For now, clairin is only available stateside in New York, where it has appears in cocktails at Leyenda, Grand Army and Gladys, but you can buy it online from New York-based retailer Astor Wines & Spirits. The artisanal distillation processes yield different results each year, but here’s what you can expect from the 2016 vintage currently on the market:
Clairin Sajous ($45)
Michel Sajous creates a bright and grassy rhum at his distillery, called Chelo, in Saint-Michel de l’Attalaye just north of Port-au-Prince.
Aroma: Green banana, cherry, fresh cut grass
Taste: Wet earth, castelvetrano olives, white pepper, touch of mango
Finish: Clean, with a mouth-tingling heat that dies slowly
Suggested Cocktails: Split with dark rum in a Daiquiri, Sajous lends a vegetal tinge to the classic Rum Sour. Meanwhile, mixed into a Dark ‘N’ Stormy, with a quarter-ounce of demerara syrup for a little depth, the Sajous makes a bright and energetic variation on the gingery Highball.
On the southern coast in Cavaillon, Fritz Vaval of distillery Arawaks produces a vibrantly funky rhum that smells of pungent bananas and a touch of saline, and tastes of baking spices, lime juice and kelp.
Aroma: Overripe mango and banana, dates
Taste: Seawater, lime juice, ginger, lemon, vanilla
Finish: Dry and long, with notes of almond and fresh wood
Suggested Cocktails: In a cocktail competition hosted by LM&V, Sean Johnson of Subject in New York found the pungent Vaval mixes perfectly with crème de cacao and banana liqueur, balanced with a touch of grapefruit juice. The result surprisingly tastes like apple juice, with notes of overripe fruits and spiced chocolate.
The most remote of the trio, veiled by thick layers of mountains and foliage in Barradères, Faubert Casimir creates his distinctly savory rhum, which smells of barbecue sauce and maple syrup, and dries the mouth with tastes of apricots and almonds.
Aroma: Grilled meats in barbecue sauce, rubber, sherry, maple syrup
Taste: Apricot, mango, country ham, truffles
Finish: Short, with sweet molasses
Suggested Cocktails: Shaking the Casimir into a Rum Flip is something extraordinary. The demerara syrup brings out the sweet side of the rum with notes of lychee and ginger, but it’s the texture that really blew us away, perfectly balanced between crisp and luscious, with less heft than a Flip made with dark rum. The drink is equally sweetly spiced, nutty, vegetal and meaty.