A distilled spirit made in Haiti from wild strains of freshly cut sugarcane, fermented in the open with naturally occurring yeasts, single distilled in direct fired alembic pots & enjoyed locally unaged, unfiltered & cask strength.
There are over 500 Clairin distilleries in Haiti – a reminder of the days every town in Ireland had their own Poitín producer.
The opportunity to try out such spirits was too good to miss – so courtesy Irish Spirits Training – I signed up for a Zoom tasting.
Presented before us were 9 samples.
6 were Clairin sourced directly from Haiti.
4 were ‘single estate’ Clairin – although there are no rules or classifications in the Clairin world – 2 were blends of those ‘singles’.
The other 3 – a rhum agricole, a big brand rum & an aged rum – were provided for comparison.
After a historical synopsis of how Haiti came to be & is today – we progressed to the tasting.
The big brand rum was a clear, soft & relatively flavorless spirit.
The rhum agricole possessed far more character & appeal.
The 1st Clairin I tasted – Clairin Communal – a blend of the 4 ‘singles’ – burst through with heaps of fresh fruity funk, an oily & rich mouthfeel combined with varied herbaceous & floral notes dancing away on a long finish.
In a world that is often constricted by uniformity, conformity & consistency together with financial pressures dictating efficiences of scale & production – usually at the expense of taste – here was a liquid unimpaired by such constraints – and it delighted my palate.
The 4 constituent ‘singles’ were as follows,
Clairin Sajous had a sweet funky nose, quite a clear, clean taste with a powerfully dry prickliness on the rear.
Clairin Vaval wasn’t as funky, had a more umami feel to it’s rich flavours, an oily mouthfeel & prickly spices on the finish.
Clairin Le Rocher dialed up the funk. Using a ‘dunder syrup’ – not unlike Jamaican rum – Le Rocher differed both in taste & style – to satisfying results!
Clairin Casimir was my favourite. The funkiness was soft on the nose, well balanced on the palate by a fruity sweetness & a lovely long finish.
It’s another case of ‘ should’ve bought the large bottle’ as experienced with La Penca Mezcal!
The evening finished with the aged rum.
Being Jamaican, the funk was evident, yet complimented by an oakiness from the barrel ageing similar to whiskey.
Clairin – despite being unaged spirit – is bursting with bold flavours – many unfamiliar – which are simply a joy to experience.
Well worth exploring!