Rhum St Barth

rstbarth-©debeauchene_tonneauxSaint-Barthélemy, or St Barths as it is more commonly known in English is around 22 miles southeast of St Martin and north of St Kitts. For many years St Barths was a French commune forming a part of Guadeloupe. In 2003 St Barths voted in favour of secession from Guadeloupe so as to form a separate overseas collectivity of France. This makes it one of the four territories amongst the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean that comprise the French West Indies. The other three are Saint Martin, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

With St Barths not really being really suitable for the growth of sugarcane, accompanied by the fact that there are no distilleries on the Island, Rhum St Barth turns to Guadeloupe for assistance in the realisation of its St Barths inspired dream. On Guadeloupe the sugarcane season runs from February to July with the cane being at its richest and finest between the months of March and April….this is when the cane is harvested as it is at its most mature just before flowering. This procedure is mostly a manual one and once cut the cane is transported in preparation for the first part of the process….crushing. This crushing is the vital first stage in the process as it breaks open the cane fibres to aid juice extraction. The second stage is pressing. This releases the juice or ‘vesou’ which is then filtered before being placed into open fermentation vats.

Fermentation is an open air process and it begins within 60 minutes of the cane being pressed. The open air environment encourages the natural yeasts already present to begin the conversion of the sugars into alcohol. The fermentation period last for around 24-48 hours dependent upon the temperature. Following fermentation the wine which is around 4 to 6% abv is column distilled. Around 10 litres of wine are required to produce 1 litre of rhum. The Rhum is taken off the still at an abv of between 60 to 70%.

Rhum St Barth Cool – 50% abv

This Rhum is immediately transferred into stainless steel vats post distillation. Its abv is gradually reduced to 50% with the addition of water over a 12 month period. Around 23,000 bottles of this Rhum are produced per year.

RSB Cool

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The first thing that grabs you are the oily citrus peel aromas that leap out of the glass. There is also a creamy, vegetal aroma. Fresh sugarcane is also present and the one thing that astonishes is the lack of any real sting from the alcohol. It’s all very calm. Maybe that’s the resting time, I’m not sure. There is no doubt that it is a bit of a heavy hitter in the punchy aroma department but it also displays pleasant floral notes, a little olive brine and right at the end, a little plasticine aroma. Pungent is a word that I’d definitely use. So far so good.

In the mouth: Right away there is a little peppery bite though I had braced myself for a smack in the face that never materialised. There is the slightest touch of sweetness coming from the citrus peel hints and the mouthfeel is very creamy. Next to show up to the party in my mouth is the olive brine along with a strange flavour, one that I sat and contemplated for a while and one that may sound silly….but on our recent trip to Paris we brought back some white asparagus…..I’m getting hints of that in this Rhum! The finish on this one is very fresh and green, is on the shortish side but is resplendent with notes of liquorice and celery.

Clearly a ‘Ti Punch (or several) was (were) made…in fact on the morning of compiling this article I enjoyed a slightly belated ‘take off’. The lack of real sweetness in the Rhum allows it to take a little more sugar but the citrus peel really encourages the best from the added lime. I always (though it may be frowned upon) drop an ice-cube into the drink to help chill and dilute if the abv is 50% or above. It makes a splendid drink. I’ve also tried it in a daiquiri and its punch works well. Orange bitters also add a another dimension to a Cool Daiquiri.

Rhum St Barth Chic – 40% abv

Following on from the same process as the Cool, this Rhum is aged for a period of four years in small (200-600 litre) re-charred ex-bourbon barrels prior to reduction to its bottling strength of 40% abv. The production of this Rhum is limited to 5000 bottles per year.

RSB Chic

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rhum is a beautiful dark copper and its sugarcane aroma is immediately detectable but it dulled somewhat by vanilla. There is also a little astringency up front on the nose that is a little sherry or wine like. Oak is apparent and it represents a calmer proposition than its unaged relative. Whilst I think that there is less going on in the glass as far as aromas are concerned there is a little cocoa powder and also strangely something that resembles Cola Cube sweets. It bodes well for tasting.

