My first ever St Lucian rum!
Up till now I’d been hopping from one random distillery or indie bottling to another but this blog, much like a new child in the family (I imagine), has forced me to sort my life out. But instead of perusing the nappy aisle at Tesco’s, bleary eyed at midnight with a magazine coupon in hand, I’m trawling the digital retailers, armed with whispers and suggestions from fellow rum enthusiasts, trying to organise my approach to rum buying.
Probably more bleary eyed as a result of it though.
As such, I wanted to give myself a grounding in the typical distillery offering s from St Lucia. As luck would have it, there’s only one rum producer on the island – St Lucia Distillers Group. At 606 square kilometres, it’s one of the smallest rum producing nations.
Formed in 1972 from the amalgamation of the last two distilleries on the island, one at Dennery, on the east coast of the island owned by the Barnard family plantation, and the other in the West at Roseau, which was owned by the Geest family and is the site of the modern day St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies (to give it it’s full name).
Fast forward to 1995 and the Barnard family bought out their counterparts, followed by a move to increase international exposure and product range by bringing Angostura Limited on board as shareholders. A mere ten years after buying out the Geest clan, the company was sold to a large Caribbean insurance company (CLICO) who didn’t really appear to invest in the group, leading to it’s final (so far) sale in 2016 to Groupe Bernard Hayot – a Martinique based investment group that also happen to own Rhum JM and Clement Rhum.
Moving on to the subject of today’s tasting, this bottle is from the Chairman’s Reserve Range and has quite the origin story.
On Wednesday 2nd May 2007, when I was busy revising for my final exams at university in London, 6800km away in Saint Lucia a fire was breaking out at the distillery – one which almost destroyed the blending facility and which DID put paid to the administrative building. In the chaos that followed, the cellar master had to find space everywhere and anywhere to continue the cask aging. Fast forward to roughly 2013 and the rum, previously forgotten due to the destruction of the records, was rediscovered and bottled as a limited release – The Forgotten Casks.
Quite the story, eh? Whilst the fire that demolished part of the distillery did really happen, this “limited release” product is still going strong at least 6 years later, which suggests that either the parties responsible for the accidental waylaying had memory problems requiring medical attention or – humbly, I put it to you – this is simply an aged version of the standard Chairman’s Reserve.
The standard Chairman’s Reserve is aged in American oak casks previously used for Jack Daniels, Buffalo Trace and Jim Beam, stored separately by still (pot and column) before blending and being casked in oak for a final six months. It’s PROBABLY a fair bet that the “Forgotten Casks” were of this final blend, as single still bottlings are quite rare as far as I can ascertain and I’d hazard a guess would’ve commanded a much higher price. This bottle cost me £40 and is available from a heap of online retailers. EDIT: Dave Marsland of drinksenthusiast.com and founder of the Manchester Rum Festival kindly reached out to me on Instagram to furnish me with the details of the blend (he’s also the UK Brand Ambassador for Saint Lucia Distillers so would definitely know). So, it’s a blend of rums from 6-11 years from the distillery’s John Dore 1, Vendome and Coffey stills – all combined to replicate the flavour in the original barrels – which were discovered in 2011. Thanks Dave!
Now for the thing none of you are here for, my godawful review:
Presentation – A round, squat bottle with a natural cork stopper, this looks like a higher end offering – gold leaf tracing around the label, a facsimile of the cellar master’s (Cyril Mangal) signature and the pronouncement “Extra aged.” This looks nice and I think I’d like to give it a try were I to see it on the shelves of my local bar.
Nose – Caramel, hazelnuts and dark chocolate predominate with a little raisin. Pleasant and unchallenging.
Palate –Light brown sugar, a touch of oak and some tobacco. There’s some perfect banana in amongst there too and on the finish it becomes more woody and almost tannic; but in a good way.
Finish – Short, bit smoky, dry.
Scores on the door:
Value for money: 4/5
Notes: This is a solid rum – it works well on it’s own as an unchallenging, but tasty spirit. To me though, it really shines with a little bit of Ting. I’m a bit bothered by the extra aged marking – the standard Reserve is bottled as a blend averaging 5 years but I guess any figure above this would count as extra aged. Would be nice to have a little more transparency about the length of time this was aged, was it a blend or one of the single still outputs etc. Having said all that, at £40 this is a good rum and definitely one I’ll be keeping in my drinks cupboard.
How the rating system works:
It’s entirely arbitrary but I’ve weighted it towards the things that matter most to me when looking to buy a new bottle. Hence, the greater emphasis on taste say, compared with presentation.