Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced

Don Q is a brand that has been written about on these pages previously. I will admit that although they have released some very fine Rums, I usually have a tendency to steer clear of lighter multi-column spirits….its purely a personal preference thing….though if I am compelled to go for a lighter Rum, Don Q is usually the bottle that I find in my hand. The range has some real stand outs including the very flavourful Gran Anejo and the Single Barrel 2005 and 2007 releases. The Gran Anejo and Single Barrel 2007 actually have a portion of single column distillate in them, as Destilería Serrallés has a Single Column Still made by the Vendome Copper and Brass Company. You can read a little more about the other releases along with Destilería Serrallés by clicking here and here. Spiced Rums get talked about even less than light multi-column Rums here, but in this instance we will be discussing both…..

Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced – 45% abv – Modern Rum

The first thing that may strike you is the ‘Oak Barrel’, hinting that the Rum is aged. Now that is not totally unusual as brands like Foursquare have been doing that for years with their Spiced Rum, but quite a large percentage of other brands utilise unaged Rums as the base for their Spiced products. The aged rum in question here is a 3-year-old blend of their multi-column Rum. This is then Spiced using Cinnamon, Vanilla, Nutmeg and Clove……natural spices….no flavoured syrups. Caramel will have been added for colour to give uniformity to the shelf appearance. The second thing that will strike you is that is presented at 45% abv…….most other Spiced Rums go in at 37.5% – 40% (probably as they don’t sell for a hugely inflated price, why pay the duty on a higher abv spirit) so this is a welcome change….though it does make me wish that they’d implement this in their Gran Anejo and Single Barrel releases which would really excel at a higher abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Initial sweetness. Cream soda. Vanilla. There is a warming spice character too (obviously) that is all Nutmeg and crystallised ginger. Light clove oil. Chocolate coated ginger biscuits and a fresh zesty orange rind. This is all carried on some pleasant oak notes being pushed along by the increased abv.

Mouth: A nice heated entry with the abv immediately noticeable. Not as sweet an entry as other spiced offerings though it feels like there is sweetener added. Vanilla, cloves and cinnamon in abundance. Quite a pleasant milky chai latte. None of the spices are ‘over done’…..and the best thing? Neither is the vanilla. There is a hint of kola nut being brought through on the dry woody accents which themselves run through the mid palate. Following the subtly sweet entry the rum finishes with drying oak, a nip from some fiery crystallised ginger and black pepper. Right at the back-end the vanilla has one last hurrah and the warmth of the spices sees it home.

It pairs well with coke in the right quantities (about 50/50 with plenty of ice) but this has been enjoyed mainly in a glass on its own or in the occasional daiquiri. As Spiced Rums go, its solid stuff.

4 / 5

We don’t consume much spiced rum here anymore, but when we do, this is one of our 3 go to offerings.

Better than 95% of spiced rums on the market and it very much models itself after the Foursquare Spiced with its aged rum base yet this offers a higher abv which is a nice touch. Now to just get them to up the abv of the Gran Anejo and Single Barrels and we’ll all be happy.

© 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.

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Chairman’s Reserve Rum

Chairmans LogoThis article will be the first of a mini series covering the Rums produced by St Lucia Distillers. Seemingly you can’t talk about St Lucia Distillers without talking about Chairman’s Reserve Rum, perhaps their most well know brand, which is why that is where I will start. But to truly understand the origins of Chairman’s Reserve Rum, you need to understand the capabilities that exist within the set up at St Lucia Distillers to produce a wide range of Rums utilising their four individual stills. A little background first then……

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. The Windward Islands are Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada. I have 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.

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.

Production

Given the lack of large-scale sugar industry on Saint Lucia, to make their molasses based Rums, St Lucia Distillers import their molasses from Guyana. It has a unique method of getting the molasses inland too. The Molasses tanker ships its contents into a jetty in Roseau Bay where it pumps its contents into an underground molasses pipeline which follows the Roseau River for a distance of just shy of 2 kilometres until it arrives at St Lucia Distillers where it is stored in their molasses storage tanks. The distillery accepts for or five shipments of molasses per year. Recently, the distillery planted five acres of sugarcane to experiment in the distillation of sugar cane juice and I believe that we need to watch a later release of St Lucia Distillers 1931 to experience it. The sugarcane comprises four varieties sourced from the West Indies Breeding Station in Barbados.

