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.

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.

St. Lucia Distillers 1979 Ruby Reserve

Released to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of St Lucia’s Independence in 1979, the Ruby Reserve is only available on island and only 1979 bottles have been produced. Changing hands between the British and the French 14 times during the 17th & 18 Centuries, St. Lucia gained independence on the 22nd February 1979. More detailed information can be found with a visit here. I have been fortunate enough to get a small sample from a friend to use in this review, and use it I will. I have written quite extensively about St Lucia Distillers in these pages and a quick trip to the search box will uncover some detailed information on the distillery, their processes and their stills.

Image Copyright of Dave Marsland

I don’t want to waffle on more than I need to as we have some Rum to taste…..

St. Lucia Distillers 1979 Ruby Reserve – 46% abv – Single Blended Rum (though it contains both molasses and cane juice components)

The wonders of social media means that we have information from Michael Speakman of St Lucia Distillers about the exact components of the blend….and it as follows:

It is a blend of 49.5% column still and 50.5% pot still

Column Still components are:

21.5% is: Coffey Still – RR101 marque (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 6-12 years

28% is: Coffey Still – RR104 marque (molasses) – Ex bourbon – 6-12 years

Pot Still components are:

16% is: John Dore I Still (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8-12 years

6.5% is: John Dore I Still (molasses) – Ex brandy barrels – 8-12 years

5.5% is: Vendome Still (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8-12 years

21% is: John Dore I Still (sugarcane juice) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8 years

1.5% is: Vendome Still (sugarcane juice) – Ex bourbon barrels – 7 years

Tasting Notes

 

Nose: Definitely instantly recognisable as a St Lucia Distillers Rum. That classic medicinal note from the John Dore I pot still is very prominent during the early exchanges. A hint of acetone and sticking plasters soon gives way to tobacco and a hint of barrel spice. There’s some real depth to the blend and an element of minerality to the nose. Time is shows a very rewarding experience. Light vanilla runs throughout with powdery cocoa and chocolate coated coconut pieces. Ever present astringency brings a beautiful Jamaican element to the Rum with caramelised pineapple, salty preserved lemons and citrus oil….there’s something about that classic sticky fruit, saline and citrus interplay that really elevates the Rum. Fresh star fruit, mango and guava juice. A hint of grassiness and a wine like note rides the growing oaken influence with a developing spiced and floral pink peppercorn before the well-integrated wood shows as freshly cut pipe tobacco culminating in walnuts and marshmallow sweetness.

Mouth: A dry and quite spicy entry to the Rum brings milk chocolate coated nuts and raisins. Mixed dried tropical fruit and citrus peels. A tannic wine note is certainly present along with stewed plums, prunes and baking apple with a touch of mincemeat (think Christmas mince pies). Syrupy oat flapjacks and caramelised bbq pineapple lead into a little bitterness. Maybe a touch of scrumpy. The mid palate carries a beautiful dryness from the oaken influence and brings cinnamon and nutmeg. More savoury spice notes of cumin and fennel seed rest in the background. There is also liquorice root, damp musty oak and wet cardboard. The finish which carries some length starts off with warm, spiced scrumpy. A light stone fruit bitterness leads into oak and jammy fruit with tobacco and a hint of spice rounding things out. The oak really hangs around and allows the medicinal notes from the nose to make a last-ditch come back with a touch of molasses.

This is a really solid Rum and as we’ve become used to with their 1931 Series and new Chairman’s Reserve 1931, the make up of the blend is really sound with every element playing its part. I prefer the nose to the palate on this one but it rewards time and provides plenty of interest.

4.5 / 5

I’m massively grateful to a friend for the sample. Sadly that has just made me crave a full bottle. Unfortunately as it’s only available on the island, the chances of me obtaining one are low. But if anyone can help me out, I’d be massively grateful.

 

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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 Bros. and Rudd Hampden 17 Year Old 2000 Cask # 27 and Hampden 17 Year Old 2000 Cask # 54 The Whisky Barrel Exclusives

Hampden Estate will be familiar to any readers here as I have written about a few of their Rums. Information can be found here if you fancy a bit of background reading. It’s a place that I would love to visit, to see Rum making steeped in hundreds of years of history.

