The Barmageddon Bunker

"Drink or Die" said the pirate to the gentleman

Mixes & Booze Revooze

J. Bally Ambre review

Posted by Barmageddon on January 29, 2011 at 1:53 PM

J. Bally Ambre Rhum




Sometimes life is tough. I have a couple of weeks off and have set myself the unenviable task of sampling and reviewing all the bottles on the Bunker's not insubstantial backbar. Woe is me. But I am not a quitter, and I willpower through with gritted teeth and iron will. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.



So today it was sunny as you like but colder than a penguin's nuts, which made me yearn for weather that doesn't send me behind the Barmageddon bar sporting a natty bartending quilt and tasselled Finlandia hat combo, wincing everytime I go near the icewell. It's as if the Bunker has been temporarily turned into one of those trendy ice bars you find in swanky hotels.There was only one cure for my temporary Seasonal Affective Disorder,and that was rum. Or more specifically – Rhum. J. Bally is what the French call 'rhum agricole', meaning that instead of the usual practice of distilling fermented molasses, this is a spirit made fromthe actual pressed sugar cane juice itself.





Let's get a bit techy - you may want to skip a paragraph or so if you are not quite as geeky as us. The French (and Martinique being a French colony means it is included) are notoriously prickly about others making inferior versions of their products, so there are sets of rules - 'appelations controlee'- that must be adhered to before the government will allow you to label a product in certain categories. Think cognac instead of brandy, champagne instead of sparkling wine and in this case, rhum agricole instead of cane rum, sugar cane brandy, or even cachaca. In accordance with the Appellation Martinique Controlee, all nine of Martinique's distilleries operate using an identical process – the sugar cane is pressed, boiled and then fermented using regular baker's yeast, then the resulting wash, or 'vesou' is distilled in asingle column still. The Appelation states that agricole must also be distilled to a much lower ABV than other rums, typically sixty-five to seventy-five percent, allowing for a much greater amount of cogeners and esters to remain in the distillate, which give the rum its flavour. This uniformity in the distillation process means that rhum producers need to use other tricks to differ their product from the competition, such as the size of the still, length of fermatation and of course, ageing. Barmageddon: bringing boring booze chat to the masses.



In a Nutshell

Welcome back, and now to the good stuff. J. Bally produces 7 rhums, and this one is the company's most popular offering: the Rhum Ambre which retails at about thirty quid. It was produced at the St. James distillery from 1924 until the distillery closed in 1974, but is still produced and bottled under licence. It is aged in very large white oak casks (the J. Bally signature), and bottled at a punchy 45% ABV. This particular rhum only rests up for 2 years, giving it a very light colour. The bottle and label were designed by Bally himself and these, along with the spirit in the bottle have remained relatively unchanged since day one.



The Nose


 The light colour leads you to believe it will be a lot more of a lightweight than it actually is – it has a very refined smell to it but is still full of character, with apples, caramel and the oak present. The high strength means you don't want to stick your conk right in the glass but it smells great.




The spirit isr eally thick and sticky, and the same can be said of the mouthfeel.It has a really refined taste – a surprisingly small burn, no big punchy treacle notes, but instead an almost cognac-like sweetness and delicate floral flavour. Vanilla, sweet biscuits, walnuts and wood notes sit well together in a really long finish. Really surprising considering how young the spirit is.


 Considering the price, this is a very impressive example of rhum agricole. It tastes great and while having a quite delicate palate in comparison to molasses derived rum, it has more than enough punch to stand up on it's own, while retaining the refinement that is a trademark of a good agricole.


 So after a few drinks in and a little bit of messing about on the Barmageddon bar I was feeling decidedly more sunny and agreeable. I even took off the bar tending quilt, although I did replace it with a fairly chunky mixology cardigan. I even braved frozen glasses without crying too much. This rhum is great sipped neat, but comes into it's own when all lime-and-sugared-up in a Ti Punch – this is a very good spirit for cocktails.obviously citrus works well as with most cane spirits, but I think this spirit works well in stirred down drinks with bitters and vermouths, as it has enough natural sweetness to stand up to the added bitter and spicy notes.

 So after a few (a lot) more experiments, this is what we came up with. Let us know what you think. We're off out of the ice bar and upstairs to smash the rest of the rhum and dream of sunnier climes.


Bally's Blood


 40ml J. Bally Ambre

25ml Barmageddon falernum

20ml lime juice

20ml grapefrui tjuice

2 dashes Angostura bitters


Shake and strain into a lowball filledwith cubed ice. Garnish with lime wedge and mint sprigs.

A Bitter What You Fancy


50ml J. Bally Ambre

10ml Martini Bitters

10ml Martini Rosato

2 dashes Regan's No. 6 orange bitters

10ml passionfruit syrup


Stir over ice for 20 seconds, straininto an ice-filled lowball, and garnish with an orange twist.


by G-Force

Categories: Booze Revooze

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