Prior to fermentation the molasses is diluted with 75% water to create the ‘raw wash’. Fermentation takes place using one of two proprietary yeast strains dependent upon the intentions for the final product. The first yeast strain is specific to the Rums that will not be aged. It is utilised to give the purest spirit possible and is used in conjunction with their two column Coffey Still. The second yeast strain is a Caribbean yeast cultured from the natural yeasts found near the base of the sugarcane. This is said to create a higher level of congeners making flavourful Rums for aging. Congeners are substances produced during fermentation. These include a small amount of chemicals such as other alcohols (known as fusel alcohols), acetone, acetaldehyde, esters and aldehydes such as propanol, glycols and ethyl acetate. Congeners are responsible for a lot of the tastes and aromas of Rum. For the first 24 hours, fermentation takes place in the ‘Propagation Area’ which comprises a Propagator Tank where the Raw Wash and Yeast are first introduced to each other and two other vessels. Mother Vessel 1 and Mother Vessel 2 which are next in line to receive the fermenting brew. The final 24 hours of fermentation takes place in open tanks. The wash once fermented is about 7% abv, is maintained at a temperature of 32 degrees C and is ready for distillation.

Distillation – Coffey Still

The two column (continuous) Coffey Still at St Lucia Distillers was commissioned in 1985. Three coded spirit types are produced in this particular still, all over 93% abv. Within the still there are 40 plates with distillate taken off at plates 40, 35 and 30. The first spirit type is coded RS 201 (Roseau Spirit 201) and is the cleanest spirit produced. Yeast strain 1 is used and the spirit is taken of at plate 40. This spirit is never aged. The second spirit type is coded RS 203 and has increased levels of congeners. Yeast strain 2 is used and the spirit is taken off at plate 35. This spirit is used for aging. The third spirit type is coded RS 204 and has the most congeners. Yeast strain 2 is used and the spirit is taken off at plate 30. This spirit is also used for aging.

Distillation – Pot Still

There are three different pot stills operating at St Lucia Distillers but common to all is the fact that the first distillation takes the spirit to around 70% abv with the second distillation taking it up to 80% abv.

  • John Dore 1

This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 1500 litre capacity and was commissioned in 1998. Spirits from this still are always aged.

  • John Dore 2

This pot still distills only molasses Rum, has a 6000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2004. Spirits from this still are always aged.

  • Vendome

This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003. Spirits from this still are always aged.

Maturation

For all distillates apart from RS 201 (unaged), the abv of the distillate is reduced to 63% abv. St Lucia Distillers used mainly first fill Bourbon Barrels for initial aging and believe that the perfect Rum is dependent upon the skill of the Master Blender to discover the perfect marriage of age and distillate. They see age statements as meaningless and misleading. The St Lucia Distillers Master Blender, Evanus Harris believes that there is no improvement in the quality of a Rum beyond 10 years, in fact their belief is that the Rum begins to lose quality. In addition to the Bourbon Barrels, St Lucia Distillers are also experimenting with Hermitage and Chilean Wine Barrels; Sherry, Madeira and Sauternes Barrels alongside using Port Pipes for products such as the 1931.

Chairman’s Reserve Range

Now that you are aware of the numerous styles of Rum available for use by the Master Blender, we can look at the Chairman’s Reserve range and their components.

Chairman’s Reserve White Label – 40% abv

CR WhiteChairman’s Reserve White is an aged Rum mostly comprising 5 different column still Rums that have been aged for up to 3 years in previously used Bourbon Barrels. The colour gained during the aging process is gently filtered (at just 15 psi of pressure) to retain as much character as possible.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is crystal clear and displays some reluctant droplets on the side of the glass. The initial aromas are of a light, sweet vanilla custard and raisins. It smells crisp with citrus oils and a little pot still element.

In the mouth: What first strikes you is the medium-heavy body of this Rum. It immediately coats your mouth in a creamy vanilla sweetness. There is a little pepperiness to the Rum on the tip of your tongue. The finish is short to medium length and is full of custard, pepper, vanilla and a little citrus.

This Rum can stand up for itself in a mixed drink and does make a really meaty Daiquiri with the citrus assisting in lifting the lime and the body of the Rum ensuring that if you dilute the drink too much, you won’t have completely ruined it.

