Yeast in Rum (or S. Pombe Revisited)

Following on from the three part collected article titled “Aeneas Coffey, John Dore and Foursquare”, Richard Seale posted an in depth look at “Yeast in Rum” in a 6 part series on his personal page, with his agreement I have again collated them into one single reference article below.

Yeast in Rum (or S. Pombe Revisited)

Part One – Yeast History

Back in October/November 2019, I created a quite a stir with some comments and a very brief post challenging some of the myths being created around the novel sacred cow that is S. Pombe yeast. At Foursquare we carry out natural fermentations (which contain S. Pombe) and having made some ‘high ester’ rums last year, it seems a good moment to make a further comment giving more details on the work of Jamaican chemists Percival H Greg, Charles Allan and S. F. Ashby.

A Little History:

Yeast cells were among the first microbes seen in early microscopes and some of the earliest observations concluded it was produced by fermentation rather than the agent of fermentation. In 1755, Dr. Johnson is his famous dictionary defined ‘yest’ as ‘the foam spume, or flower of beer in fermentation’. See also his cross reference with the definition of ‘barm’.

Lavoisier (1789) investigated wine fermentation by qualitative methods and could not find a role for yeast in the reaction that produced alcohol. However, by this time scientists believed yeast (or ferment as it was called) played a role in starting the process. Berzelius called this catalysis. German Scientist Theodor Schwann identified yeast as a living organism and call it ‘zukerpilz’ – the sugar fungus (or sugar mushroom). His colleague Franz Meyen that provided the modern latin name in 1838 – saccharomyces cerevisiae – literally ‘beer sugar-fungus’ for the species of yeast in common use today (through the use of thousands of strains of the species). Pasteur also supported the idea that fermentation was a biological process, that is a process by living organisms.

Famed German biologist Justus Von Liebig disagreed with this ‘vitalist’ theory arguing that alcoholic fermentation was a purely chemical process – no living organisms were involved – and this led of one of the most famous disputes in Science. Liebig believed the yeast was kind of nitrogenous organic compound which decomposed the sugar and a product was deposited described as an insoluble ferment. This ferment could be used as ‘ferment’ in another sugar solution. Pasteur would eventually settle the debate through a set of brilliant experiments.

Ultimately neither scientist was entirely correct or entirely wrong. Eduard Buchner obtained pure samples of the fluid inside the yeast cell and discovered that the fluid could ferment a sugar solution despite the fact the yeast cell was obviously dead. He realised that fermentation reactions were a chemical process inside the yeast cell by what we know today as collection of enzymes. So alcoholic fermentation is after all a bio-chemical process. Buchner would publish his work in 1897 for which he would be awarded the Nobel Prize.

Pasteur’s work would extend to improving wine making. He observed that soured wine was caused by the presence of lactic acid. He further observed that sour wine contained not only oval yeast cells but small rod shaped bacteria. While alcoholic fermentation occurred via yeast, lactic acid fermentation occurred via bacteria. Pasteur developed the process of heating the wine to a specific temperature for a short time to kill the bacteria a process we know today as ‘pasteurisation’ which would eventually find widespread use in the beer, milk and juice industries.

Danish mycologist Emile Christian Hansen, working at the Carlsberg Laboratory would take yeast understanding a step further. Pasteur had not fully solved the problem of brewing cloudy and off tasting beer despite pitching bacteria free yeast cultures. Pasteur had seen yeast as homogeneous cells, Hansen was the first to isolate different strains/species of saccharomyces yeasts. He discovered that certain strains were directly responsible for the cloudy beer and so by isolating and selecting particular strains for the brewery the problem of cloudy and sour beer could be solved. So now it was necessary to not only eliminate bacteria from beer fermentation but also so called ‘wild yeasts’.

The work of Liebig, Pasteur and Hansen are important to understanding the work of two giants of the Jamaica Rum industry – the planter and distiller Leonard Wray and the chemist Percival H Greg which we will consider in Part two.

 

Part Two – Wray and Greg

Leonard Wray (family to the more familiar J Wray) published his famous treatise in 1848 and his understanding of fermentation was based on the work of Liebig.

For Wray, the nitrogenous matter that would initiate fermentation was already contained in the raw material and so no yeast (or ferment) needed to be added:

“it is seen that molasses and skimmings each contain sugar, gluten, and water; so that fermentation will occur spontaneously in them without the intervention of any foreign substance, such as yeast”

As Lavoisier had quantitatively demonstrated before him, Wray stated the elements of the yeast (the glutenous or albuminous matter) “take no appreciable part in the transposition of the elements of the sugar ; for in the products resulting from the action, we find no component part of this substance”

For Wray, as Lavoisier, the yeast had no part of the final product, for Wray “the peculiar flavour of rum is generally understood to proceed from the resinous, aromatic gum (or essential oil), contained in the rind of the cane”.

Wray relayed an anecdote which marvelously echoes today:

“It is not more than a few days ago, that I was asked by a person why yeast was not used by our sugar planters as ferment instead of dunder ; intimating in very significant terms, that he considered all the West India distillers a very choice pack of fools. Now, this person says that he has been for a long while manager of one of the largest distilleries in the world. He has written a pamphlet on distillation, with a view to enlighten the minds of all distillers, and no doubt fancies himself possessed of all possible knowledge of the subject. And yet this person, who is a clever man, and no doubt very competent to instruct English distillers, does not know what dunder is, or what is its use in the fermentation of wash.”

Wray in his seminal work put his erudite view in the strongest terms, “no foreign agent — such as yeast — is necessary. Nay, further, that such is extremely undesirable ; as it would change altogether the character of the fermentation” (my emphasis).

Wray’s understanding of fermentation was not precisely correct but in practical terms, he was not wrong. Moreover, he was prescient. Everything needed for fermentation was indeed there, no ‘foreign agent’ was needed but the rise of pitched yeast with isolated, sterile yeast strains would forever change the fundamental character of rum fermentation not just in Jamaica but in every rum producing country. Today, just a handful of rum distilleries operate under Wray’s philosophy, almost all of them in Jamaica, most notably the Hampden and Long Pond Estates in Trelawny.

The first serious challenge to this approach would come from Percival H. Greg. Greg was the first chemist to isolate individual strains of yeast as found in Jamaica distilleries. Greg was strongly influenced by the work of Emile Hansen and travelled to Copenhagen to work at the Carlsberg laboratory under the supervision of Hansen’s colleague, Prof. Alfred Jorgensen. At the Carlsberg Lab, he conducted a series of experiments on molasses and dunder sent over from Jamaica. Greg became convinced of the merits of isolating, selecting and pitching a strain of yeast as was now becoming practice in breweries and distilleries around the world. Writing in ‘The Sugar Cane’ in 1893, Greg advocated:

“Not only must we do away with spontaneous fermentation by using a ‘pitching’ yeast, as brewers term it, i.e. adding some previously prepared yeast to set our vats in fermentation at once, but I strongly recommend the selection and cultivation of a suitable type of yeast in a state of absolute purity”

Greg was not alone in his ideas. Pairault (1903) and Kayser (1913) also suggested that starter culture yeasts for rum production should be selected. Both Pairault (1903) and Kayser (1913) recognized that bacteria were also endemic to rum but in their view they negatively impacted on production efficiency and quality. Fahrasmane (2002) reported that “after 1918, some distillers in the French West Indies who wanted to increase the alcoholic yield decided to put into practice the advice of Pairault and Kayser on pure fermentations. Although the result was an increase in yields, the quality of these products evidently fell because of their increased chemical neutrality”.

The star of the show of the strains tested by Greg in Copenhagen was a fission yeast, aka Schizzosaccharomyces Pombe (S. Pombe) which he dubbed No. 18. It is this earliest work in yeast selection that still resonates today in those who believe this type of yeast to be the holy grail in the search for the best Jamaica rum. Following Pasteur and Hansen, Greg at this time saw bacteria as only a source of potential disaster.

Enter Charles Allan who took entirely the opposite view. We will examine that in Part three.

 

Part Three – Allan and Ashby

In 1903, the Jamaica Board of Agriculture decided to hire a specialist Fermentation chemist as well as to set up a sugar laboratory, a fermentation laboratory and an experimental distillery with a 50 gallon still with a “telescopic head” and detachable retorts. The purpose was to study rum making with a view to improving yields, quality and studying the types of yeast involved. Charles Allan would be given a three year contract for the role under the supervision of legendary ‘Island Chemist’, H H Cousins. In 1905, it was Allan who supervised the implementation of Cousins High Ether Process at a specially built plant at Hampden Estate. A process still in use today.

Allan was able to show that the “flavour” of Jamaican rum was not the result of alcoholic fermentation by yeasts but due to acidic fermentations by bacteria.

“The point I wish to emphasize at present is that the value of rum depends mainly on the secondary products [the congeners] it contains. I will show you by means of experiments in the laboratory that cane juice or molasses fermented by yeasts alone produce but very little of the secondary products. These, therefore, must be formed by other organisms, chiefly bacteria which swarm in the washes of Jamaican distilleries”

Allan contrasted the modern approach of breweries of his era with the approach needed by the Jamaican distiller to make the best rum.

