Neisson Rhum Distillery in Martinique is one of the few family owned distilleries. Located in La Carbet, Neisson is south of Mount Pelee and has similar volcanic soil as Depaz and Rhum JM. Although it has its own sugar cane estate, Neisson pulls from sixteen different sugar cane farms for their rhum.
The fate of the distillery was once in peril when the owner, Jean Neisson, passed away in 1986 with no heir ready to assume the task of running the distillery. Jean’s daughter Claudine, a hospital physician, stepped up and assumed her father’s role and has helped turn Neisson into one of the most respected white rhum agricoles in the world.
Neisson’s process begins with sugar cane. Neisson handles the sugar cane it gets from each farm it works with individually (15 in all) , processes them separately, and then blends them together to create its unique flavor profile.
After harvest, the sugar cane is loaded into a steam-powered press that crushes and separates the sugar cane.
Water is added to the crushed sugar cane and the the resulting sugar cane juice is combined with a proprietary yeast which is brought in from Brazil. Neisson uses a long three day fermentation which is a full day longer than the other rhum producers on the island of Martinique.
Most of Rhum Neisson’s power comes from burning the bagasse, which is the plant matter which is left over from the crushed sugar cane. This fuels the steam sugar cane presses as well as the still.
Rhum Agricole is made using a Creole column still, but Neisson has a unique version of this still called the Savalle still which is made entirely from copper. This helps give Rhum Neisson a much softer and rounder quality, even at 110 Proof/ 55%.
Although Neisson is best known for their white rhum, they also produce some excellent aged rums, including a blend of 2-4 year rhum, a 15 year rhum, an 18 year old rhum, and 1993 vintage specific rhum. Neisson’s rhums are aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace and both new and aged French Limousine oak barrels. The angel’s share (or evaporation of alcohol and water during aging) is so extreme in Martinique that for their 15 year old rhum Neisson started with 70 barrels of rhum and it condensed down into only 5 barrels.
While Neisson may not be as well known in the United States, they produce some amazing rhum. Their white rhum is sold in the US as Neisson Martinique Rhum Agricole Blanc and is one of the best white rhum agricoles to use for a Ti-Punch. Neisson’s aged rhums are harder to come by and can be found online or via special order.