Chairman’s Reserve Finest – 40% abv

CR FinestChairman’s Reserve Finest is a blend of molasses based column and pot still Rum. The Rums are initially rested in new oak for 9 to 12 months before being aged in a combination of used Jack Daniels and Buffalo Trace barrels. There is no age statement provided on the label but it comprises both younger and more mature Rums and has an average age of 5 years. Post blending the Rum is returned to the barrel for a further 6 months to allow the blend to marry prior to bottling.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is a brilliant gold in the glass and the pot still elements come billowing out of the glass. Honey, vanilla, toffee, mango and banana notes are all evident and carried on a creamy caramel.

In the mouth: The Rum has a medium body and leads with caramel and a dried mango. There is a peppery tingle on the tongue and once again, the pot still is evident, but is calmed by the slight oakiness. It adds a real depth to the Rum and for me, makes it very drinkable, despite not being the easiest Rum to enjoy neat. There is quite a bit of heat on the medium length finish with that pot still carrying a buttery vanilla caramel and a peppery kick.

Chairman’s Reserve Finest is a Rum that gets heavy use here at Rum Diaries HQ. It is mainly used in Cuba Libres here in rotation with the usual pot still influenced Jamaican classics. I also have my own play on a White Russian that uses this Rum and a nice dry Rum based coffee liqueur topped off with a dash of black walnut bitters.

Chairman’s Reserve Spiced – 40% abv

CR SpicedChairman’s Reserve Spiced utilises the Chairman’s Reserve Finest blend as it’s base. Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, lemon, orange, almond are used to spice the Rum along with a local tree bark known as Bois Bande. This is traditionally used in Rum Shacks to infuse into high strength unaged Rum to create what is said locally to be a powerful aphrodisiac! Certain of these spices are left in a tank to macerate in aged Rum for in excess of 12 months to further increase the intensity of flavour.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is a mahogany colour with deep red where it thins at the edges of the glass. There is an instant hit of cloves which I happen to love in a spiced Rum. Nutmeg, cinnamon, orange, ginger and cola are present by the bucket load. The orange is a bitter orange, a little like an orange liqueur, and doesn’t smell overly sweet. I can also pick up allspice berries.

In the mouth: This Rum is a lot sweeter than it smells. It again leads with a mouthful of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, cola, allspice berries and a little coconut. There is also a good dose of black peppercorns. For me it needs to dial back the sweetness a little but it is hugely drinkable. The finish is of a medium length and is all cloves and ginger with citrus elements and a slight marzipan.

Again this is a Spiced Rum that has seen multiple bottles used in quick succession here. It makes for a really good Spiced Daiquiri and when mixed with lime, cinnamon syrup, apple juice and ginger beer it’ like a liquid strudel.

Chairman’s Reserve: The Forgotten Casks – 40% abv

CR Forgotten CasksOn 2nd May 2007, St Lucia Distillers suffered a major fire. Fortunately the majority of the distillery was undamaged but the areas greatly hit were storage areas. There was a need to find alternative arrangements for a quantity of the barrels and these were placed wherever possible, including some random locations. A ‘memory lapse’ on the part of the cellar team meant that some of the barrels which held Chairman’s Reserve Finest in its marrying stage which had been laid down in 2006 remained unlocated until 2011. By this time the average age of the Rum was 10 years old. Once the barrels were opened and tasted, the resulting extra aging was found to have added a complexity to the Rum. St Lucia Distillers decided to offer the Rum as a limited release calling it Chairman’s Reserve: The Forgotten Casks. Quite how many barrels were ‘lost’ is unknown to me but if this is more than just a marketing tale, there must’ve been a fair few as it is still readily available……

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is a dark reddy gold in the glass. Caramel, pot still elements, and a little alcohol burn are immediately apparent. As the Rum calms itself down, chocolate, coffee, brown sugar, oak, vanilla, raisins and a nutty element reveal themselves. There is also a mango and pineapple element playing around between the nut brittle and cinder toffee elements.

In the mouth: There is an initial sweetness to the Rum along with some bite and heat before it dries a little. The pot still again is evident along with a heavy dose of milky chocolate. Coffee and creamy vanilla are also carried on the Rums medium body. Further sips reveal oak, more chocolate and peaches on the back of my tongue. The Rum has a medium to long finish that starts sweet with vanilla, raisins, coffee and milk chocolate. This then dries out to reveal a peanut element.