I want to get right into these bottles as there are two up for review today. Both are bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd and both are Exclusive to The Whisky Barrel. They are both from a distillation in 2000 which would make them potentially LROK giving them an ester level of 200-400 g/hl AA. Not excessively high….but as we know….elevated ethyl acetate is not the key driver to a good rum. Both of these Rums are available from The Whisky Barrel for just shy of £85 each…..for 17 year old Hampden’s…not too bad.

Berry Bros. and Rudd Hampden 17 Year Old 2000 Cask # 27 The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 57.2% abv – Pure Single Rum

Bottled at 57.2%, which we assume is cask strength, this release from Cask #27 saw 194 bottles.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Bright astringent ethyl acetate right away. Acidic sweet pineapple. Model glue. Varnish. Fruit is definitely a key facet to this rum with warm banana and a salty citrus oil backing up the pineapple. The sap from freshly sawn cedar…a memory that takes me back to making arrows in the shed at home as a child with my Dad. The freshness of pine mixed with menthol and eucalyptus. Something reminiscent of a new pair of suede trainers. Crazy stuff.

Mouth: Vibrant and sweet entry. It ticks all the relevant boxes. Pineapple. Banana. Tropical fruit leathers. Mango. Interestingly a bit of custard apple. In comes the savoury side of things on the mid palate led by a very well-integrated oak. Dry and peppery with spiced barrel notes. Olives. Brine. Salty crackers. Preserved lemons. Melting plastic makes an appearance. The long finish is spice led with the oak flexing its 17 years influence. Citrus, pineapple, play-dough, heavy acetone all sit in the mix. Quite a bit of peppery heat there too. It keeps your attention till the death. A hint of hazelnut and milk chocolate play off the oak. A lot to enjoy in here.

4.5 / 5

Berry Bros. and Rudd Hampden 17 Year Old 2000 Cask # 54 The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 58.1% abv – Pure Single Rum

Bottled at 58.1%, which again we assume is cask strength, this release from Cask #54 saw 189 bottles.

Tasting Notes

Nose: I know that technically these are sister barrels…..same marque….same year of distillation….same maturation period….but the initial aromas are very different to barrel #27. Dialled down ethyl acetate and acidity gives way to a more vegetal and wood dominated nose. There’s something dirty like potatoes freshly removed from the ground. The fruit is there, definitely there but it is a background note initially. Warm pineapple upside down cake. Turmeric. Window putty. Fennel seeds. Sticking plasters. Menthol. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Time allows the varnish and model glue to appear.

Mouth: Warming, sweet and quite refined…it is LROK I suppose. Fruit is here with pineapple, bananas, flamed orange peel. Dried tropical fruit….think mango, papaya and guava. Higher abv than cask #27 but it’s more approachable. Light brine and olives. The oak is a lot heavier in this sip on the mid palate. Far more spice from the wood. Fiery fresh ginger juice, a hint of Scotch bonnet and black pepper. Maybe even some allspice. Celery salt and fresh crunchy fennel. The finish is again….long. It’s far more savoury that the other cask though. Solid oak influence resplendent with all of the barrel spice notes mentioned. If the other cask was vibrant wood, this is a musty, older cask. Wet cardboard. Roasted stock vegetables with dominant celery. Good….but different.

4 / 5

Approachable cask strength Hampdens you say? Both great expressions of non tropically matured Hampdens….specifically the LROK marque. Not as intense as the tropically matured LROK that I have experienced but they’re both very good examples and both warrant a purchase if you have the funds. Cask # 27 is my favourite of the two given the profile consistency from nose to palate, but there is plenty to enjoy from the heavier wood influence on Cask #54.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

Mount Gay 7 Year Old – TWE Exclusive Cask Strength

Amazingly Mount Gay have not featured on this site before, but that will change today. With a deed dating back to 1703, Mount Gay Distillery occupies a beautiful site in the North of Barbados in the Parish of St Lucy. I have far more information to share and images to post and these will appear on later articles featuring more of my Mount Gay collection.

Master Blender Allen Smith

Under the direction of Master Blender Allen Smith, Mount Gay are more famed for their entry-level Eclipse Rums along with Black Barrel and their XO. They have extensive aged stock and yet rarely bottle for others or sell to brokers these days. I have a Cadenhead’s bottling that I swear is from Mount Gay and I read only today of a release by a Dutch bottler that will be coming in December. Utilising both a traditional Coffey Column Still and multiple twin retort Pot Stills, Mount Gay produce Single Blended Rum. Their Pot Still House up in St Lucy really is a thing of beauty…..photographs can’t do it justice…but to give you some idea, this is an image that I took on my visit in April.

