Three Guadeloupe 1998 Bellevue’s – Samaroli (13yr), Golden Devil (19yr), Rolling Fork (22yr)

Three Guadeloupe 1998 Bellevue’s – Samaroli (13yr), Golden Devil (19yr), Rolling Fork (22yr)

Background: The story of 1998 Bellevue rhum from Guadeloupe is convoluted and riddled with mis-labelings and misinformation with some independent bottlers calling the juice “agricole’ (Samaroli), others stating it’s from South Pacific Distillery in Fiji (Rumdealer’s Selection), many stating it comes from the Bellevue Distillery (rather than Damoiseau), while some sources state it spent a portion of its life in metal vats, rending age statements null. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from multiple sources on the interwebs, which may or may not be accurate…

The Bellevue agricultural estate was established in the 19th century by the Rimbaud family in the Grande-Terre region of Guadeloupe. Roger Damoiseau purchased the estate in 1942, converting it to a rum distillery. Today they operate three column stills and primarily produce rhum agricole (derived from sugarcane juice), as well as rhum industriel (molasses-based) during the non-harvest season. Damoiseau is the youngest and largest Guadeloupe distillery, producing 8 million liters per year and accounting for nearly half the island’s overall production.

A large batch of Damoiseau’s 1998 molasses-based distillate was sold to E&A Scheer in Amsterdam (supposedly intended as flavoring for the baking industry) and later aged in Liverpool by The Main Rum Company. Bottlings of 1998 “Bellevue” have been surfacing for at least a decade now. Since “Damoiseau” is a protected brand name, these were sold by MRC under the moniker “Bellevue,” the estate upon which the distillery sits.

It’s worth noting that there is in fact a Bellevue Distillery, which resides on the neighboring island of Marie-Galante and is run by a relative of the Damoiseau family. These bottlings were not distilled there despite most sources claiming they were. Confused? Let’s just drink the rum…

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Golden Devil Guadeloupe 1998 Bellevue (Damoiseau) 19 Year – 59.7%

Source: Bottle purchased from K&L Wines

Conditions: Enjoyed neat in a Glencairn over the course of multiple sessions

Nose: Saddle leather, faint cherry, antiseptic, prune, minerality

Mouth: Hot. Tons of oak, ash, cherry cough syrup, earthiness, full bodied richness, molasses, burnt coffee, industrial funk, cinnamon, maple, raisin. The burn is strong and lingers long.

Final Thoughts: The nose isn’t super inviting or expressive. I get general “hospital” notes but the palate, especially when given time to rest, is deeply rich and complex. This really opens up with 20+ minutes in the glass and I feel like each time I visit I get a different experience.

My Rating: 4/5

My Scale:
1 – I don’t want this in my mouth ever again
2 – Best used for mixing
3 – Decent sipper
4 – Very enjoyable
5 – I’m buying a back up bottle

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Rolling Fork “Lost Cask Collection” Guadeloupe 1998 Bellevue (Damoiseau) 22 Year – 55.3%

Source: Sample provided by Rolling Fork

Conditions: Enjoyed neat in a Glencairn over two sessions

Nose: Melted caramel, candy corn, chlorine, petrichor, fruitcake, prune juice, brandied cherry, nice richness

Mouth: Good amount of heat up front. Rich sweetness, charcoal, tires, dry ashiness, funkiness, cigar, dates, bitter cherry, light fruity brandy, musty wood

Final Thoughts: This is an enjoyable rum that evolves and benefits from a long period of rest. It has a heavy pot still-like flavor that was achieved using a column still. The extra time in barrel brought forth more oak and muskiness.

My Rating 4/5

My Scale:
1 – I don’t want this in my mouth ever again
2 – Best used for mixing
3 – Decent sipper
4 – Very enjoyable
5 – I’m buying a back up bottle

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Samaroli 1998 Guadeloupe “Rhum Agricole” Bellevue (Damoiseau) 13 Year – 45%

Source: Sampled from a dusty at a local watering hole

Note: Samaroli has done a few 1998 Guadeloupe releases. This one was bottled in 2011 from cask 39-50 (bottle #230/300) and mislabeled as Rhum Agricole

Conditions: Sampled neat in a standard bar glass on three separate occasions

Nose: Rich molasses, fuel, brandied cherries, fun dip, bacon, eucalyptus, menthol

Palate: Petrol, burnt rubber, ashtray, rotting wood, cherry lozenge, walnut, treacle, nutmeg, lingering wet forest and cigar

Final Thoughts: Not nearly as refined or delicious as the other examples. Heavier on the industrial side but lacks the complexity gained from extra time in barrel.

Rating: 3/5

My Scale:
1 – I don’t want this in my mouth ever again
2 – Best used for mixing
3 – Decent sipper
4 – Very enjoyable
5 – I’m buying a back up bottle

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Overall Impression: Despite the seemingly endless barrage of 1998 Bellevue releases to come out over the last 10 years, they continue to gain prestige and are highly sought after. I can definitely see the appeal of them, though I imagine there’s quite a bit of variance among the different ages and quality of the casks so it’s also a gamble. Golden Devil is my favorite of the bunch with Rolling Fork a close second. Sadly, the Samaroli in comparison just doesn’t stack up to the more mature variations. I’m glad to have about 1/3 of a bottle remaining of my GD to continue to enjoy. Also grateful to have acquired it for a very reasonable price before the market became askew. There are still bottles of the Rolling Fork lingering around TX but for the current price it’s a hard pass for me.

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