Well, now. This... This is interesting.
I was warned that acrigole rum—"rhum," if you want to be super-technical—was an altogether different beast. Mind you, good rums like El Dorado 15 and Diplomatico were already eye-opening to me in proving there were worlds beyond Bacardi and Captain Morgan for anyone who cared to look for them. But even for a guy who now gives a thumbs-up to drinking rum straight, my first steps into agricole rum were a hard left turn from the familiar.
Let's talk a little about what an agricole rum is. Typically, the distillate used in rum is molasses—that sweet, black tar that gives gingersnap cookies their signature flavor. Agricole rum, however, uses the sugarcane plant as a distillation base. Rather than draw the sugar out of the plant, they mash the sugarcane reeds into a slurry. As a result, agricole rum is grassy, medicinal, and earthy—flavors we don't normally associate with rum at all.
This raises an important question: why bother? Apparently there's some historical precedent. Sugar producers in places like Haiti and Martinique were suddenly faced with obsolescence when France said, "Now that we can make sugar here on the continent from beets, we're going to stop buying it from guys like you who are halfway around the world." In a classic case of adapt or perish, some of the Carribean-based refiners exited the sugar business and entered the booze business.
To recap, we have a non-sweet, grassy rum which doesn't easily mix into any other rum-based cocktail—one that was developed as a historical "plan B," incidentally—and it costs as much as a single-malt scotch. That's a hard sell if there ever was one, and you have to be pretty deep into the booze-drinking weeds to like this.
Still reading? ...Okay, good.
As a textbook rhum agricole, I think the Clement VSOP is actually delightful. There's some naturally sweet nutmeg and allspice that develops into some really deep, brooding herbaceousness. Every tipple of the Clement is intriguing, for lack of a better word, and it's a damned fine standard bearer for a relatively unknown spirit category. The more I had, I moved from being merely appreciative of the VSOP to sincerely enjoying its interplay of spice, mild sweetness, and various plant-derived flavors.
If you like oddball things and new experiences, I think you'll like this. If you're a little more guarded and conservative when you purchase a new bottle, I'd branch out first with other rums and come back to the Clement VSOP later. It may very well be "You'll understand when you're older" in liquid form.