“In the most up-to-date breweries now not only are all bacteria excluded but yeast which has been carefully cultivated from selected seed are only used. The effect of this on the article produced was to alter to an appreciable extent its flavour but it ensured its stability in character and in a short time the newly acquired flavour got to be appreciated. In the case of Jamaica rum however we have an article of a very different nature to deal with. The flavour is of a very pronounced character and is one of its chief assets. The flavour of beer is very delicate and is produced by the yeast itself whereas I am of title opinion that the yeasts contribute but a small amount of the flavour of rum”

Allan’s successor at the Jamaica Government Laboratory was S. F. Ashby. Ashby had also studied yeasts at Copenhagen and was the Bacteriologist at famous Rothamsted Experimental Station in the UK before arriving in Jamaica in November of 1905.

He set about to explore further the contribution of yeast to Jamaica rum. He set up ten experiments with sterile washes seeded with strains of the fabled S. Pombe, selected due to the earlier work of Greg. The results were a disaster.

“The rum could hardly be called by that name, and it showed the same character for all ten yeasts; in no case was any characteristic flavour produced”.

Ashby continued with another series of experiments where acid was added to the otherwise sterile washes seeded again with S. Pombe.

“The conclusion to be drawn from these experiments is that, whereas none of the fission yeast isolated from the estate washes was able to produce flavour on its own account, the top yeast owing to its slower fermentation admitted a greater amount of chemical ether production in a wash originally high in volatile acids. The latter result is in accordance with distillers’ experience as they consider that a wash showing a strong fatty head due to the top fermenting fission yeast yields the best flavoured rum.”

Ashby set up further experiments again with added acids but this time observing the behaviour of each species of yeast (S. Cerevisiae and S. Pombe) with each type of acid (acetic, lactic, butyric) these being the common acids in distillery washes (produced primarily by bacteria).

“The ability of the budding type [S. Cervisiae] to multiply and ferment more rapidly from the outset in the weaker acid liquors, like cane juice washes and fresh skimmings, explains why this is the only kind found in such liquor the acidity of which is generally under 0.5%. In the usual estate washes containing dunder, molasses, acid skimmings, and frequently specially added acid, [this would be known as ‘flavour’ made in a muck pit or trash cistern ] the budding yeast [S. Cerevisiae] is largely suppressed, but the more slowly developing and very acid resistant fission type [S. Pombe] takes possession, and is practically the only form found in washes the acidity of which is 1.0% and over”.

Ashby demonstrated in experimental work that the remarkable qualities of S. Pombe are not in its ability to produce flavour of its own account but its ability to make alcohol in washes that are set up to make the characteristic flavour of high ester Jamaica Rum. Its slow rate of fermentation is also particularly important in allowing these characteristic flavours to be developed rather than rapidly consuming the available nutrients and producing the sterilising alcohol which would retard their development.

After his contact was concluded, Ashby would continue to have an illustrious career, he would also work in Trinidad before culminating his career as the mycologist at the Imperial Mycology Institute located at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

In fact Greg too in his work had also demonstrated that S. Pombe was no panacea – a simple trial of No. 18 in the absence of dunder produced no flavour. In his final paper on Rum aroma published in 1895, Greg concluded:

“If one may be allowed to theorize a little, there seems sufficient grounds for concluding, from the results which I have up to now attained, that though the aroma of rum is in the first instance derived from the soil, that this influence is chiefly potential not actual; that it is latent , dormant , and only brought into existence during the process of manufacture”.

Greg was back to Wray even before the arrival of Allan and Ashby.

So what does yeast contribute? We look at that in Part four.

 

Part Four – Yeast Flavour

Yeast is a bit of sacred cow itself in distilling, not least of all the current fad of S. Pombe. The primary mission in this series of posts is to explain the role of yeast in the context of traditional Jamaica high ester rum, not to diminish its broader importance. The role of yeast in any spirit category is wholly dependent on the culture in which that spirit is made. Yeasts and bacteria are the organisms directly responsible to creating flavour in alcoholic fermentations. Allan summarised well the challenge of striking the balance between the two:

“In making rum the first consideration is to produce alcohol. This can be done by encouraging the development of yeasts but in so doing you are discouraging the growth of bacteria and again if you encourage the development of bacteria you are setting up conditions which are against the interests of the yeasts. You must choose a middle course and it is just here where our greatest difficulty arises.”

Fortunately yeast does not only make alcohol but flavour congeners are produced as by products of yeast metabolism. These include higher alcohols (propanol, amyl alcohol etc), acids (acetic, lactic etc) esters (ethyl acetate), acetaldehyde and diacetyl. Further esters are formed by combining the produced acids with alcohol. Nykanan and Suomalainen (1983) listed 400 flavour metabolites of yeast fermentation. Of course only the volatile ones that pass over into the distilled spirit would be relevant for rum or whisky.

Yeasts are not a typical fungus in that their spores do not migrate by air currents. They are thought to be carried in the stomachs of insects. Recent research in Belgium – Christiaens et al 2014 – showed that fruit flies could use the aromatic odour produced by yeast to find fruit. The yeast helps the fruit fly find the fruit and the fruit fly helps the yeast move around. In short, fruit flies defecate yeast, and yeasts defecate alcohol (and some nice smelling bits).

Yeast autolysis is the degradation (by its own enzymes) of the cell wall and its contents following the death of the yeast cell. Yeast death is not a function of age but of how many times the cell has reproduced. This autolysate or ‘yeast extract’ notwithstanding its foremost importance to making marmite plays an important role in flavour development in fermented wines and spirits. Autolysis is strongly influenced by acidity and ethanol both of which are abundant at the end of fermentation. Several flavour compounds are released during autolysis including fatty acids (which will make esters and aldehydes) and heavy esters (e.g iso amyl caproate), terpenes (thought to be the constituent of what famed Puerto Rican chemist Arroyo called ‘rum oil’) and higher alcohols such as iso amyl alcohol.

Yeast autolysis is a very important part of the champagne method where the where the wine is kept in contact with the yeast autolysate in the bottle. It is also known as the ‘sur-lie’ method for making white burgundy. The autolysate is also a source of nutrients for bacteria. Greg, in one of his caveats for using yeast No. 18 advised it was important that the ‘dead wash’ sit for a couple of days before distillation. Ashby noted that S. Pombe produced far more autolysate than S. Cerevisiae. This is because of the double wall thickness of the fission yeast. This extra biomass is mainly polysaccharides. It does not contribute to flavour in distilled spirits save for providing nutrients to bacteria.

So just how did Jamaicans strike the balance described by Allan. That is for part five.

(pictured – A schematic overview of the main metabolic routes inside the yeast cell contributing to the synthesis of higher alcohols and esters when inserted in the fermenting medium)

 

Part Five – Striking the Balance

The addition of dunder (and its analogs of sour mash in bourbon or backset in whisky) as practised by all rum makers in the West Indies from the 17th century was precisely to set the balance described by Allan. By adding the acidic dunder at the outset, the acidity of the wash was increased to bring it into a zone that was still tolerable for yeast but inhibitory to bacteria. Favouring yeast was paramount because making alcohol is paramount. No point having bacteria produced flavour if they have gobbled up all the sugar and there is little or no alcohol. Many distillers today still adjust acidity in their pitched yeast fermentations by the addition of sulphuric or other acids.

Jamaica (and to a limited extent Barbados) would dimensionalize the molasses/juice/water formula of Wray by the addition of soured juice skimmings and something literally called ‘flavour’. Flavour was produced by a sort of parallel bacterial ferment using cane materials in a ‘trash cistern’ or ‘muck pit’. Each high ester rum making estate developed their own formula and method for ‘flavour’.

It is this use of soured juice and ‘flavour’ that tips the pendulum of aroma development in Jamaica Rum to bacteria over yeast, not that we wish to understate the importance of their symbiotic relationship. The creation and addition of ‘flavour’ in the Jamaican high ester rum making is the cultural equivalent of a bourbon distiller selecting and pitching their own favoured yeast strain. For wine and beer, yeast is king. In Scotch whisky, they do not boil the wort as in beer but rather heat it to 64C for a short time and so some bacteria is inevitably present during fermentation. With the early dominance of pitched yeast, the bacteria, chiefly lactic acid producing bacteria makes its presence felt at the end of fermentation – no role required for S. Pombe. Yeast autolysis would provide the nutrient requirements for the lactic bacteria. Late lactic bacteria is now widely considered to have a positive contribution to the flavour of the whisky (Geddes and Rifkin 1989). So in Scotch whisky, yeast is still king but the pendulum is swung a little in the direction of bacteria.

