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Old 08-31-2009, 09:49 PM   #8
Senior Member
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: New York
Posts: 144
Default Martinique Revisited & Sweet Bally Dreams

Dear Hank, Ed & Agricole Rhum Lovers:

Back in the early 80's and 90's, I visited the wonderful Island of Martinique quite regularly and had the pleasure of touring a number of their distilleries from Neisson, LaMauny, St. James and Depaz to name a few. However, my favorite hands down was always Rhum Bally in Carbet. I remember the first time we drove up, we were suddenly enveloped in the intoxicating aroma of distilling rhum and the sweet scent of bouganville before we even got out of the car. What an inviting welcome to be sure. The first vintage I tasted was without question the best, perhaps the best that has ever passed these lips! A creamy luscious ambrosia-like 1970, that lingered so sweetly on the palate it swept away all sense of time or care...for seemingly hours. If I had been in less refined company, I would have put a nipple on the bottle and disappeared behind a banana tree, to dream the dream that inspired such an incredible libation. From then on it became a ritual to visit Rhum Bally at least once a trip to taste and bring home as much as we thought we could get through customs. On one trip, we managed 18 bottles, that was 3 little cases packed in our luggage as tight as corn on the cob. What a coup when we passed straight through customs at JFK! In 1987, thanks to her great grand-daughter, we had the rare pleasure of meeting Madame Bally. Already in her mid-90's, she was a most gracious host and historian of all things Bally. After a totally unexpected invite to a gourmet lunch in her company, we were left in monumental awe of a life so well defined and lived! She passed away a year or two later, and so ended an era. On my last trip to the island in 1996, I stopped by Bally for my usual supply and was offered the opportunity to purchase a bottle of 1927 from the family's private stock. It was exquisitely time-capsuled in a beautiful blue handcrafted triangular shaped carafe nestled in its own velvet-lined burl-wood chest. What a treasure! The cost, a mere $250, which I would have had to borrow at the time or not come home. Almost did, and now regret it! I would have savored every drop of that liquid gold then used the bottle to house my ashes when the day came! Such is life, to have almost loved and lost! A dozen or so years ago, I was browsing a liquor store in Greenwich, CT, and spied a bottle of 1957 Bally. Alas, to take it home would have required a second mortgage on my house. However, in the back of my liquor closet, I still have a bottle of the 1970 with about two fingers left. I occasionally open the bottle just for a whiff of my own mortality and wonder what dreams could have been it it were the 1927. Regarding getting there these days, I believe Air France has a direct flight twice a week from Montreal, otherwise it is an all-day island hopping affair. If you are on your own I would not recommend arriving at night unless someone is going to meet you because driving on that island can be a life changing or ending experience if you are not up to autobahn style meshing on some of those dark island roads which are banked but hardly infallible for the novice enthusiast. Trust me, I almost bought the farm twice and I am not blaming it on the Bally. Don't drink and drive. If the curves are too much, find a banana tree and sleep it off and just pray the tree is not the favorite resting place of a fer-de-lance, one of the most deadly vipers on the planet. Now back to more pleasant things, do plan to visit St. Pierre, my favorite town on the island and the home of Mt. Pele, the Mt, St. Helena's of the Caribbean, enough said, Google it. For a true gastronomic experience seek out my friend Chef Jean Charles Bredas at his restaurant in Marigot. Tell him I sent you and let him recommend the cuisine of the day, he will not disappoint. Until we meet at the great Bally Farm in the sky, bottoms up and bon appetit!


Chester P. Soliz aka Sylbaris
Grazing Bull Worldwide

"Walking in balance & staying on point to deliver on the promise & the dream!"
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