St Lucia Distillers Individual Distillates

Distillers-Final-LogoThis will be kind of a unique post because it’s maybe a little self-indulgent, as you can’t actually purchase the Rums individually….they are a choice few individual aged and unaged distillates that I was lucky enough to try during the St Lucia Distillers On Tour event in April. I was fortunately able to sweet talk Dave Marsland enough for him to allow me to decant a few samples to try at my leisure…..well I have finally found that leisure time.

What I hope that this post of quick fire notes will do is give some sort of insight into my thoughts on some of the individual marques that are produced at St Lucia Distillers which could also link into how these are used in the excellent 1931 series of releases that have seen success of late.

I have covered the various output at St Lucia Distillers in the article on 1931 linked above and in the following articles based upon the Chairman’s Reserve Range and Admiral Rodney.

Up for tasting within this article are a 5 year aged Coffey Column Distillate, a 5 year aged John Dore (assumed I) Pot Distillate, a 5 year aged Vendome Pot  Distillate, a 4 year aged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate (could be Vendome or John Dore I), an unaged John Dore (assumed I) Pot Distillate and an unaged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate (could be Vendome or John Dore I)….there were a couple more available but sadly not enough sample bottles on my part. Anyhow without further ado, we’ll head straight into it…..

I have obtained a few images of the pot stills at St Lucia Distillers straight from Michael Speakman and they give a wonderful insight into the arrangement at the distillery…the column still shot is stolen from a SLD presentation document that was made available to me….

John Dore I

John Dore Pot Still – 1500 litre capacity

John Dore II Pot Still

John Dore II Pot Still – 6000 litre capacity

Vendom Pot Still

Vendome Pot Still – 2000 litre capacity

column-still-shot-1

Coffey Twin Column Continuous Still

Tasting Notes

Sample of Unaged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rhum)

unaged-sugarcane-distillateGlass: It is crystal clear in the glass and not too clingy. Beautifully pungent. Initial notes are of brine and a sprinkling of salt on a stick of celery. Its grassy and vegetal whilst having a deeper sweetness. Lightly fragrant, with an almost floral note. There is also the lightest whiff of public swimming baths over here in the UK…..a deep rooted smell from my childhood.

Mouth: There is an initial very apparent sweetness along with a peppery celery.  It is a little herbal and does for me, display the characteristics of some of the more established agricole brands on the market. In particular the J. Bally Blanc. It is all very light and drinkable with a slight savoury, herbal butter sign off on the finish. Needs more oomph….but that’s not the point if this distillate.

Sample of 4 Year Aged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rhum)

four-year-sugarcane-distillateGlass: Light toffee colour and what appears to be a slight cloudiness which could be temperature related. This is very light with no real up front punch. I have to wait a while before I get a little light oaken vanilla. This is backed up with a slightly sour cherry note. Faint pear drop like astringency pokes its nose through. On the surface it appears to have lost the majority of its agricole like character during maturation. Additional notes are of a mild, herbal grassiness.

Mouth: Light sweetness leads with an immediate cut into drying oak. Black pepper and a fennel seed note hit the mid palate. It does show itself as a little more agricole like on the palate as the grassy, vegetal spine is there albeit somewhat subdued. It has a relatively short grassy finish with a hint of oak. It is again, very drinkable stuff and whilst its no slouch, it doesn’t posses the complexity of any of the French West Indies offerings……you can see where the influence of the more mature agricole comes in on the 4th Edition of the 1931 series….for me it is a welcome addition to that blend.

Sample of 5 Year Aged Coffey Column Distillate – 40% (Traditional Rum)

five year aged column distillateGlass: Light gold in appearance and also quite light on the nose. Coconut, milk chocolate and pencil shavings are the first discernible aromas. Vanilla and a touch of nutmeg round the nose out along with light floral notes.

Mouth: The Rum has a light body in the mouth with a very dry, oaken entry. The milk chocolate is there still along with vanilla, and a hit of white pepper. The finish is dry and of a medium length and is dominated by the light vanilla and oak.

Sample of Unaged John Dore Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)

unaged john dore distillateGlass: Clear with what appears to be a light blue hue. Clean, fresh pot still aromas abound. Pear drops, an unmistakable salty freshness of black olives and brine. That medicinal, almost iodine note that I expect from this still is abundant. Its vegetal and there is a creamy liquorice to round things out.