Today nearly every beer, wine or spirit including much of the rum in Jamaica is now made by pitching selected yeast strains, the practice outlined by Hansen in the late 19th century. The yeasts used are mostly of the saccharomyces type particularly the species saccharomyces cerevisiae for which there are literally thousands of strains. Saccharomyces types have such broad application because it fits the needs of the distiller so well. It is very efficient producing rapid fermentations, dominant (killer strains release a toxin to kill wild yeasts), tolerant of high alcohol content and by species/strain selection it reliably produces the desired flavour.

The yeasts used in whisky industry are mostly S. cerevisiae although various secondary species have been used. Lager yeast is S. pastorianus, ale yeasts include S. cerevisiae and apparently some S.bayanus strains. The wine industry mostly use S. cerevisiae and/or S. bayanus. Some wine makers and craft brewers use non saccharomyces types including Kloeckera, Saccharomycodes, Schizosaccharomyces, Hansenula, Candida, Pichia and Torulopsis. The use of non saccharomyces types is more practical in brewing because they can use a sterile wort. Trying to use non Saccharomyces types in rum is impractical as wild Saccharomyces strains will quickly dominate. Peynaud & Sudrand (1986), Haraldson and Rosen (1984) and Fahrasmane et al (1986) all found that Schizisaccaromyces strains in pure culture produced very few congeners.

In the past, Schizosaccharomyces yeasts were often detected in wines suffering from organoleptic faults through the appearance of sulfidric acid (hydrogen sulphide), acetic acid, acetaldehyde, acetoin and ethyl acetate. Most of these would not necessarily be a fault in rum making. Further research with highly selected strains of S. Pombe showed much better results (for wine) but their attraction for wine making was more related to the ability of this yeast to degrade malic acid rather than any remarkable aromatic profile. It should be noted that Ashby reported the existence of a ‘fruit ether’ yeast of the budding type, that is to say it was not S. Pombe.

It has been suggested in some circles that S. Pombe needs to be “reintroduced” into rum making. It is a ridiculous statement, it never left. S. Pombe plays its usual role at Hampden estate as it has done for over 250 years and S. Pombe can be found wherever rum is made. Several early studies identified S. Pombe in molasses and juice in rum distilleries in the Caribbean. More recently Fahrasmane (1988) found S. Pombe prevalent in Haitain distilleries. Bonilla-Salinas et al (1995) found S. Pombe in Mexican distilleries and Green (2015) found significant counts of S. Pombe yeasts in molasses at Bundaberg in Australia. You can find S. Pombe in our fermentations at Foursquare where their role varies depending on the rum to be produced.

The revised interest and circulation of the papers of Greg, Allan, Ashby et al by bloggers, enthusiasts, distillers and writers is absolutely to be applauded. I cant praise these efforts enough. That this 100 year old work still serves as inspiration to younger craft distillers is a joy to observe. My caution is not to take the work in isolation and consider it hand in hand with later work and the practical operations of West Indian Rum today that has built on and added to that knowledge. That such is not readily available via google should not detract from its value. As Wray warned, do not take the West Indian distillers for a ‘pack of fools’.

We do not need to reintroduce S. Pombe to rum, what we need to do is protect the traditional way in which it is used.

We will consider that in part six.

 

Part Six – The Jamaica GI

The core of traditional Jamaica rum making is the art of using simply sugar cane derivatives, spontaneous fermentation and batch distillation. Distillers were able to improve and innovate without ever breaking these fundamental core principles. In 1893, the year Greg published his first paper, 148 Jamaica distilleries operated this way. By 1948 there were just 25. Today just one distillery owner exclusively practices these methods. Pitched yeast and continuous distillation have changed Jamaica Rum (and Barbados Rum) forever as warned by Wray and J C Nolan (special commissioner to the UK for Jamaica rum) respectively. These two horses have bolted. There is no putting them back. But we can stop here and forever protect these methods.

In 2016, the Jamaican distilleries by unanimous agreement restricted the addition of fermentation agents ( those foreign agents of Wray! ) to yeast and only to yeast of the saccharomyces types. There was no restriction on native yeasts and bacteria proceeding in their normal spontaneous and natural way. How could they? Forced Sterilisation? One-third of the shares in a single Jamaica distillery changed hands in 2017 and since then, that pernicious shareholder has sought to discredit the GI as registered – most wickedly by mischaracterising the GI restriction as “narrowing to one genus of yeast we are wiping out hundreds of years of history of rum making”. Willful ignorance or just ignorance, I let my hopefully now better informed readers be the judge.

The distillery has now demanded through their team of lawyers that the Jamaica IP office unilaterally rewrite the GI to their personal specifications despite the protests of the remaining three distillers. One of my Jamaican colleagues, very high in the industry there, called this “insidious re-colonialization, putting his own selfish needs ahead of the industry and in contravention of the spirit of the GI.” I call someone who acquires a minority interest in a Jamaica distillery in 2017 and who then demands the GI be rewritten to their unilateral specification a megalomaniac.

Among the demanded changes, all designed to render the GI nugatory, is a demand to add other fermenting agents including bacteria. So pitched yeast and now pitched bacteria. A kind of rapid, cheaper ersatz Jamaica rum to be made and sold under a cloud of trite, hyperbolic marketing clichés. Pitched yeast and pitched bacteria take us further away from the true terroir of Jamaica Rum.

I suspect part of the motivation to rewrite the GI is the delusion based on the once again trendy advocation of Greg that magical Jamaica Rum will produced by simply pitching S. Pombe. It takes a high level of Dunning-Kruger type stupidity to think you are going to “innovate” Jamaica Rum by simply changing the brand of added yeast. You need to take West Indian distillers for a ‘pack of fools’ to believe this.

I will let Maggie Campbell, artisan distiller, yeast guru and esteemed colleague have the last word:

“It is wise to remember this is the life’s work and lived experience of these GI supporting Jamaican producers, they are not unwise or foolish, rather they are guardians of their culture and community. No one needs to benevolently jump in and fight to save Jamaican rum from itself, they are protecting it just fine themselves and the GI laws are set up to do just that”.
“If you do not want to participate in the community standards and cultural practices then you do not also get to demand instant access to leverage that community’s and culture’s hard won reputation for excellence.”

 

Again, huge thanks to Richard for allowing me to collate and reproduce the information here

© Steven James, Rum Diaries Blog and Richard Seale. 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, Richard Seale and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Aeneas Coffey, John Dore and Foursquare

Richard Seale recently posted a very informative and interesting series of articles surrounding Continuous and Batch Distillation on his personal page, with his agreement I have collated them into one single reference article below.

Aeneas Coffey, John Dore and Foursquare

Part One – The Continuous Still

Aeneas Coffey was not the first to invent the continuous still, nor was it the first continuous still to be used in Scotch Whisky however between 1834 and the 1876, seventeen newly installed Coffey stills would be making whisky in Scotland. It proved the foundation for the development of blended scotch whisky (developed around 1860), arguably the most successful spirit category of them all. How did it all happen? What follows is really only a brief overview of a history that is both very complex and very profound.

The late 18th century through the mid 19th century saw remarkable developments in spirit distillation. A drive to increase proof, efficiency and throughput underpinned these developments. We are focusing on the British, Irish and European developments as this directly impacted the West Indies but the American story is also very complex and worth your time.

Early stills by Adam (1801), Pistorius (1817) and Corty (1818) and several others too numerous to detail were essentially modifications of the simple batch (pot) still to add fractionation to simple distillation. In London at the Belmont Distillery in Vauxhall Jean-Jaques Saint Marc patented a batch (pot) still with a rectifying head in 1824. While used by Saint Marc for potato spirit, this concept would be a forerunner of the carter-head and the ‘Lomond’ still at Loch Lomond distillery. A notable step (see the post script) but still in the realm of discontinuous (ie batch) distillation.

The first genuine continuous still was patented by Jean-Baptiste Cellier-Blumenthal in 1813. In 1828 Robert Stein, a member of the Stein-Haig distilling family would also patent a continuous still and this would be the first licensed continuous still used in Scotland at Cameronbridge in 1830. Coffey would first patent his continuous still in 1830 and it bore remarkable similarity to the Cellier-Blumenthal still.

Aeneas Coffey had been an Irish Inspector of Excise until his retirement in 1824. During his work as an excise officer he invented the Spirit Safe an early insight to his genius. Purportedly of French birth he may have had contact with the work of Cellier-Blumenthal. It was also thought he was familiar with another early continuous still of Cork distiller Anthony Perrier patented in 1822 as well as the continuous still of Robert Stein. Coffey’s Father, Andrew Coffey was the engineer in charge of the waterworks for the Dublin Corporation and reputed to be quite ingenious. He may have also had an influence on Coffey’s engineering skills. Coffey’s first still was at Dock Distillery in Dublin and licensed in 1832. This distillery was not successful and the business was soon changed to one of still manufacture. The first Coffey still in Scotland was at Grange in 1834.

Coffey proved not to be successful in Ireland. Kerr (1946) humorously reflected:

“between good advertising and the effeminate palates of the English, which were not robust enough to appreciate really good whisky like the Irish, this type of whisky [blended] captured the English market and still holds it to an undeserved extent”.