In the mouth: There is no real sweetness to speak of on entry but it displays that warming agricole character, albeit wrapped up in oak and vanilla. There is a cheek tingling fruit reminiscent of plums and raisins, so much so that it feels like I wouldn’t be surprised if it had received a different cask finish at some point. It gradually turns into something very bourbon like with cherry and vanilla beginning to come to the fore as you take further sips. The finish is of a medium length and is full of cherry like bourbon notes, drying oak and liquorice torpedo sweets. Impressive stuff.

I have to say that besides an Old Fashioned, my preference for this expression is neat. I dares bet that in the right hands, this would be a killer addition to a cocktail.

It is clear that presentation plays a big part in Rhum St Barths existence. The cork (synthetic in the Cool) is wax dipped and a wax seal is applied to the front of the bottle displaying the logo and the word Gustavia which is the capital of St Barths. Talking of the bottle, the Cool is presented in a short and beautiful frosted glass number with metallic gold wax dipped cork and seal. The Chic is presented in the same bottle but in this instance the glass is clear and the wax dipped cork and seal are burgundy…very classy. Pricing in the past has maybe been problematic as it did exist a long way out of my price bracket for unaged and four-year old products. I was fortunate enough that a mistake on an online site enabled me to pick up my first bottle of Chic for £37 which was a steal. Currently the price sits at around £47 for the Cool and £66 for the Chic due to their limited quantity runs which is still quite a hefty outlay though I have seen both expressions cheaper in the past. Personally I feel that the Cool represents the more interesting expression of the two tried thus far and its character really shines through. It is a hell of a price tag for an unaged product and an agricole hater will not find anything here to change their minds but it is a really well balance expression that is perfectly happy neat and mixed and really does seem to carry with it the essence of its origins. I don’t know of your individual financial situations and only you will be able to know whether a bottle of one or of each sits well with your perception of value.

I wanted to leave this element to the end as I feel that the product shouldn’t be judged on this aspect as it is more than capable of standing up on its own, and there will be a lot of people who wouldn’t have made it this far if I’d led with this. Rhum St Barth is a luxury brand aiming at a luxury side of the market and its founder is the ex-footballer Mikael Silvestre. He wanted to release a product that reflects the richness, diversity and opulence of the French Caribbean. A product that reminds him of childhood memories of Caribbean holidays. Following his retirement he spent a decade on St Barths with his family and he feels that the Rhum St Barth range is a perfect representation of both of these differing periods of his life. I genuinely feel that his intentions are good and that he has a quality product with excellent presentation…..the Rhum drinker in me loves the product and presentation…..I only wish that the pricing could make it more accessible……but then is that not the point of luxury?

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Ron Cubay

This is a new one for me and maybe for most of you…..unless of course you’ve visited Cuba, which means that you will be more than well versed with the delights that this range of rums has to offer! Cuban rums hold a special place for me as it was Havana Club Anejo Especial ( a rum that my wife had a fondness for and introduced me to ) that became one of my staple drinks and one of my entry points into the world of rum. Anyway, I digress. It is Ron Cubay that I’m talking about and please forgive me if ‘talking’ becomes ‘raving’.

Cubay Label

A little rum history to begin with. Rum production was first undertaken in Cuba in the 17th Century when sugarcane was used to create a crude molasses wine which would eventually be called Ron, or Rum. The sugarcane that was used was first introduced to Cuba in 1493 by Christopher Columbus on his return visit after discovering the Island on his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. The sugarcane, which had come from Spain from its origins in the Far East grew well in Cuba’s climate and soon became its main crop. In the 19th Century, rum production in Cuba really ramped up with places such as Havana, Cardenas and Santiago de Cuba beginning to produce large quantities of rum for export.

Fast forward to 1964 and Ron Cubay was founded in Santo Domingo, Villa Clara, which is centrally located in Cuba. The Cubay rums are produced by the distilleries of Cuba Ron S.A which also produce Havana Club. The Ron Cubay brand was only ever intended for domestic consumption, hence the reason that we are only just seeing it in the UK with it only having a presence in Europe since 2010. Distribution rights within the UK are held by a company called JBE Imports and it is thanks to Jonathan of JBE imports that I have the opportunity to sample and write about these rums.

