The Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange (to give it its full and complete title) is one of a deluge of new releases that we have seen from St Lucia Distillers under their Chairman’s Reserve label recently. With a bit of a dry spell for new releases from the distillery being well and truly ended as like the proverbial buses, you wait ages for one…..so and and so forth. Not that there will be any complaints from me…for once. Before we get into this Rum, a little history about the distillery.
Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands. The Windward Islands are the South Eastern, generally larger Islands of the Lesser Antilles within the West Indies. They are comprised of Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada. I have sadly never visited, but I am more than aware of the Pitons. The Pitons are two mountainous volcanic spires, Gross Piton and Petit Piton that grace the Chairman’s Reserve labels.
St Lucia Distillers emerged from a long tradition of on site, rustic rum production that was a common feature of the West Indies sugar plantations. The molasses (a by-product of the sugar industry) was fermented and distilled into Rum which was always in high demand, despite the fluctuations in the economy of the West Indian plantations. By the late 1950’s, only two distilleries remained on Saint Lucia. One in Dennery on the East coast, established in 1931 which was the site of the Barnard family plantation and the other in the Roseau valley which was owned and operated by Geest, a Dutch banana company. The St Lucia Distillers Group was formed in 1972 when due to the rise in European sugar beet, sugar production on Saint Lucia ended forcing the Barnard family to enter into a joint venture with the Geest owned Distillery moving their operations from the Dennery Distillery to the Roseau Bay Distillery in the Roseau Valley. This is the current location of St Lucia Distillers. In 1992, the Barnard family, who had been planters and Rum distillers for over a century, purchased the Geest shares. In 1997, the Barnard family sold some of their shares to Angostura Ltd before in 2005 selling their remaining shares to Clico Barbados Holdings with third generation rum maker Laurie Barnard staying on as Managing Director. In 2012 Laurie Barnard passed away and in 2013, Mrs Margaret Monplaisir was appointed his replacement. In early 2016, Martinique-based “Groupe Bernard Hayot” (GBH) acquired Saint Lucia Distillers Group of Companies (SLD) for an undisclosed sum.
Since its inception in 1972, St Lucia Distillers have grown from producers of single label mass market Rum to producers of well-regarded Rums and Rum based products. Not surprising given their capabilities. Distillation at St Lucia Distillers takes place on one of their 4 stills…..1 continuous and 3 batch.
Coffey Still – The two column (continuous) Coffey Still at St Lucia Distillers was commissioned in 1985.
John Dore 1 – This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 1500 litre capacity and was commissioned in 1998.
John Dore 2 – This pot still distills only molasses Rum, has a 6000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2004.
Vendome – This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003.
I’m a big fan of a lot of the output from the distillery with a particular penchant for the Vendome and John Dore I stills, and there is far more information contained within this site as I have previously written quite extensively about the distillery. Information can be found by clicking here.
Right….lets get into the Rum in question…..the Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange.
Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange – 56.3%abv
Distilled in pre-August 2006, this Rum is a 50 / 50 blend of batch distilled Rums. The first was distilled on the 2000 litre capacity Vendome Pot Still and the second was distilled on the 1500 litre capacity John Dore I Pot Still. Matured in ex bourbon barrels for a full minimum term of 13 years at the distillery in St Lucia, this Rum was bottled at 56.3% abv on 16th August 2019 is devoid of additives. Its great when there are no shenanigans. Only 286 bottles and this one is 264.
Nose: As expected, the nose on this blend of pot distillates is a big one. There’s so much billowing out of the glass. Quite sharp initially it also possesses some sweetness. The unmistakable qualities of both stills are fully on display here. Medicinal is the order of the day for the Vendome and more classic pot still notes are present for the John Dore I. Acetone is unmistakable and very prominent. Plenty of brine is accompanied by an acidic, almost balsamic note. Sticking plasters. Pine. Sweet menthol notes. Given time to breathe in the glass, you can push past the medicinal characteristics and this really opens up. There’s cherry stone aroma, similar to the one found in the new Mount Gay Pot Still release. This ushers in barrel influence with wet wood, vanilla and some growing spice characteristics….think black pepper, ginger, fennel seeds, candied hazelnuts and the unmistakable aroma of the cedar wood insert from a cigar tube. I want to say black tea too…..it kind of is and isn’t at the same time. A minerality follows this with wet pumice stone. There’s a sweet sugared almond or maybe a powdered sugar aroma that sticks with the back end and some warm sticky tropical fruit like papaya and guava jam show up. Molasses, Raisins, dates and maybe black walnut bitters. It becomes almost floral at the back end.
Mouth: Blimey. There it is. Big. Dry. Tannic. Very oily. Plenty of warmth to the entry but not as much heat as expected. It’s in possession of a big and oily mouthfeel and that starts bringing a fair bit of acidity which grows a little too much and becomes mildly distracting….fortunately only for a short while. It’s a little tangled and knotted based upon the first sip and you definitely need to acclimatise to separate the experience, but it starts to develop very nicely with the Vendome medicinal notes playing a role up front and dead centre. Herbal tablets. Antiseptic. Fiery ginger. Medicinal, verging on peat smoke…..more Ledaig than Caol Ila though as it’s carried on the drying wet spicy oak. It teases your mouth encouraging your salivary glands to work overtime with its dry pepper, sharp vinegar and citrus oil. This slowly guides you towards the John Dore I with its acetone, brine and salty coastal notes. The mid palate has plenty of weight and is barrel led initially with cocoa, ginger, and plenty of peppery heat. A touch more smoke, leather, cedar sap, pine and menthol. Milk chocolate coated ginger pieces…..think more fiery heat than sweet ginger. Maybe a hint of cigar tobacco. The back end brings chocolate coated honeycomb, caramelised peanuts and cashews. A touch of sweet syrupy black cherry and a heady mix of stewed rhubarb and ginger syrup. The finish is still going…..it’s a full reflection of the preceding experience. The herbal, acetone, brine, medicinal and sharp notes pull you through heat and spice into the fading sweetness of honeycomb, caramelised nuts, and strangely a hint of melon Jolly Rancher sweets. The barrel bursts in at the death with black pepper, fennel, a return of the minerality rounded out with sweet smoke and menthol.
In Conclusion: It’s a near spot on amalgamation of the more straight up (when compared to its bottle mate) pot still nose of the John Dore I with its acetone and brine and the more weighty medicinal nose of the Vendome. The balance achieved on both the nose and palate with these two big, vocal characters is very impressive and is testament to what they can do at St Lucia Distillers. It continues to develop and the transition from nose to palate is excellent. It’s no secret that my favourite still at St Lucia Distillers is the Vendome, second place goes to John Dore I…..it could’ve been a mess…but it isn’t. The John Dore I tempers the Vendome perfectly well and the abv is spot on. Now all we need are regular releases like this with more blend combinations…..I’d even like to see a John Dore I only bottling released here. It’s not without its flaws…..but it’s just so enjoyable. Well done St Lucia Distillers…..you listened…..and this Rum geek is very happy.
© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.