This is a great Rum to drink neat. It has plenty to keep your interest. It also makes a killer Old Fashioned with the chocolate flavours working really well.

The Chairman’s Reserve range of Rums, for me, represent real value. All four are worthy of a place in your collection as they are produced by a credible distillery with a good range of stills enabling them to draw upon a wealth of flavours. The prices are also not extortionate with the White Label available for around £20, the Finest for around £20 (also available in supermarkets), the Spiced for around £22 and the Forgotten Casks for around £32. We are into multiple bottles of each expression now and I cannot see that changing. The availability of the Finest in supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s means that there really is no excuse.

There are other Rums produced by St Lucia Distillers and their Admiral Rodney will be covered in another post. As will their special edition 1931, releases 01, 02 and 03.

As usual, we’d love to get some feedback on your experience with the Rums and we’re more than happy to share.

© 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.

Green Island Rum

Green Island Bottles 1Mauritius isn’t one of the first places that springs to mind when I think of rum. But that said, of late I have been aware of the exposure of a number of rums that have their origins there and that number is growing rapidly. Sitting to the East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has no indigenous population. It was first visited by the Portuguese in 1507 but their stay was short-lived. In 1598, whilst on a voyage to the Spice Islands, a number of ships from the Dutch Second Fleet were blown off course and landed on the island. They named it Mauritius in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau. A permanent settlement was established by the Dutch in 1638, and it was the Dutch that first introduced sugarcane to Mauritius along with deer in 1639, but the climatic conditions and frequency of cyclones due to the islands micro-climates forced them to abandon the island in 1710. In 1715, France took control of Mauritius, renaming it Ile de France. It was this French rule that first saw the island develop a prosperous economy centered around sugar production. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British Navy sought to gain control of the island. Despite Napoleons only victory over the British Navy at the Battle of Grand Port (20th-27th August 1810), the French surrendered to a British invasion 3 months later at Cap Malheureux. Mauritius became independent in 1968, became a republic in 1992, and it is estimated that currently, around 90% of the cultivated land on Mauritius contains sugarcane.

Mauritius is one of the few countries whose rum production includes both traditional and agricultural rum. The definitions here being that the traditional rum (Rum) is distilled using molasses and the agricultural rum (Rhum Agricole) is distilled using fermented sugar cane juice. There are currently only around six rum / rhum producers on the island but the amount of companies that purchase these distilled products to age, bottle or infuse is said to number in excess of 50.

I own four expressions from Mauritius, Green Island Superior Light, Green Island Spiced Gold, Tilambic 151 Overproof and St. Aubin Rhum Agricole. In this blog post I will be covering both Green Island expressions.

Green Island source their rums from three distilleries on the island, two that produce molasses based rums and one that produces rhum agricole.

Green Island Superior Light is a molasses based rum that has been in production since the 1960’s and its packaging has changed very little in that time. It is a blend of 3 and 5-year-old rums that have been aged in oak casks and then charcoal filtered to remove the colour that it gains from the casks.

Green Island Spiced Gold uses the Superior Light as its starting point with spices then being added. There is no official information on the spices added with the recipe remaining ‘a secret’ but hopefully my notes below will be able to flush out the spices that I think are used.

Here’s how I think they stand up….

Tasting Notes – Green Island Superior Light

Green Island Superior Light

In the glass: The rum is crystal clear with a few alcohol vapours bursting from the glass so I let it sit for a while. There is an initial sweetness reminiscent of the smell of cola bottle jelly sweets with fresh sugarcane following. There is star anise and the rum has a creamy aroma. It’s also a lot more vegetal than I was expecting.

In the mouth: Instant sweet entry and very smooth initially. There is a little peppery fire on the mid palate and a little heat on the finish. There is more star anise lingering around along with the cola bottle aroma at the back of my throat working its way up to my nose again. It’s a little like Cachaça. The sweet entry rounds to a dry medium length finish with a little zing of pepper. I’d also say that there was a little perry on entry which continues through to the finish. It’s a very pleasant white rum. It lends itself, I find, to a daiquiri as the dryness of the rum compliments the sugar syrup and the citrus of the lime. It doesn’t get lost in a mixed drink for sure.