The reasons were likely more nuanced. The early Coffey stills used iron pipes which gave the whisky an unpleasant flavour no doubt contributing to the early failure. Ireland did not license small distillers and legal Irish whisky was dominated by large stills. We suspect this would have played a role in making Coffey’s continuous still less attractive by comparison. Big pot stills would have good throughput if not the fuel efficiency of the continuous still. Ironically, it was Coffey in his role as Excise Office who suppressed the small illicit distillers. In 1810, he was left for dead having been attacked with a bayonet during the ‘poitin wars’. A reward for the capture of his attackers was unsuccessful, excise officers then as now were less than popular.

In 1835, the firm Aeneas Coffey and Sons was established in Bromley in the UK. His failure in Ireland contrasted by early success in Scotland (Inverkeithing and Bonnington had soon followed Grange) and potential sales of his still to rectifiers and gin distillers probably prompted the move. In 1840, Aeneas Coffey Jr established the first patent distillery in London at Lewisham which ended in rather unfortunate circumstances. The Secretary arranged for a large release of spirits from bond and presented the cheque for excise duty at a Directors meeting which did not contain the payee’s name. The secretary filled in his own name, cashed the cheque and was never seen again. The distillery went bankrupt and the Coffeys once again continued on as still makers.

The success of the Coffey still was really due to the evolution of the original design which had been little more than an improved Cellier-Blumenthal still. By 1840, the Coffey still would have copper piping, copper plates (trays) perforated with bubble caps and the still was split into two columns – analyzer (or stripping) column and the rectifying column. This separation of stripping and rectifying would be the foundation of nearly every spirit still in operation today. The use of perforated copper plates (trays) would be a marked improvement on the Stein continuous still which did not have contacting plates and the wash needed to be misted to ensure good liquid / vapour mixing. Even the Haig family would install a Coffey still.

The Cellier-Blumenthal still would also be improved by French Engineer and Dutch Sugar Trader Armand Savalle and by French Pharmacist Louis-Charles Derosne. Savalle and Cellier-Blumenthal were collaborators. Cellier-Blumenthal would sell his patent to Derosne who improved it and filed his own patent while Savalle continued to work independently. Savalle stills can be found today in Demerara and the French Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

While some un-malted grains had been used by highland single malt distillers the advent of the continuous still precipitated the split where highland batch stills were solely single malt with the cheaper un-malted grains going to the lowland continuous Coffey stills. This more economic and more available ‘grain whisky’ in the hands of entrepreneurs like John Dewar, James Chivas and William Teacher was the foundation of the enormous success that Scotch Whisky is today. Some luck played a role as well. In 1863, there was the phylloxera in France which had affected most of Europe by 1879. Blended Scotch filled the void for the well to do English created by shortages of claret and brandy.

The influence of raw materiel on the acceptance and adoption of the continuous still should not be underestimated. We see the same in rum. Demerara was the first to develop vacuum pan sugar – the famed Demerara sugar – but the corollary of that is vacuum pan molasses lower in value to muscovado molasses and Demerara was the first of the anglophone producers to adopt the continuous still. In Martinique, early restructuring of the sugar industry into central factories (and thereby pan sugar) in the mid 19th century is the pre-cursor to the city based (Saint Pierre) production of Rhum Industrial with pan molasses.
In Barbados the rum industry collapses after 1870, due to taxation and economic malaise. By the 1890s, the only estates still making rum are using lower value pan molasses as the famous ‘Barbados Molasses’ (made either as the prime product of the estate or secondary to muscovado sugar) is too valuable to be converted into Barbados rum (which is only sold locally at this time). Barbados would see its first continuous still using pan molasses in 1893 to fill the void as muscovado estates went out of rum production. By the 1920s centralisation of sugar factories (producing pan molasses) would be well underway and two more continuous stills would follow – one at Mount Gay and another in Bridgetown.

For Jamaica by contrast, rum was the primary product for many estates as it was more valuable than Jamaica Sugar. Rum in Jamaica was made from cane juice (Appleton) or ‘first boil’ molasses. Jamaica would not adopt the continuous still until the 1960s.

Notwithstanding the success of still sales to Scotland, the business of still making slowed by the late 1860s and in 1872, Philip Coffey, son of Aeneas would transfer the business to his long time foreman John Dore. Aeneas’s grandson, Aeneas H Coffey would act as consultant to John Dore for many years. By 1887, business would revive and Barnard’s – ‘The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom’ – published that year reported Coffey Stills in all major Scotch Whisky distilleries.

John Dore & Co Ltd would continue as successors to Aeneas Coffey, still operating from Bromley and supply Coffey Stills to the West Indies including to Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, St Vincent, St Lucia and Grenada. Coffey stills and their derivative designs would be also be sold by Scottish still makers such as Blairs and McMillans including to rum distillers in the West Indies. Following the general demise of British manufacturing, Blairs would cease operation in 1977 and John Dore would cease operating in the early 1990s although the trade mark was sold and has been used subsequently on stills built by other copper works. McMillans continues operations till this day although now it exclusively builds pot stills.

Post Script:
The addition of rectification in 1824 to a batch (pot) still before the development of the continuous (column) is notable. In fact as early as 1813, Florentine Baglioni added a column section to a batch still for grappa. Unfortunately, it did not work well with the ‘vinnacia’.

Today terms such as ‘hybrid still’ are a source of confusion. There is no such thing as a hybrid still. The dichotomy is not pot still v column still but batch still v continuous still. All still designs fall into one of the latter two categories. The addition of fractionation or enhanced rectification to a batch still is still a batch still. The simple batch still relies solely on the lyne arm for rectification. Enhancing this effect does not change the fundamental nature of the still.

A batch still will produce a changing output over time (colloquially the heads, then hearts, then tails) from a single charge (batch) that itself changes as it is distilled. A continuous still produces an unchanged output that varies by position (not by time) on an unchanging charge that is fed continuously. Heads, hearts, tails are drawn off simultaneously from different positions. This is the fundamental distinction between the two processes which also explains why the two can never make the identical spirit.

Early column shaped stills (e.g. the columnar Pistorius still) should not be confused with a column or continuous still, it was a batch still and the Savalle or Cellier Blumental stills are not fitted with “a pot still” just because they had a pot shaped base/kettle – there were in fact continuous (or column) stills.

Part Two – The Batch Still

The myriad of still patents developed between the late 18th and mid 19th century is extraordinary and the few mentioned in part one does not do it remotely justice. This work, applied to simple batch distillation led to the development of the continuous still and the distillation world never looked back.

Curiously, the extensive developments on batch distillation had little impact on the batch (pot) stills of Scotland, Ireland and Cognac and they continue to employ simple batch distillation, either double or triple to make whisky and cognac today. To see advanced batch distillation in the 19th and 20th century, one must travel to the West Indies and observe rum distillation.

It is often claimed that the double retort still used in West Indies is an “Adam’s still”. No explanation is ever offered as to why the English colonies would have purchased a French still (of which only three were made) at the height of the Napoleonic wars (let alone been able to import it). As mentioned in part one, Edouard Adam (1801) made an improvement to the simple still. He did so by adding fractionation to the batch still via a series of egg shaped vessels. Adam’s work was based on the work of Professor Laurent Solimani and the two would go on to jointly patent further improvements. There is no denying the similarly in principle to a pot still with multiple retorts but how the West Indies came to use the double retort is rather more nuanced and much more likely from a parallel bit of work of Joseph Corty.

In 1818, Joseph Corty developed a double “compound” still with the second still containing external cooling (similar to that of Pistorius). DT Shears & Sons of Bristol would acquire this design and these double stills proved to be of “such repute” that Shears would supply “numbers of them for the colonies, but particularly Demerara” – Wray (1848). Double stills of varying designs could also found in the West Indies, some notable examples include one at the Londonderry Estate in Dominica (built at the copper works in Barbados) and of course the one at Port Mourant still in operation today. These double stills are the forerunner of the pot/double retort in common use today in Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, St Lucia, Grenada among others. Early retort stills carried external cooling heads, no doubt the influence of the original Corty Still.

Leonard Wray (family to the perhaps better known J Wray) in his seminal work – The Practical Sugar Planter (1848) – wrote:

“But of all the arrangements, I have never known any to surpass the common still and double retorts”

This was no idle boast, Wray had extensive experience including of the Stills of Cellier-Blumenthal, Laugier (another type of double still) and Coffey.

At this time double stills, single retort stills and double retort stills were all in use and each of these types were supplied by Shears of Bristol. Improvements would continue – attached is a single retort of Blairs, produced around the turn of the century with the open cooling head replaced by a modern condenser. Rectification heads would be added to retort stills in Barbados and Guyana but notably not Jamaica. You can find a rectification head on the Port Mourant double still in Guyana.

