If someone were to ask me to describe Japan in one word, change would never be one of those words. Yet, my most recent trip to Kansai, has changed certain views on Japan.
Thanks to the incompetence of the CCP, their latest original export (a rarity), the nCoV, is causing trouble globally. One of these has caused the Diamond Princess Cruise ship issue. It has shown me that even the Japanese government, who I deemed to be very competent, can be rendered inefficient due to bureaucracy.
Traveling has been given a certain flavor of danger again. Thanks to a certain amount of paranoia lingering in the air, I was more observant of my surroundings. Because of this, I saw things that confirmed the Japanese aren’t hygienic as I once thought. Yes, the environment is still clean, but I think that has made people lax with their own personal hygiene. I noticed that the subway and other public toilets are usually devoid of soap. Not everyone washes their hands after using the toilet, or sneezing…
I used to have this image that the Japanese always knew what they were drinking. If they didn’t drink the good stuff, they at least knew how to drink it well. Finding an avenue for a bad Scotch in a Japanese highball or Mizuwari. This was my frame of mind, because the bars I frequent, usually have new or old bottles that a spirits geek craves. And there’s just so many bars, with each being great, but also offering a huge collection. But after talking about this Lapalun with a rather legendary bar owner, he pointed out that even the Japanese palate has undergone, and is undergoing changes. You know, just like the rest of the world.
Is it good that the Land of the Rising Sun is no longer as radiant as I once thought it was? Or is it refreshing that I now see this wonderful country under a more normal light? At the end of my trip, I concluded that it didn’t matter. Japan has never done me harm and always serves as an unattainable escape I will gladly die in. Since I found myself back in Kyoto, I naturally had to re-visit Rum and Whisky Kyoto. For my first trip there last year, I sat quietly gaping at the bar’s collection. But this time, I knew what to order. I had previously seen Manabu-san post online that Lapalun is available in his bar. So, it was the first thing I ordered. I tried Googling this rhum, but nothing useful came up.
According to Manabu-san, Lapalun is a lost distillery from Martinique. Its stocks were supposed to be for the French market, but somehow two Japanese importers managed to import their own stocks. This rum was distilled and aged in 1952 then bottled at 50% abv in 1970. He said there are 3 versions of Lapalun bottled by Chantal Comte. An independent rum bottler based in France. The family is said to be of minor French nobility as well. If you want to know more, The Lone Caner has written a few good reviews on them.
I don’t mean to brag. But I feel like the price is part of the point change with the Japanese palate. A half-ounce order of this rum at the bar cost me ¥15,000 (£112 on the current virus exchange). I thought this was very reasonable for how old and rare this bottle actually is. But this price became more surprising as I was talking to the other bar owner mentioned above, which occurred a few days after my visit in Rum and Whisky. This bar owner said the bottle once cost only ¥3,000! The price dropped that low simply because no one in Japan wanted it. He said that the Japanese thought it was too strong to drink! He even had a regular give him an open bottle of it due to the reasons above. What even confused and surprised me more, is that Manabu-san showed me a brochure from 1992. A bottle of Lapalun cost ¥100,000 back then! It seems like this rhum has seen a rollercoaster of a ride in terms of pricing.
Lapalun 1952 – review
On the nose: Red fruits, dates syrup, plums, raisins, blood orange, goji berries, hints of caramel syrup, Shiraz, toasted wood, raspberries and blueberries. The typical grassy Agricole funk appears at the end.
In the mouth: A French oak influence that reminds me of Armagnac. Raspberries, blackberries, dried dates, plums, hints of raisins, purple dragon fruits, hints of caramel and toasted oak, and Shiraz. The typical grassy Agricole funk appears again at the end.
Manabu-san is not sure what type of casks this rhum was aged in, but I am placing a safe bet on French Oak. This is a wonderful rum. I really like the cask influence here, which is something uncommon from me. I usually go for cane juice based rhum with next to no cask influence. This rhum doesn’t give off complex flavors, but they are really consistent and linger.
I can imagine having one heck of a time pairing this with a cigar the next time I have it. As always, Rum and Whisky Kyoto is a rewarding bar to go to.