Cubay Bottles

Although the Ron Cubay range consists of 5 rums……a 3-year-old Carta Blanca, a 4-year-old Carta Dorada, a 5-year-old Anejo Suave, a 7-year-old Anejo and a 10-year-old Anejo Reserva Especial, it is only the 3, 7 and 10-year-old expressions that will be marketed in the UK. As it has been making waves in Europe, particularly in The Netherlands, Ron Cubay has also been collecting awards with the Anejo winning Best Golden Rum at the 2012 Dutch Rum Awards and the Anejo Reserva Especial winning Best Premium Rum at the 2012 Dutch Rum Awards. All of which is nice, but what you really want to know is how it tastes…..so here goes.

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Carta Blanca

In the glass: The rum is clear but does display a slight golden hue. Immediately you get green sugarcane and a freshness. No harshness at all and a little sweetness.

In the mouth: There is a slight sugarcane on your tongue and a little fruity sweetness. The finish is medium length and leaves you with a grassy, fresh sugarcane taste. It’s clear that this rum will mix well.

I wanted to use the rum in a drink that would allow the rum to be at the fore, therefore I went for a daiquiri, or more specifically, a Hemingway Daiquiri. If you look online there are numerous recipes with varying quantities, some have sugar syrup as well as maraschino liqueur and others have an insane amount of lime. Truth is, as mentioned previously, you will find a combination that suits you, and you wont believe how different this tastes to a standard Daiquiri. I don’t like mine too sour so I opted for 10ml fresh lime juice, 10ml fresh ruby grapefruit juice, 10ml Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and 50ml Ron Cubay Carta Blanca. Put it all in a Boston Shaker with plenty of cubed ice and shake well for about 10 seconds so as not to dilute too much. Double strain into a pre-chilled glass of your choice, mine is a rocks glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if you desire, I just dive straight in.

Cubay Carta Blanca

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Anejo

In the glass: The rum is a bright golden colour and there is an initial brown sugar and honeyed vanilla aroma. The rum smells quite light and doesn’t look to viscous in the glass but there is a nice light sweet fruit depth to the rum that I can’t quite put my finger on.

In the mouth: The rum tastes quite light and doesn’t coat your mouth too heavily but my word its tasty. The sweetness that I couldn’t put my finger on is displaying itself as an almost pineapple and peach mixture. I then get a wave of warming vanilla. The rum has a medium finish and ends with brown sugar and fruit. The glass, once empty, which happens far too quickly, displays the trademark leather and tobacco aromas and it is unbelievable. This rum is so easy to drink neat, I forgot to mix it with anything and continued to sip glass after glass, enjoying each one more than the last.

Cubay Anejo

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Reserva Especial

In the glass: The rum is a deep mahogany brown and shows itself to be more viscous than the Anejo. It hits you straight away with dark brown sugar and an almost treacle sweetness. You can smell warm honey drenched peaches and a little spiciness. This all leaves a lasting vanilla above the glass when you leave it to sit. It smells like it has more going on than the Anejo in terms of complexity.

In the mouth: Instant warming sweetness envelops your mouth and it leads with treacle and a liquorice feel. Almost bonfire toffee. Not chewy in any way but like you’re about to enjoy fireworks! This gives way to a warm but not bitter oakiness and a little spicy vanilla. There is a little kick on the back of the tongue and it just lets you know that its there. It has quite a long vanilla and toffee finish. Its amazing what another 3 years in the barrel can do over and above the Anejo. It also benefits from the additional 2% abv that it has over the Anejo with the Reserva Especial weighing in at 40%.

Cubay 10

 

So that pretty much sums up my experiences so far with Ron Cubay. It’s not as well-known ( in the UK ) as other Cuban Brands, but it has equally as much to offer and at the potential price point, could offer incredible value should demand lead to a presence with your favourite online retailer’s. I for one am sold on these rums, particularly the Anejo which I think it’s a very nice rum to sip at any time and now having tried the Reserva Especial to complete my tasting of the range, you can really tell that this is truly a family of rums and the Reserva Especial is that natural progression from the Anejo in terms of complexity and quality. It is my favourite rum in the range as far as sipping goes but there is something about the Anejo and its taste both neat and when mixed that makes me think that it could become the pouring rum in quite a few bars that are adventurous enough to break from the familiar.

If you are attending Rumfest this year, JBE Imports will be showcasing Ron Cubay and it should be available for purchase there. I wholeheartedly recommend that you grab a bottle of all 3 expressions because based on my experiences so far, you will not regret doing so.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2013. 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.