While there is little evolution in the simple batch (pot) stills of Scotland, Ireland or Cognac on the scale of that in the West Indies, there are some common improvements that have been adopted.
In 1802, Charles Wyatt patented the application of steam “tubes” to distillation instead of direct fired stills which avoids the burning the wash on the bottom of the still. Today almost all stills in Scotland are steam heated but even here the West Indians were the more progressive. The steam used in the Coffey stills was thought to destroy the esters and it would not be until 1887 before Glenfiddich installed a still with steam coils. Famed Jamaican chemist HH Cousins carried out research in Jamaica on the use of steam and found it superior. This resulted in a quicker widespread adoption in Jamaica of the steam coil over Scotland. The Americans would also be quicker to adopt steam distillation over direct fire. Famously today cognac must be distilled by direct fire.

“I am convinced from the results obtained at Shrewsbury estate in Westmoreland, that all home trade rums could with advantage be distilled in stills heated by a steam coil. Burnt rum should then be unknown. The fetish of the ‘direct fire’ that still lingers in the minds of Scotch whiskey distillers has no basis at all where Jamaica rum is concerned, since any excessive firing results in a most serious injury to the spirit produced”

H H Cousins, West Indian Bulletin, 1907

The earliest stills cooled the vapour by passing it through a simple worm (or coil). Originally this was solely atmospheric cooling but in 1771, German Chemist Wiegel invented the worm tub where the worm is placed in a tub into which cold water is continuously pumped. In 1825, William Grimble invented the shell and tube condenser which replaced the worm tub for cooling the distilled vapour. Barnard’s encyclopedic work on Scottish distilleries in 1887 shows they were widely in use by then. Today just a small minority of Scottish distillers use a worm tub and most rum producers in Anglophone Caribbean use shell and tube condensers. The shell and tube condenser proved superior because it cools the vapour markedly more slowly and this in turn has a significant impact on the copper’s catalytic effect in removing undesirable sulphur compounds from the spirit. As vigorous molasses fermentations tend to produce more sulphury components over other washes, the popularity and rapid adoption of the shell and tube condenser in rum is of little surprise.

Visiting the region you can see the culmination of this history with double retort stills (some with rectification heads) dominating the rum producers of the Anglophone Caribbean.

Part Three – Foursquare

The myriad of still designs from past is overwhelming. Nostalgia makes us believe there is something better that has been lost to time whereas the reality is that much of what was discarded was inferior to how we distill today. Innovations that did not deliver did not last. Evolutions that worked became the norm. Different spirit cultures evolved though the different routes that worked for them and the progressive rum distillation techniques may not have delivered for Scotch what they delivered for Rum.

By examining this brief overview of the evolution of distillation, everyone can better grasp what we do at Foursquare and why.

Our twin column continuous still is based on that design principle of separation of the analyser and the rectifier first developed by Coffey in the 1830s. Likewise it produces a spirit that complements rather than competes with the spirit produced by our batch still. However, unlike the classic Coffey still the still operates under vacuum pressure. Instead of our wash boiling at a little over 100°C, our wash boils at just about 80°C with the consequent marked improvement in spirit quality. The high suspended solid content of a molasses wash make this technological advance all the more rewarding.

Our two batch stills are the classic pot/double retort design as used throughout the West Indies from Grenada to Jamaica. A design developed in the first half of the 19th century, “unsurpassed” in the words of Wray. Our retorts feature cooling heads, a feature first developed by Pistorius (1817) and Corty(1818) and popular in the West Indies in the stills built by Shears. It was Simon Dore, great grandson of John Dore who suggested to us that we revive the use of cooling heads on retorts.

Apprenticed to John Dore were the Carter brothers who developed the Carter-Head, an evolution of the rectification heads found on Shear’s double still and Saint Marc Still of 1824. Loch Lomond operates similar rectification heads today. At Foursquare, we have our own evolution of the Carter-Head on both of our stills. We have incorporated in these heads the use of ‘nano copper’ surfaces. This was developed by the CREA Research Centre (University of Siena) in collaboration with Green Engineering. The practical effect of these copper surfaces is to improve the catalytic effect of the copper. In this way, the thermodynamic process is unchanged but the chemical effect is improved. That is to say, one nano copper tray has the catalytic effect of six trays but the rectification power of a single tray.

Our older batch still has steam coils but our new batch still features a twin system of steam coil and bain-marie. A bain-marie is a steam or water jacketed still developed in the 16th century but mainly used by alchemists. Today, several craft distillers use small stills heated via a bain-marie. The twin system provides the most consistent and even way of heating a batch still. A smoky flavour is a natural component of a peated whisky but a smoky flavour in rum is just bad distillation.

We also use the shell and tube condenser on our batch stills for its superiority over the older worm tube vapour cooling system. Sulphury, metallic, “petrolly” rums are not our style.
As a homage to all that that has been learned and incorporated from the past, the man door on our new batch (pot) still is from an actual cast as used by John Dore & Co Ltd.

There is another innovation on our latest batch still, probably the most ambitious of all. But we will wait till its proved in the field before revealing.

Big thanks to Richard for agreeing to allow me to collate this information….Stay tuned for the Six Part collected article “Yeast In Rum (or S. Pombe Revisited)”

© Steven James, Rum Diaries Blog and Richard Seale. 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, Richard Seale and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rummieclub Overproof Rum


A newcomer to the crowded marketplace has been the recently opened Rummieclub, which is Amsterdam’s newly opened rum distillery. The Rummieclub distillery is the brainchild of two people, Judith de Bie and Martijn Gerrits.

I first met Judith at the UK Rumfest in 2019 and I have been waiting eagerly for their first bottling…..but it wasn’t that easy to get to that point.

Their decision to start a rum distillery around four years ago led to one major event……it meant that they had to sell their home and move to the Bijlmer. Judith gave up her job at the City of Amsterdam and started working part-time to research all things Rum to make the dream a reality. After a few locations didn’t work out, they found a building in the east side of Amsterdam in Diemen. They decided to start a crowdfunding campaign, selling their first rum bottles to close the small financial gap that enabled them to buy their equipment. As the rental agreement had already been signed, they were obviously elated that the crowdfunding was successful. Then the wait started, the build process had a lot of delays and took far longer than anticipated. Almost a year later , and with their living room full of equipment and barrels they finally got the keys in December 2019.

Since then they have been distilling non-stop, filling barrels, honing their skills, experimenting with differing yeast strains, including some that have been homegrown.

Their website has a wealth of information and can be found here.

It includes crazy levels of detail for the processes behind their products….some of which I will utilise below.

As small and honest rum producers, Rummieclub want to be open about their production process. The rum category is one where the rules and processes differ by region and brand. Because of this, rum can be very diverse. This diversity has a downside, as a customer you don’t always know what you are buying. Rummieclub would like to be known as one of the producers that gives all the pieces of the puzzle about their rum production so that you are fully aware of what you are buying. All of this brings us onto one of their inaugural releases…..Rummieclub Overproof.

Rummieclub Overproof – 58% abv – 0g/l additives


Just look at that label! It has no bearing on the bottle contents but I am very impressed by its vibrancy.

Rummieclub Overproof undergoes an non temperature controlled 10 day fermentation in an open topped vessel. The organic molasses sourced from Paraguay was slowly added to the ferment over several days. Commercial yeast (Saccharomyces Cervisiae) was used for this initial batch. The resultant +/-8% abv wash is then distilled to 85% abv in their 500 litre Istill. An Istill affords Rummieclub a lot of control to make all of the choices that they want to make, and it can produce an array of differing distillates. It has a stainless steel boiler with a direct heater in the boiler. Rummieclub use copper waffles to extract some undesired compounds. On top of the boiler there is a packed column with a robot that opens and closes thecolumn as thay desire. It has numerous temperature probes and different valves for the heads, hearts and tails cuts, which they make based on temperature and taste. They chose this apparatus because it’s energy efficient and gives them the control and options that they were looking for.

Following distillation, the Rum is reduced using water that has been through a reverse osmosis filter to 58%. From here it has a resting period of around two months. 130 bottles of the Overproof were produced for Batch #1 and I am bottle #69 (Dudes!). Each release will see a different local street artist design the label utilising the Rummieclub colours. The label for this release was designed by Munir de Vries and it represents his vision of animals getting drunk on overripe fruits.

Just ahead of my notes, I wanted to give a little information on the level of experimentation going on at Rummieclub…..As mentioned earlier, they are experimenting with homegrown yeast and the next batch of Overproof will utilise their own yeast taken from raspberries. I asked if this would bring differing fruity notes or whether it was all about how the yeast does its job. Apparently the raspberry yeast gives an almost rotten fruit or papaya flavour. The homegrown yeast works differently to commercial dry yeast and gives different results, they are also a lot less consistent with occasionally way lower yields. Experimentation is also taking place with yeast from blueberries and mint from the garden, but the raspberry yeast is giving the best results so far. There is also a desire to experiment with dunder in the next Overproof.

With all of that said, what is it like?