Mount Gay Distillery Pot Still House

But enough of that for now, you want to know about the Rum.

Mount Gay 7 Year Old Cask Strength – The Whisky Exchange Exclusive – 54% abv – Single Blended Rum

A blend of Traditional Twin Column and Double Retort Pot Still Rum, this Single Blended Rum sees a maturation period of 7 years in ex-bourbon barrels in the warehouses at the distillery in St Lucy. Bottled at 54%, which is Cask Strength, this Rum has not been chill filtered, it does not have caramel colour and it is a release of 2400 bottles from a total of 20 barrels. Losses to evaporation ranged from 37.3% to 47.9%. I have also been advised that it has a higher proportion of pot still in the blend than most other Mount Gay releases. It will be available only through The Whisky Exchange and is now available.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Peppery and spicy oak up front, as with all of the older MG expressions. The deep oak carries the intense vanilla of crème pâtissière and nutmeg topped egg custard. A bag of dried mixed tropical fruit. A hint of caramelised sugar atop a buttery Eccles cake. It’s a well-balanced and classically Barbadian nose with a little more power. Time brings a pleasant but not overdone note of pencil shavings and light molasses. Coconut chips in milk chocolate. Stewed stone fruit.

Mouth: Beautifully sweet entry. It doesn’t show it’s teeth initially. Very creamy….reminiscent of Banoffee pie with a spiced ginger biscuit base. Bourbon vanilla custard and warm fruit cake. The mid palate really allows the oak and spice to flex its muscles. The heat of black pepper and charred bourbon barrel notes. Immensely dry and with plenty of grip. Such a spice driven mid palate courtesy of the oak and the increased but never too aggressive abv. 54% just seems so right for this. Fiery freshly cut ginger, cinnamon and a touch of celery. It almost runs to being too dry and too oak heavy on the mid-palate but it manages to regain balance and a sweetness on the finish. Chorley cake with buttery shortcrust pastry resplendent with juicy raisins. A hint of milk chocolate. Caramelised sugar on creme brûlée. Walkers liquorice toffee. All pinned together with a solid, classic woody Barbadian backbone.

I tried this alongside a glass of the old label XO. Its youth, abv and more aggressive oak approach make it a very enjoyable step up as an experience as opposed to the XO’s calmer more easy-going oak and 43% abv. It’s good to see Mount Gay releasing cask strength Rums, albeit as bottlings for others and limited releases. I still think that their current cask strength releases have their pricing structure a little high to truly appeal to a bigger market, £150 for the XO Cask Strength (which I picked up anyway) and £200 for the Peat Smoke throw them into truly ‘special purchase’ territory. As a group, we spoke at length to Raphael Grisoni about this when we were at the distillery in April. This release is priced at just shy of £88 which brings it into a better price bracket and given the enjoyment contained within this bottle, it’s bang on the money.

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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.

Kill Devil Hampden 10 Year Old 2007 Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive

This review marks another Cask Strength Hampden Release from the Hunter Laing Kill Devil range exclusive to The Whisky Barrel…..my second review of a Whisky Barrel Exclusive Hampden this week! There was a previous Hampden 10 year TWB exclusive released earlier this year….in March…and another 16 year released to coincide with this 10 year. Hampden of course specialise in heavy 100% pot still rums harking back to Rum production of days gone by with the Plantation tracing its roots back to 1753. I have previously written about Hampden Estates own releases here, a 17 year Kill Devil Hampden release here and the recent 16 year Hampden Whisky Barrel Exclusive release here.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Kill Devil Hampden 2007 Cask Strength – TWB Exclusive – 62.5% abv – Pure single Rum

This 10-year-old Rum is from a 2007 distillation and it has only Continental maturation. Presented at a cask strength of 62.5% it has no caramel colour and has not been chill filtered. With so many marques available with varying ester levels, it’d be interesting to find out what marque this is….without that information to hand, we’ll just have to try it.

Tasting Notes

Nose: With glass sitting on a table next to me this rum is so powerful that it feels like it’s beneath my nose. Very creamy. Lots of ethyl acetate. Sweet overripe banana, chargrilled pineapple and sharp cranberries. Again, very ripe juicy strawberries. Something acidic lurks like cider vinegar. Brine. Preserved lemons. Pickled cornichons with mustard seeds. Pink grapefruit rind. Molasses. Warm tires. Melting plastic. Light barrel notes. Sappy wood and eucalyptus. Beautifully vibrant.