Mouth: It has a lighter mouthfeel than expected given the olive heavy nose. A mild banana like sweetness brings in the savoury / sweet note of biting into a ripe pear. Varnish powers through the mid palate with black pepper and the medicinal iodine note is very clear. The medium length finish is full of liquorice with the mildest hint of peaches.

Sample of 5 year Aged John Dore Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)

five year aged john dore distillateGlass: Light gold. Punchy. Very punchy. Straight up front, uncompromising medicinal iodine notes and light smoke. Oak is very apparent along with a delicate sweet / sour note. Raisins and a peppery tingle accompany acetone and another whiff of smoke. Prune juice rounds things out with something reminiscent of apple and mango juice.

Mouth: An initial sweetness of Pontefract Cakes (liquorice) leads with some antiseptic. Heavy on the medicinal notes. There is a peppery mid palate laden with drying oak, Bramley apple sauce and mango puree. A light toffee and herbal note follows. Quite savoury. The medium to long finish is where the magic happens. A very spice led dry oak and pepper develops into a leathery note with the smoke and iodine sticking around until the bitter end. This has remarkable complexity for its 5 years of maturation. Yes it needs more abv punch (I have an indie bottle that rectifies this) but you can tell that in a blend, a little John Dore goes a long way.  I can see how this could be considered out of balance for some, but with the medicinal notes, obvious barrel influence and a hint of fruit, this is totally my thing.

Sample of 5 year Aged Vendome Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)

five year aged vendome distillateGlass: A darker, reddish gold. This is not as punchy as the John Dore. It feels like there is more astringency on the nose. Rubber is apparent but it is more like balloons. Oaken, creosote notes hit home with pencil shavings and a mild medicinal note. Caramel and light treacle bitterness round it out with a floral honey.

Mouth: Lighter than the nose dictates. Spikey black pepper leads with a slightly sweet herbal character. Mango and a light honey note fight through before a slight bittersweet taste appears. Medicinal iodine notes are there, albeit subdued they do come to the surface as the bittersweet kicks in. A drying bitterness develops on the medium long finish that leaves my mouth full of oak and fennel seeds. This component is massively apparent in the new Elements 8 Vendome (replacement for the Gold). Yes I know that its noted on the label but its more apparent than on the older Gold bottling.

A little self indulgent perhaps given the lack of opportunities to obtain most of these distillates. There are some of the pot still bottlings available within the Secret Treasures range. On a personal level I have found this run through of the various distillates very entertaining. You start to pick out differing components within the blends more accurately based on their attributes when tried as individual distillates. The John Dore I & II and Vendome Pot Stills are fast becoming my must seek out pot still bottlings. They have their own signature in the way that the mythical Rockley (Style) Still does and it’s that medicinal, slightly smoke driven note (more so in the John Dore I) that adds so much to the blends that they are used in.

With such a huge range of marques available from their excellent array of stills, coupled with new French investment, what I would love to see in the future….and I believe wholeheartedly that the market is there for it…is a range similar to the recent Mount Gay Origins releases and the Habitation Velier range. A rare opportunity to try (at a decent +45% abv, full bottles, maybe 200ml bottles or 90ml tube container) these individual components along with a little background, still history and in-situ images of the stills. Fingers crossed.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. 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.

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Admiral Rodney

As a continuation of the mini-series of posts centering around the Rums produced at St Lucia Distillers, this article is all about Admiral Rodney Extra Old St Lucia Rum. I would suggest a quick read of the earlier article on Chairman’s Reserve Rums to give you an insight into the range of Rums produced by St Lucia Distillers