Tasting Notes

Nose: Initially a light fruity vapour driven nose which warps into warm, buttered malt loaf and malted milk biscuits. Its also leaning on the creamy, almost yoghurt-y side. As it develops it becomes fruity with the sharpness of cranberries and there merest hint of caramelised pineapple. Spice, pepper and ginger grows as does the aroma of warm, almost melting plastic.

Mouth: The palate is spice led during the early exchanges with lots of black pepper and ginger juice which seem to morph into raisins, which brings some sweetness. It has one hell of a mouthfeel, very oily and chewy due to the lack of chill filtration. Molasses shows up and brings a beautiful sweet and bitter interplay that just sings. Burning car tires and warming molasses round things out with a hint of salty liquorice at the back end and maybe the merest hint of Horlicks and Maltesers.

In conclusion: Amazing to think that this is their first release such is the quality of the Rum. Its not just towing the line of the glut of unaged output from new distilleries of late. They’re not messing around. It has a unique profile that shows how they want to pursue their own direction….and their level of experimentation has me really excited to see what they can do moving forwards. I for one cannot wait to see what comes next from their unaged output, let alone their aged stuff. Makes a tasty daiquiri too. Outstanding effort!

4 / 5

© 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.

AuRhum “Infinity” Jamaican Rum

This is another offering from those crazy Danes at AuRhum and this release is definitely a crazy one. But first, a little information.

AuRhum is a company comprising three Rum enthusiasts, Alexander Vincit, Lindy Andersen and Tommy Andersen. These three enthusiasts have known each other for a good many years and they share a passion for their Rum ‘hobby’. But why decide to become independent bottlers in a market that is becoming saturated? Varying degrees of quality and varying degrees of honesty within the existing marketplace are two reasons. The raison d’etre for these three enthusiasts is that they believe that the consumer deserves an honest approach and a good experience when they purchase a bottle. As a result their key rules are based around zero additives and zero sugar. They want the experience to be authentic, honest and more importantly, affordable without having to spend upwards of £100 on a bottle. With all of this in mind, AuRhum aim to create a range of bottlings that are either unique or that enable rarely seen distillates to be enjoyed. As if their lofty, but sensible goals weren’t enough, as both Alexander and Lindy work in the armed forces they want to assist and support both current and former colleagues who perhaps have not shared their luck. They insist that 5% of the company profits must be donated to a Veteran Charity in Denmark.

The aged “Purity” release was reviewed a short while ago and can be found here. Now that you’re back, its time to keep things short and sweet as I’m quite excited about this one.

AuRhum “Infinity” Jamaican Rum – 63% abv – 0g/l additives

The chaps at AuRhum have gone back to Jamaica for this release, and more specifically back to Worthy Park. They have kept things very simple. Distilled from estate molasses on the wonderful Forsyths double retort pot still, this distillate which bears the marque WPE possesses an ester level of up to 800 gr/laa. That’s a very high ester level in most locations, its definitely very high ester by Worthy Park standards but in Jamaica as a whole its sitting just above the middle of the range. But ethyl acetate content isn’t all that should be considered when looking at Jamaican Rum, or Rum in general. Also keep in mind that Worthy Park are doing all of this without the use of muck or dunder in their processes. You can read a little more about those processes here.

Presented at a full bore 63% abv, completely devoid of additives, chill filtration, sugar and also possessing no age whatsoever, this should be a no holds barred ride into some of Worthy Parks highest ester distillate. This is one of just 57 bottles from Batch #1.

Tasting Notes

Nose: This is a BIG one……it makes the entire house smell amazing. Huge acetone notes fill the air on initial pour…..but there’s something really comforting about it. It’s full of bright and punchy pineapple notes. Plenty of sweetness riding a wave of liquorice and that aroma that you only get when fresh pot distillate hits your hands straight from the storage tank tap and starts to warm up. That intoxicating mixture of molasses and acetone. It feels creamy with notes of natural yoghurt. Time allows you to push through into some light mashed banana and candied sweetness sitting atop pear drops, pineapple cubes and aniseed balls. The top notes are lightly floral but always have the undercurrent of brooding molasses depth. The warmth and feeling of standing next to a still in the Caribbean accompanied by liquorice, alcohol vapours and those mildly sour notes. The further you dig the more you feel something salty and savoury grow with black olives and maybe a hint of light soy sauce.

Mouth: A hot one to start with that tosses aside some initial sweetness to dish up a lot of spice. Aniseed, ginger juice, cumin black pepper and liquorice root powder. Green olive tapenade and a hint of flaked sea salt. It’s big and oily on the palate displaying amazing persistence and the ability of some of the finest negotiators to hammer its point home at all costs. The alcohol alarmingly doesn’t feel too much at 63%. There’s a mellowing of the distillate on the mid palate but the persistence remains, releasing a wave of fruity sweetness resplendent with pineapple, guava and banana skins and the liquorice midget gems that are so rarely found these days. Molasses returns on the finish with a vengeance and it carries with it a real salty coastal vibe. Green olive and salted lemon peel but with a touch of powdered sugar. It has quite a lengthy finish but it doesn’t give any more than the earlier experiences….rather it just allows them to fade, but when it has that sweet salty interplay down to a tee why does it need to.

In conclusion: Think of this as more of a transportation vessel than a Rum….I completed my notes in the garden listening to Slam FM from Bridgetown followed by Zip FM from Kingston and the aromas and tastes accompanied by the 31 degree heat put me right in the middle of a distillery with those beautiful molasses, liquorice and sour notes backed up with intense warmth. As with a lot of these Rums the nose is by far the winner when it comes to straight tasting but that’s to take nothing away from the quality of the distillate which is exemplary. I’ve paired it with tropical soda, coke and even tonic….it also works very well in small quantities in a banana old fashioned. Lovely stuff and well chosen by the chaps at AuRhum.

Man I LOVE Worthy Park.

4.5 / 5

© 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.

The Inaugural Scottish Rum Festival Goes Virtual

*Press Release*

THE FIRST SCOTTISH RUM FESTIVAL GOES VIRTUAL WITH CHARITABLE SPIRIT

The inaugural Scottish Rum Festival due to launch at The Merchants’ Hall in Edinburgh this summer will now be a virtual event. Set to showcase Scotland’s nascent rum movement, the programme can now be accessed by rum lovers across the UK and beyond. The festival will also raise money for The BEN, Scotland’s drinks and hospitality charity.

The online event will be staged on Friday 24th July for trade delegates and Saturday 25th July for public ticket holders, and will present talks, tastings and unique brand experiences through a series of live-streamed sessions with Scotland’s leading rum distillers and blenders, using the festival’s social channels.

Festival tasting packs will be sent to ticket holders and will feature an expertly curated selection of rums to help connoisseurs and curious newbies alike to explore Scottish rum and support this growing sector.

The festival will feature a number of Scottish producers presenting their rums including VS Distillers, Brewdog Distilling Co., Matugga Distillers, Wester Spirit Co., Ninefold Distillery, Glasgow Distillery Co., Rumburra Scotland, Spirit of Glasgow and Deeside Distillery.

Dr Kit Caruthers, owner and head distiller at Ninefold Distillery, said: “This is a great opportunity for the burgeoning Scottish rum sector, and I am delighted to play a part in the inaugural Scottish Rum Festival. There is a growing band of producers who make rum authentically and honestly here in Scotland, and we’re looking forward to giving everyone a great rum experience.”

Public tickets are priced at £34.95 and are now available online at: ScotRumFest.com. £5 from the sale of each ticket will be donated to The BEN.

Chris Gardner, Chief Executive of The BEN, said: “It’s wonderful to see Scotland’s rum industry come together. Donations from the festival will help us to provide social, financial or emotional support to trade professionals affected by the coronavirus pandemic, for which we are very grateful.”

 

James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food and Drink, added: “Scotland’s drinks industry has a global reputation for quality, innovation and craftsmanship. We’re now entering an exciting time for the country’s growing rum scene, to be explored by consumers and producers alike. The Scottish Rum Festival will showcase the new wave of distillers and blenders that are putting Scotland firmly on the global rum map, while raising money for a vital cause.”

*End*

Further Information

The Scottish Rum Festival takes place on Friday 24th July for trade delegates (by invitation) and Saturday 25th July (12:30 – 21:30 BST) for public ticket holders. The festival programme will be announced soon and will be supported by spirits experts and educators Dave Broom and Peter Holland. The programme will also feature Mungo’s Hi Fi, a soundsystem and music production collective based in Glasgow.

A pack containing ten rum samples and a Glencairn festival tasting glass will be sent to ticket holders (UK addresses only).

Producers Attending

Matugga Distillers (Matugga Rum, Liv Rum)
Ninefold Distillery (Ninefold Pure Single Rum)
Spirit of Glasgow (Sugar House Rum)
VS Distillers (J. Gow Rum)
Wester Spirit Co. (Wester Rum)
Brewdog Distilling Co. (Five Hundred Cuts Botanical Rum)
Deeside Distillery (Devil’s Point Rum)
The Glasgow Distillery Co. (Banditti Club Rum)
Rumburra Scotland (Rumburra Orach)
Others to be confirmed

This all looks as though its lining up to be great fun

© 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.