Mouth: Neat it is very intense. Initially very sweet with bright fruit. This becomes quite acidic and then very dry very very quickly. Almost disappearing. I’ve only felt that to this length before with unaged DOK. Well stewed breakfast tea develops. The overriding taste is burnt toast with lots of butter…..making this rum an instant favourite as I use the smoke alarm to tell me when my toast is ready! With water it’s slightly more approachable, but still hellishly intense. The opening is slightly sweet and creamy and is all about beautiful Bajan Banana Jam….the best jam that I’ve ever tasted. Candied pineapple. Quite a bit of spice in the form of ginger, cinnamon bark and an earthy turmeric. The oak maturation displays itself more here…and it drags the fruit and spice onto the dry, oak led mid palate. Quite oily and tarry with a real dry spice note. Molasses. The finish, which is frankly sublime is initially fruity with that banana jam and pineapple before the cider vinegar and cornichon appears. Burnt, buttery toast is a real theme here and it marks an earthy return of the turmeric. Bonfire embers, molasses and burnt rubber round things out. The finish is a little short in the end. Perhaps due to the marque. It’s akin to trying pot still rum straight off the still…..initially intense and it then disperses far too quickly. Though the molasses is still with me.

4.5 / 5

It’s again a very very good rum, and all told, I prefer it’s youthful abandon to the slightly more refined 16 year. Both warrant your money though. To buy one however, I’d buy this.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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.

Kill Devil Hampden 16 Year Old 2001 Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive

Specialist online retailer The Whisky Barrel always seem to be commissioning something interesting, whether whisky or rum….fortunately for us, but not our wallets, they seem to be upping the ante when it comes to their rum releases with a few solid Berry Bros. and Hunter Laing offerings.

There have been a few Cask Strength Hampden Kill Devil releases by Hunter Laing of late, this 2001 marks another to be released as an exclusive for The Whisky Barrel. This 16 year hails from a sister cask to the previous 2001 TWB exclusive released in July of this year. There is also 10 year 2007 to accompany this release which is again the second 10 year TWB exclusive to be released this year. Hampden of course specialise in heavy 100% pot still rums harking back to days gone by with the Plantation tracing its roots back to 1753. I have previously written about Hampden Estates own releases here, a 17 year Kill Devil Hampden release here and a previous Whisky Barrel Exclusive release here.

Kill Devil Hampden 16 Year Old 2001 Cask Strength – TWB Exclusive – 61.2% abv – Pure single Rum

This 156 bottle run of a 16-year-old Rum is from a 2001 distillation and it has only Continental maturation. Presented at a cask strength of 61.2% it has no caramel colour and has not been chill filtered. The 2001 distillation date hints that it may be the <>H marque as mentioned in the Hampden section of the Single Cask Rum website. The official Velier 70th Anniversary release of the Hampden <>H, a 2010 distillation of that marque with a full 7 years tropical maturation is a bottle that evaded me upon launch and still evades me to this day. I have however tried it as a result of the generosity of a sample from a friend…..it left me wanting more though.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Astringent varnish. Furniture polish. A freshly opened tin of gloss paint. Intense pear drop acetone but with a really fruity and sharp nose. Overripe banana. Caramelised pineapple. Haribo strawberry sweets. There’s real depth to the fruit and a stewed plum and prune quality…Still quite sharp though. A little time in the glass brings freshly sliced ginger, an almost fragrant floral coriander seed. Toasted coconut. Pencil shavings. Freshly sawn wood. Peppery. Growing oak presence. It starts to become quite smoke driven, well, more burnt splints from Chemistry lessons, and for a while that dominates. Coming back to it, quite salty. Olives. Brine. Light menthol character. Pine air freshener. Intense stuff

Mouth: With no water…..Warming, hot, spicy entry. Salty, zestly lemon and olives. Black Forest ham. Heavy molasses. Dry dry dry oak. With water….Still spicy, still hot…but fruitier too. Caramelised pineapple that’s just caught…it gives rise to a bittersweet treacle. Burnt banana loaf. A nice backbone of oak carries things along. Strawberries, very similar to the Rum Fire Velvet….Citrus peel. The mid palate is dominated by spicy, grippy oak. Cinnamon (bark not powdered), ginger. Strong building site cabin tea. Soft liquorice and sugar-coated liquorice torpedoes develop. The finish, which is measured in tens of minutes starts off with salty liquorice and a touch of black olive before the cooked burnt fruit kicks it’s way in…Pineapple, banana and then a bitter lemon zest. Quite tangy. Very well-integrated musty oak coated in molasses rounds things out.

