large (226,597 square miles) African island nation sitting south of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. More specifically, Dzama comes from the small (120 square miles) island of Nosy Be, located off Madagascar’s northwest coast. Translated from the Malagasy language, Nosy Be actually means “big island” as it is the largest of Madagascar’s satellite islands.
Since 1981, this little island with the big island name has produced a collection of rums that are super-sized on exotic flavors, thanks to the unique properties of the soil upon which its cane is grown.
Near the fields where Dzama sugarcane grows, fragrant ylang-ylang vines, prized for their use in developing perfumes and aromatherapy oils, grow alongside cloves, peppers, vanilla and other spices. Over time, the essential oils from these exotic plants work their way into the soil, eventually getting into the water table and subsoil of the cane fields. As a result, elements of these exotic oils are transferred directly into all Dzama rhums, creating uniquely enticing flavors.
At last week’s Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Dzama showcased a broad range of its product line. I liked a lot of it, but the three-year-old beauty pictured above was my favorite.
At 86-proof, Dzama Vanilla Vieux Rhum packs a punch, though the overproof burn is somewhat smoothed out by the natural spices inherent in the rhum…and one extra added spice thrown into the bottle. Look closely at the bottle pictured above. See that black line to the left atop the label with the curve at the top? It isn’t a shadow…it’s an actual vanilla bean pod!
Dzama makes one-, three-, six, and 10-year-old rhums with vanilla pods included in the bottles to kick-up the exotic flavor a few extra notches. Not only do you smell and taste it immediately, but the vanilla also adds varied depth to your Dzama the longer it stays on your shelf. Or, as the company’s export manager, Dominique de Vernejoul, told me:
You drink it now, it won’t be the same several months from now.
Dominique further explained that as the bottle empties over time, air oxidizes the vanilla pod adding new flavors to the remaining rhum.
It is this flavor evolution that excites me about this special rhum. I mean, every time you pour a new glass must be like opening a whole new bottle with ever-more-interesting flavors!
The only downside, though, is that these vanilla-pod Dzamas aren’t yet available here in the U.S. The brand’s wonderful Nosy Be and Cuvée blends can be found in New York and New Jersey, though, with their vanilla-pod brethren set to hit American shores in the coming months.
Let’s hope so, as this is one exotic beauty I’d like to spend some quality time getting to know a lot better outside the rum festival circuit…