Foursquare Plenipotenziario – Single Blended Rum

So….unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ll know about the recent release of the Velier distributed Foursquare Plenipotenziario…You will also know all about Foursquare Rum distillery but if not, click on the link here for a round up of all things Foursquare on the site before we quickly get into things.

Now that you’re back, lets move on.

I first encountered Foursquare Plenipotenziario the day before Boutique Rumfest in London in October 2019. It was during the Foursquare Dinner at the Oxo Tower, on same evening that I also encountered Sagacity. As a group we immediately knew that something was different about this one as even though we were drinking copious amounts of Foursquare ECS 2007, which itself is a big and bold proposition, Plenipotenziario felt a little meatier and carried a little more heft. We all awaited its arrival over the coming months and sadly given that we’re in the throws of a global pandemic, release was delayed for a short while given the shut down. But it arrived in early April.

So let have a look at it.

Foursquare Plenipotenziario – Single Blended Rum – 60% abv – 0 g/l additives

So….firstly the name….Plenipotenziario. The word is from the latin plenus which means “full”, and potens which means “powerful” and it would refer to a person that has “full powers”. So it continues the now traditional naming convention for the Velier distributed offerings which started with Triptych in 2017.

Distilled in 2007 and bottled in October 2019, we know that we’re getting a Single Blended Rum, which is a blend of batch and traditional continuous distillation from one distillery. As is always the case these are blended in the barrel. The Rum has seen 12 years maturation in ex-bourbon barrels in the tropical climate of Barbados. We also get another little snippet on the front label….Heavy & Light. Much was made of this online with people concluding that it merely meant pot and column, but the rear label expands upon this. The Rum is a blend of output from the Foursquare Pot still and also of light and heavy distillates from the Foursquare traditional Coffey still. We had heard that Richard has heavier column distillate but not too much of it, so as I had not seen anyone approach the subject and being curious as I am (though lacking much understanding), I questioned Richard about these heavy column still distillates and how he obtained them.

I asked whether, as we seem to understand from places like Caroni, this heavy distillate was a result of lower rectification and as there isn’t too much of it, whether it required significant changes to the way that the Coffey still was operated. Thankfully, and as he usually does, Richard was forthcoming with an answer. The heavier distillate was obtained via lower rectification without heads / tails cuts but as the still is not set up for this, it lacked efficiency and was not as well controlled. Modifications have since been made to the column still to add flexibility and to allow control of this flexibility, and although they won’t be producing the same distillate they have more range from the column still now. All of this was inspired by the earlier steps that created the heavier column rum within Plenipotenziario.

So there we have it. A Single Blended Rum containing a marque from the column still that is rarely seen, matured in ex-bourbon barrels for 12 years in a tropical climate and retailing for 139 euros.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A little punchy straight from the pour….well we are dealing with 60% here. There’s also a note that doesn’t feel Foursquare like, something that is perhaps a little tar like and definitely more rough n ready and lacking the poise that we’re used to off the bat. A good ten minutes in the glass and it begins to give a little though. Plenty of up front woody notes as is expected with Foursquare releases. Dry pencil shavings initially melding into cedar cigar tube liners. This then clearly morphs into a wetter, more musty oak with a hint of tobacco leaf and wet cardboard. Quite spice led too with cumin seed, grainy pumpkin seed bread, freshly grated nutmeg, black pepper. There is also an underlying astringent, varnish and lacquer aspect to the nose…..perhaps a little furniture polish. There is a waxy, almost beeswax Clynelish aroma too. Working through the layers sees familiar key Foursquare notes such as vanilla, milk chocolate, raisins, light coconut and mixed citrus peel. A hint of molasses and banana bread shows up. There’s a brightness to that astringent note that conjures up sharp blackcurrants, stewed stone fruits, and dried tart cranberries. A definite cherry stone aroma with a jammy quality and an almond like perfumed note point firmly at the ex bourbon barrels in a big way. Honey and warm orange peel pop up. It really has calmed down and become a layered experience the more time that it has been given in the glass.

Mouth: It’s a big one. Very oily, very demanding…..it’s screams at you if you’re not paying attention. Plenty of wet oak straight away and although not cuttingly dry it definitely doesn’t shy away from stealing a little moisture as when the liquid slides across your tongue it leaves a wake of drying oak behind it…..but also a hint of sweetness. That astringency is also there. Spicy but not overly so…black pepper, a hint of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Lots of tobacco sweetness leads into the mid palate which definitely sweetens up a little. Good quality dark chocolate with hazelnuts, walnuts and cranberry pieces. Raisins and candied mixed citrus peels…..you’d also swear that it was almost ‘gritty’ like Spanish fig cake. Dark stewed plums and apples with syrupy juice. Again all of the expected notes are there with vanilla custard plus a more savoury vanilla….warm coconut sweet bread, desiccated coconut and the merest hint of peach vapours but all of these float on that layer of cherry and almond bourbon barrel influence that is the vessel carrying the entire experience. Little pockets of honey and salty liquorice pop up every now and then as the very long finish continues the good work that has come before it and the oily nature of the rum really doesn’t want to let go. Addition of coffee at the death of the finish with slightly bitter sherry and chocolate clinging onto cedar wood and nuts.

In Conclusion: So there we have it…..a 12 year old tropically aged ex-bourbon barrel Single Blended Rum…..and it’s another cracker…..not quite my favourite of their output but with a bar set this high, we have to be picky. Blends rely on skill and knowledge to continually create new and different expressions whilst also keeping core ranges consistent. This ex-bourbon release is a big, brooding and woody affair steeped in the familiar Foursquare vibe but offering a new extension to the familiar with the use of the heavier column distillate. It’s a massively enjoyable ride where layers reveal themselves on the nose and palate and they keep developing whilst retaining complete coherence during the transition. It’s unlike other ex-bourbon releases such as 2004, 2005 and 2007. It’s also unlike the recently released Nobiliary…though they feel connected…this will be reviewed soon. With such a wealth of barrel types now at Foursquare plus the installation of their new cane crusher and distillations using cane juice, there’s plenty more to come.

4.5 / 5

© 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.

Berry’s St Lucia Rum Aged 14 Years

I’ve previously looked at a couple of Berry Bros. bottlings that have been for other people, a couple of Hampdens and a Caroni….and they all hit the mark, but this will be the first of their own releases that I have looked at.

Berry Bros & Rudd are a Wine and Spirits Merchant based in London, Britain’s oldest, and they have traded from the same premises at 3 St. James Street, London since 1698. They have also branched out with offices in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. They have a Wine School and an exclusive fine wine and dining venue in London’s St James’s.

St Lucia you will be familiar with having seen plenty of reviews and articles on this site. They have numerous marques from four stills available and they are not afraid to use them.

The traditional Coffey two column (continuous) still at St Lucia Distillers was commissioned in 1985

John Dore 1 batch still has a 1500 litre capacity and was commissioned in 1998

John Dore 2 batch still has a 6000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2004

Vendome  batch still has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003

Vendome Pot Still centre, John Dore II behind, John Dore I left

Berry’s St Lucia Aged 14 Years – 46% abv – 0 g/l additives

There have been a couple of bottlings of this Rum released, I know of an 11 year and this 14 year. From the information that I have been able to uncover, the contents of this bottle were from a 2000 distillation with bottling and release in 2014. The high likelihood is that this has seen little to no tropical maturation with most if not all of its time being spent in a cooler climate. Bottled at 46%, with unknown quantities, I do know that until the past 18-24 months this bottle was available relatively easily. This is in fact my second open bottle of this Rum. Taking a guess at the stills, with a 2000 distillation it would put only two stills in play, the Coffey traditional column and John Dore I….but without further information, we’ll have to use our nose and palate to decide if its single still or a blend.

Tasting Notes

Nose: As has become the norm now, St Lucia distillers output definitely has some key indicators coming from their stills. The aroma from the glass is confirming my assumption of the stills used. A little sweetness, vanilla and acidity initially and a lightness to the nose that brings quite prominent, almost cooling menthol notes. A whiff of wet mint to accompany a growing medicinal quality, not quite Vendome-esque……more subdued but still light sticking plasters notes, a hint of oil and the aroma of a new air filter being installed on my old diesel Peugeot 306. A little fruit fights through with overripe and fermenting pineapple,  but still carrying a cool feel to it, like the aroma of the pineapple mint growing in our garden. It becomes a bit brine led too with some light salty green olive notes, lemon oils and a little savoury edge before the lightest hint of cedar and warming peppercorn ease in. Not a huge amount of wood on the nose but it is there playing second fiddle to the rest of the olfactory display. On the nose, for me this is a blend of both aforementioned stills.