Well balanced, poised and multi-faceted. Depth of flavour and aroma that others would kill for. Hampden fares better than most when it comes to continental maturation, which is a bonus as it’s all that we’ve had from them for a while as far as aged stock goes…..at least up until the Habitation Velier releases were unleashed….and now their own Estate bottlings which will be on these pages soon. This is a very good example of a very good distilleries output at a bit of a bargain price…..though the previous release was a few quid cheaper!

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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.

Veritas White Blended Pot & Coffey Still Rum

The only way that you won’t have heard about Veritas (Probitas when released in the States) would be if you had absolutely no interest in the Rum world.

A teaming up of two amazing and honest distilleries to produce a pot and column blended ‘White’ Rum. These two powerhouses are of course Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica.

The front label, resplendent with a “Guardians of Rum” crest, states that it is a blend of Coffey Still and Pot Still Rums…..it also states the Master Blender (Richard Seale) and the inspiration (Luca Gargano). As you would expect, the rear label confirms that the Coffey Still component is from Foursquare and the Pot Still component is from Hampden…..the rear label also confirms that the Rum is aimed at the cocktail market…..but its so much more than that simple. There is also a ‘tongue in cheek’ mention of dosage on the label….I’ll say no more about that….but the jibe would fall flat if the Rum did not stand up to closer inspection. I have written extensively about Foursquare Distillery products and you can read more here, with a bit of information on Hampden Distillery here.

Veritas White Blended Rum – 47%

I mention above that this Rum is more than it appears on the surface….and here is why. The make up of Veritas is more interesting than stated as it is actually a blend of three Rums. The first component is a 2 year Tropically aged Foursquare Pot still Rum (the Rum has colour for a reason). The second component is an unaged Coffey Column still Rum from Foursquare. The third component is an unaged Pot still Rum from Hampden Estate. There is no charcoal filtration of the Rum. The biggest component of the blend is the unaged Coffey Column Rum which when tasted really does show that a little pot still can go a long way. Digging deeper, the Hampden marque used is OWH (Owen W Hussey). Numbers wise, this is the lowest count marque that Hampden produce….but as has been pointed out to me, purely elevating ethyl acetate isn’t improving the Rum. The OWH marque, whilst ‘low ester’ in relation to Rum, is actually high by spirit standards. The marque itself was put forward by Vivian Wisdom, Master Distiller at Hampden (and all round lovely chap) for use in the blend and its inclusion was agreed by Richard Seale.

 

Tasting Notes

Nose: Beautifully creamy. The abv excerpts itself robustly on the nose with a little sting. Portuguese custard tarts. Vanilla pods. Present but light and very well-integrated pot still element. It possesses the creaminess and fresh vegetal cane like quality of the Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 and 2015 releases. Light acetone bite dragging citrus oils and a basket of fresh tropical fruit on the table at breakfast in summer.

Mouth: There it is. The pot still is way more present in the mouth feel which is a lot more oily than I expected. Real proper weight in this rum on the palate. It is the pot still that leads the early exchanges. Chewy Molasses. A touch of Kola Nut. Give it time and the lighter, fruitier elements come to the fore. Sugarcane. Light and so so typical marshmallow from the Coffey column. Banana. Guava jam on a buttery crumpet. Croissant like buttery pastry sweetness. Molasses in the finish. So much body to it.

Really really impressive. Prepare to have your preconceptions of young, cocktail oriented rum changed for good. It’s not just good for a young Rum, it’s good full stop. Yes…..I’d be perfectly happy drinking this neat….but it mixes so well. Daiquiris…good….provided you keep them on the sour side this Rum sings a wonderful tune. Banana daiquiris…..good. It even mixes well with coke.

4.5 / 5

A previous favourite of mine at home for daiquiris was Plantation 3 Stars…I enjoyed the fact that it had a bit of pot still in there and that it was reasonably cheap …..I have no need for it now. Tried side by side, the 3 Stars lacks palate weight, lacks character. Night and Day difference

Veritas is around £25 a bottle….you’ll have to buy from a France or Italy at the moment which is annoying…but it’s worth the effort.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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.