Tasting Notes – Green Island Spiced Gold

Green Island Spiced Gold

In the glass: The rum is a dark straw colour and carries an amazing vanilla sweetness that fights to get out of the glass. It smells creamy and sweet and there is a hint of cherry cola and cinnamon. It’s the vanilla that dominates however.

In the mouth: That instant sweetness on the nose carries through to the mouth and initially the vanilla is the first out of the blocks. Heavy vanilla. This calms as the rum dries out in your mouth and lets the spice come through. That pepper is still present but this time it’s accompanied by ginger and cloves and a good dose of cinnamon. The finish is dry and the ginger sticks around to make it slightly longer than the superior light. It cuts right through the sweetness and keeps it in check. This rum, for me, gets lost when mixed with coke but a spiced daiquiri is very pleasant and when mixed with ginger beer and apple juice, the vanilla and ginger really work well together.

All in all, this is a very pleasant and appealing range of rums. The base qualities of the Superior Light carry through into the Spiced Gold and the almost fragrant nature of both rums makes it a pleasure to drink them. Mixed is my preferred route to go with these rums but that leaves me wanting to try an aged rum from Mauritius, as if there is this much flavour being gained from the islands sugarcane, just imagine the possibilities of leaving rums like these to mature in oak for a while. Exciting rums from a country that is growing in stature as a rum producing location and one to keep an eye on for sure.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. 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.

 

O’Hara’s Spiced Rum

Usually accompanying your friendly local pirate, it’s widely known that parrots have a love of all things rum (don’t we all) and it was only a matter of time before a tall tale would link the two.

The Story of O’Hara’s Parrot

Expelled and ostracised from the emerald isle after an argument with a one-legged bookie turned sour, O’Hara and his parrot headed for warmer, safer shores. Finding themselves on the sun-drenched coast of the  Caribbean, the two got a mighty taste for the local rum. Morning, noon and night they would gulp the stuff with gusto; quaffing until they were howling and screeching at the breezy night’s bright moon, shrieking in deranged,  drunken unison. Now considering himself rather an expert, and being something of a betting man, O’Hara placed a healthy wager with a local rum-maker that he could create the smoothest, most flavoursome and out-there rum the place had ever tasted. Throwing together the groundbreaking fusion of cinnamon, lime, vanilla, spices and a devilish secret ingredient…….O’Hara’s Spiced Rum was born.*

*may or may not be true….I’ll leave it up to you to decide

O'Haras Close

I was fortunate enough to meet with Andy O’Hara recently and he told me that the rum is a blend of three rums. 3 and 5-year-old Guyanan rums along with a 5-year-old Trinidad and Tobago Rum. These rums are blended in Amsterdam then flavoured with vanilla, lime, cinnamon, cloves and a ‘secret blend’ of spices in the UK. Andy and his business partner Adrian Keogh, already both successful in their ‘day jobs’, decided to produce and bring the rum to market as a fun project with no real short-term targets for massive sales. They are solely interested in the fun of it and it shows as Andy is an engaging character. This laid back attitude shows itself in the style of the rum which is firmly aimed at a younger audience with mixing in mind. Its popularity has led to interest from supermarkets and larger stockists so it’s certainly a case of ‘watch this space’.

The rum itself is a tasty prospect.

O'Haras Bottle

Tasting Notes 

In the glass: The rum is a golden, almost apple juice colour. Vanilla, lime, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cola, cherry and almond like marzipan aromas jump out of the glass and fight for your attention like a boisterous puppy dog.

In the mouth: The taste is completely consistent with the smell. Sweet spice is present initially with a wave of vanilla and cinnamon following. There is a nutmeg kick which is then backed up by lime and maraschino cherries rounding out what tastes like a liquid bakewell tart that gives a little cinnamon burn at the end in its syrupy, vanilla finish.

It’s so easy to drink neat but mixed is where its heart lies. The website lists their recommended serves including such aptly named drinks as O’Hara’s Spiced Tea and Flaming O’Hara’s ( I think Moe the Bartender may lay claim to this one) and can be found here.

My favourite creation (which is not on their site) is a long drink that requires a classy bamboo shaped glass with ice, 50ml of O’Hara’s Spiced, 75ml clear apple juice, a squeezed and submerged lime wedge and ginger beer to top it up.

It’s a rum that knows its market backed by a company that wants to have a good time seeing where the journey takes it. As a wise man once said, ‘rum is fun’, and this one certainly is.

© 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.