Mouth: A solid yet not oily mouthfeel……lighter than expected though, maybe the pot to column ratio is dialed down. The initial sweetness of vanilla, toffee and light icing sugar coated fermenting tropical fruit soon gives way to a growing savoury character. Quite creosote like with plenty of black olives, preserved lemons and a large dose of liquorice. The mid palate becomes a little spicier with a hint of fresh fragrant green chili, cloves and ginger. There’s an almost herbal quality too easing its way past the light woody notes. The finish, which is of a decent length is quite spicy bringing back the ginger, chili and wet wood with the merest hint of plasters and liquorice. Sweetness pops back for a fleeting moment before the return of the cooling menthol and eucalyptus leaves you with a touch of cigar box and right at the death, pineapple cube sweets.

In conclusion: I thought it good to get this review out given the large quantity of 50/50 John Dore I and Traditional column blends that seem to be hitting the market at the same abv, tropically matured but coming with less time in the barrel. This is bottle number two of this Rum that has just disappeared, with one remaining in the rum store…that one was picked up for me by Wes at Rumfest a few years ago, incidentally he reviews this rum over in his website thefatrumpirate. The two bottles, both the 14 yr, have given me plenty of easy drinking with moderate levels of complexity and high levels of enjoyment. The rum displays almost as well as some of its entirely tropically matured cousins but lacks the intensity of a little more time in the sun. That said however, if you do see a bottle, be sure to pick it up as a lot of enjoyment sits within its sleek, tall silhouette.

4 / 5

© 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.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to Royal Mile Whiskies

As its name would suggest, Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to Royal Mile Whiskies is an exclusive bottling of Chairman’s Reserve for Royal Mile Whiskies. A large amount of releases appeared on the market towards the back end of 2019 and the early part of 2020. I own quite a few and so far I have only reviewed the Whisky Exchange bottling and that review can be found here. Again, as before, I will endeavor to put some distillery information prior to looking at the Rum in question.

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.

Their continuous distillation process is supported by their Coffey Still , a two column (continuous) which was commissioned in 1985.

Their batch distillation is supported by three stills.

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.

With that said, lets dig in.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to Royal Mile Whiskies – 56% abv – 0g/l additives

Distilled pre-August 2006, this Rum is 100% Vendome distillate from the 2000 litre capacity Vendome Pot Still. It was matured in ex bourbon barrels for a full minimum period of 13 years at the distillery in St Lucia before bottling at 56% abv on 16th August 2019. It is without additives and the outturn was 286 bottles with the one being assessed today being number 043.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Big. Punchy. Sharp. Medicinal rules the early exchanges here and there’s no getting away from it…..(but why would you want to). I’m finishing up my tasting notes outside on a sunny afternoon, this glass is on the table three feet away from me and it’s STILL all that I can smell. It very vibrant and the air resonates with bright, stinging acetone. Fruity acidity. Sticking plasters. Menthol. Pine air freshener. The smell from your car tires when you’ve just come to a sudden halt, complete with accompanying 5ft skid mark left on the road and the aroma of someone melting plastic in the distance. A weird whiff of soapy water passes quite quickly fortunately and as we move past the medicinal qualities the nose begins to adopt far fruitier characteristics. Cherry stones. Freshly cut pineapple that’s perhaps been left a bit too long and is fermenting a little. A hint of warm, soft banana. Mixed nuts and raisins and the sharpness of cranberry sauce. Flamed Orange oils. There’s also plenty of brine and salty kalamata olives. It also begins to show its maturity with the damp, woody notes, tobacco, turmeric root and spice that form a canvas for the medicinal and fruity notes to sit atop.

Mouth: Huge, oily mouthfeel on entry. This is a dry, tannic affair initially with a lot of sharp notes. Not as much heat as anticipated. It’s also a little bit ‘hoppy’. Yes there is acidity there but it’s not too distracting or off balance though the balsamic and fruit vinegar notes do creep in and make a beeline for your salivary glands. Antiseptic. Herbal. Eucalyptus. Creosote on a summers day. Fountain pen ink. Brine. Olives. Pink peppercorns. Fruit then comes strolling through the door in the form of fermenting Pineapple. Star fruit. A little of that banana from the nose. Maybe a hint of candied citrus peels. Definitely thick cut Orange marmalade. Honey. Rising bitterness on the mid palate brings forward the oak, barrel spices and promotes the saliva inducing moisture sapping influence on your tongue. The finish, which possesses some real length is led by antiseptic, eucalyptus, caramelised sugar, Lion Ointment before the oak brings crystallised ginger, growing spice and herbal notes. You’re left with an interplay of set honey and eucalyptus for a good while after you’ve taken your last sip. Muscavado sugar aromas sit with in the empty glass.

In Conclusion: Where the the Whisky Exchange release displayed the art of blending two similar, yet different heavy pot distillates, this Royal Mike Whiskies release is a balls out, take me as I am single still expression that doesn’t care for delicate floral nuances or popularity contests. It’s pure, unabashed medicinal glory brings with it a solid development from nose to palate and heaps of fruit and honey. When you push past the initial notes you’ll uncover a rum that plays sweet off perfectly against dry and they both bring the fight to the creeping sharpness. It’s very good.

4.5 / 5

© 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.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange

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.

Continuous

Coffey Still – The two column (continuous) Coffey Still at St Lucia Distillers was commissioned in 1985.

Batch

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.

Vendome Pot Still centre, John Dore II behind, John Dore I left

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.

Tasting Notes

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.

4.5 / 5

© 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.

Barbados Distillers Unite in Push for a GI

No fence sitting here…..Readers of this site will be more than aware of our standpoint on the topic of a GI for Barbados and the GI already in place in Jamaica. We see them both as critical in protecting the reputation, provenance and quality of the Rums being produced there and economically they ensure that the majority of the value is is earned in the country of origin. We have articles written on the subject of the alleged ‘threat to diversity’ here and the Barbados GI proposals here. An article was published in The Spirits Business yesterday highlighting the counterpoint made by three of the four distilleries (FS/MG/SNA) on the island in agreement with the GI to the earlier article from the one distillery (WIRD) or more probably the owner of the distillery, that is not in favour of the GI and its lack of allowance for up to 20 g/l of additions among other things. To roll over on this one would be a tragedy. No innovation is being stifled, no hands are being tied….everyone can use whatever yeast strains they like……ferment for a day or a month with seawater, dishwater or pond water…..mature in any wood…..use any method of distillation that they desire…..they just can’t call it Barbados Rum when it is not produced in compliance with the GI.

Anyhow, my ramblings are over with and perhaps the strongest statement is the simplest….

*Press Release*

20 January 2020 – Mount Gay, Foursquare and Saint Nicholas Abbey have jointly agreed on a Geographical Indication for Barbados Rum as prepared by the Barbados Industrial Development Corporation (BIDC) in consultation with its legal counsel. The three distillers are the largest bottlers of Barbados Rum and together hold over 90% of the island’s aged reserves.

A Geographical Indication means that a product’s “given quality, reputation or other characteristic…is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.” Under EU spirits regulations, “a name shall only be protected” if the production steps which give it this quality and reputation “take place in the relevant Geographic area.”

Under the GI, Barbados Rum will be required to be matured in Barbados as the climate of maturation has a defining impact on the nature of a spirit.
“The value of rum increases as it matures. We cannot afford the loss of forex earnings by letting this production step happen outside of Barbados” – Larry Warren, proprietor, Saint Nicholas Abbey.

The Barbados GI gives ample room for innovation. There are no restrictions on the type of stills used, long and short fermentation techniques are allowed, and either fresh juice, syrup or molasses may be used. Any yeast may be used, but non saccharomyces strains must be native.
“At Foursquare we have gained a reputation for innovation. I am happy to say the Barbados GI places no restrictions on our rum making methods.” – Richard Seale, proprietor, Foursquare Distillery.

Unlike nearby volcanic Islands, Barbados is an Island of coral limestone with underground aquifers. Barbados is famous for the quality of its water and the GI retains a requirement for the use of Barbados water to make Barbados Rum.
“Till this day, Mount Gay uses the same water sourced from our centuries’ old well to make our Rum” – Raphael Grisoni, Managing Director, Mount Gay Rum.

To protect the quality and reputation of Barbados Rum, maturation must be in new oak or in refill casks from a list of recognised wine and spirit denominations. Age statements must refer to the youngest spirit. Vats are not acceptable for age statements. To protect the integrity of Barbados Rum, the addition of sugar syrup and flavourings is prohibited; however, caramel colour under strict guidelines, will be allowed for consistency.
The fourth major distillery in Barbados – West Indies Rum Distillery – is primarily a bulk producer of non aged rum acquired by Maison Ferrand in 2017. Ferrand has appealed directly to the political leadership of Barbados to overturn the work of the BIDC and has demanded to mature Barbados Rum outside of Barbados in wooden vats and to sweeten Barbados Rum with added sugar syrup. The former request would violate the EU’s requirement for production steps to take place within the protected geographic area.

*End*

© 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.