Now you’re back, we need to find our exactly who this Admiral Rodney chap is. Born on 13th February 1718 in Walton-on-Thames, George Brydges Rodney was a British Naval Officer. He is known for his commands in the American War of Independence and in particular, his victory over the French at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. He is also thought to have pioneered the tactic of ‘breaking the line’ which sees the British Navy with its superior firepower concentrate on specific parts of the enemy fleet, preferably the rear, to break down the enemy line as the centre will lose time by turning to support the rear. Moving on, in 1761, Admiral Rodney was elected MP for Penryn. Lord Anson then selected him to command the naval element on a planned amphibious attack on the lucrative and strategically important French colony of Martinique following a similar failed attack in 1759. The land forces were to be a combination of troops from numerous locations including Europe and additional reinforcements were sent from New York who were available following the Conquest of Canada in 1760. During 1761, Martinique was blockaded by Sir James Douglas to prevent supplies and reinforcements from reaching it. Within the first three months of 1762 Rodney had made serious movements towards capturing Martinique whilst both St Lucia and Grenada had surrendered to him and his squadron. Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, part of the peace terms saw Martinique returned to the French. By the spring of 1782, the French fleet had its eyes fixed on the Caribbean sugar islands. Admiral Rodney was aware of their intentions as from his vantage point on St Lucia he saw the French fleet depart for Jamaica. He pursued and confronted the fleet on 12th April, beginning the Battle of the Saints. The two fleets were in line on opposing courses when a change in wind direction confused the French and gaps began to appear within their line. Spotting his opportunity, Admiral Rodney ordered his ships to turn 90 degrees and break the French line allowing the English guns on both sides to bombard the French with little chance of reprisal. As the French line could not be reformed, Admiral Rodney was victorious. Anyhow, that’s it for the history lesson…..

Admiral Rodney Extra Old St Lucia Rum – 40% abv

Admiral RodneyAdmiral Rodney is a blend of 100% column still Rums that have been aged in used bourbon barrels for an average of 12 years. The blend itself utilises Rums taken from a number of plate levels on the two column Coffey Still at St Lucia Distillers and will include RS 203 (Roseau Spirit 203) and RS 204 (Roseau Spirit 204) with their medium and high levels of congeners as mentioned in the previous article, but all Rums within the blend will have been chosen specifically to add to the complexity of Admiral Rodney. Apparently it is also the intention of St Lucia Distillers, as they gain more aged stock, to increase the average age of the blend to 15 years.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is a dark coppery bronze in the glass and the initial aromas are of deep vanilla, oak, cherry and toffee. There is also a dryness to the aromas coming from the oak. Dried fruits like raisins, banana chips and apple pieces are also apparent and there is a spice tingle to the Rum. I can also smell pear spirit and bourbon. Longer time in the glass reveals leather and peanuts. I’m expecting a meaty, deep Rum….

In the mouth: There is an initial sweetness but that dries quite rapidly. The mouthfeel is not as thick as expected when comparing it to the nose as it has a medium body. There is a light caramel and plenty of oak followed with nutmeg on the tip of my tongue there is a peppery bite to the Rum. That dried banana, apple and those raisins and peanuts come back into play alongside light vanilla. The oak is really dominant on this Rum but it does allow a good balance between the sweet and dry. It just needs a little more punch. I think that I expected a little more from the flavours given the intensity of the aromas so my initial thoughts were slightly subdued due to what I found. (Note: I revisited my initial three nights with further visits to the bottle over week later). Given time, the pear spirit is more apparent along with a touch of smoke. The Rum feels sweeter, calmer, woodier and I am enjoying it a lot more on this occasion. The spices and wood are well-tempered by the spirit and it feels more complete and well-rounded. The finish is of a medium length and starts spicy but ends with oak and lots of banana. This is my second bottle (I inhaled the first a few year back prior to deciding to write about Rum) and I still believe that the aromas promise something really deep and heavy but the flavours lack some meat on their bones that maybe a little addition of a pot distilled Rum would add, but that may just be me. It is however one of the best examples out there of a very flavourful column spirit that offers a lot, gets better with repeated visits and continues the award-winning performance of Rums from St Lucia Distillers.

I’ve never tried this Rum in any way other than neat, no ice, no mixers. That’s just how I enjoy it, but the extent to which I enjoy it does seem to be mood dependent. It sits at around £43 a bottle (I paid slightly more for both of mine as I picked them up from a local independent shop) and it is in a crowded price bracket with some amazing Rums…..what should give you a level of comfort though is the fact that I’ve not tasted a bad Rum from St Lucia Distillers yet on my Rum journey…..and long may that continue. Again, I’d love to hear your experience with this Rum.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. 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.