This will be kind of a unique post because it’s maybe a little self-indulgent, as you can’t actually purchase the Rums individually….they are a choice few individual aged and unaged distillates that I was lucky enough to try during the St Lucia Distillers On Tour event in April. I was fortunately able to sweet talk Dave Marsland enough for him to allow me to decant a few samples to try at my leisure…..well I have finally found that leisure time.
What I hope that this post of quick fire notes will do is give some sort of insight into my thoughts on some of the individual marques that are produced at St Lucia Distillers which could also link into how these are used in the excellent 1931 series of releases that have seen success of late.
Up for tasting within this article are a 5 year aged Coffey Column Distillate, a 5 year aged John Dore (assumed I) Pot Distillate, a 5 year aged Vendome Pot Distillate, a 4 year aged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate (could be Vendome or John Dore I), an unaged John Dore (assumed I) Pot Distillate and an unaged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate (could be Vendome or John Dore I)….there were a couple more available but sadly not enough sample bottles on my part. Anyhow without further ado, we’ll head straight into it…..
I have obtained a few images of the pot stills at St Lucia Distillers straight from Michael Speakman and they give a wonderful insight into the arrangement at the distillery…the column still shot is stolen from a SLD presentation document that was made available to me….
Sample of Unaged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rhum)
Glass: It is crystal clear in the glass and not too clingy. Beautifully pungent. Initial notes are of brine and a sprinkling of salt on a stick of celery. Its grassy and vegetal whilst having a deeper sweetness. Lightly fragrant, with an almost floral note. There is also the lightest whiff of public swimming baths over here in the UK…..a deep rooted smell from my childhood.
Mouth: There is an initial very apparent sweetness along with a peppery celery. It is a little herbal and does for me, display the characteristics of some of the more established agricole brands on the market. In particular the J. Bally Blanc. It is all very light and drinkable with a slight savoury, herbal butter sign off on the finish. Needs more oomph….but that’s not the point if this distillate.
Sample of 4 Year Aged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rhum)
Glass: Light toffee colour and what appears to be a slight cloudiness which could be temperature related. This is very light with no real up front punch. I have to wait a while before I get a little light oaken vanilla. This is backed up with a slightly sour cherry note. Faint pear drop like astringency pokes its nose through. On the surface it appears to have lost the majority of its agricole like character during maturation. Additional notes are of a mild, herbal grassiness.
Mouth: Light sweetness leads with an immediate cut into drying oak. Black pepper and a fennel seed note hit the mid palate. It does show itself as a little more agricole like on the palate as the grassy, vegetal spine is there albeit somewhat subdued. It has a relatively short grassy finish with a hint of oak. It is again, very drinkable stuff and whilst its no slouch, it doesn’t posses the complexity of any of the French West Indies offerings……you can see where the influence of the more mature agricole comes in on the 4th Edition of the 1931 series….for me it is a welcome addition to that blend.
Sample of 5 Year Aged Coffey Column Distillate – 40% (Traditional Rum)
Glass: Light gold in appearance and also quite light on the nose. Coconut, milk chocolate and pencil shavings are the first discernible aromas. Vanilla and a touch of nutmeg round the nose out along with light floral notes.
Mouth: The Rum has a light body in the mouth with a very dry, oaken entry. The milk chocolate is there still along with vanilla, and a hit of white pepper. The finish is dry and of a medium length and is dominated by the light vanilla and oak.
Sample of Unaged John Dore Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)
Glass: Clear with what appears to be a light blue hue. Clean, fresh pot still aromas abound. Pear drops, an unmistakable salty freshness of black olives and brine. That medicinal, almost iodine note that I expect from this still is abundant. Its vegetal and there is a creamy liquorice to round things out.
Mouth: It has a lighter mouthfeel than expected given the olive heavy nose. A mild banana like sweetness brings in the savoury / sweet note of biting into a ripe pear. Varnish powers through the mid palate with black pepper and the medicinal iodine note is very clear. The medium length finish is full of liquorice with the mildest hint of peaches.
Sample of 5 year Aged John Dore Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)
Glass: Light gold. Punchy. Very punchy. Straight up front, uncompromising medicinal iodine notes and light smoke. Oak is very apparent along with a delicate sweet / sour note. Raisins and a peppery tingle accompany acetone and another whiff of smoke. Prune juice rounds things out with something reminiscent of apple and mango juice.
Mouth: An initial sweetness of Pontefract Cakes (liquorice) leads with some antiseptic. Heavy on the medicinal notes. There is a peppery mid palate laden with drying oak, Bramley apple sauce and mango puree. A light toffee and herbal note follows. Quite savoury. The medium to long finish is where the magic happens. A very spice led dry oak and pepper develops into a leathery note with the smoke and iodine sticking around until the bitter end. This has remarkable complexity for its 5 years of maturation. Yes it needs more abv punch (I have an indie bottle that rectifies this) but you can tell that in a blend, a little John Dore goes a long way. I can see how this could be considered out of balance for some, but with the medicinal notes, obvious barrel influence and a hint of fruit, this is totally my thing.
Sample of 5 year Aged Vendome Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)
Glass: A darker, reddish gold. This is not as punchy as the John Dore. It feels like there is more astringency on the nose. Rubber is apparent but it is more like balloons. Oaken, creosote notes hit home with pencil shavings and a mild medicinal note. Caramel and light treacle bitterness round it out with a floral honey.
Mouth: Lighter than the nose dictates. Spikey black pepper leads with a slightly sweet herbal character. Mango and a light honey note fight through before a slight bittersweet taste appears. Medicinal iodine notes are there, albeit subdued they do come to the surface as the bittersweet kicks in. A drying bitterness develops on the medium long finish that leaves my mouth full of oak and fennel seeds. This component is massively apparent in the new Elements 8 Vendome (replacement for the Gold). Yes I know that its noted on the label but its more apparent than on the older Gold bottling.
A little self indulgent perhaps given the lack of opportunities to obtain most of these distillates. There are some of the pot still bottlings available within the Secret Treasures range. On a personal level I have found this run through of the various distillates very entertaining. You start to pick out differing components within the blends more accurately based on their attributes when tried as individual distillates. The John Dore I & II and Vendome Pot Stills are fast becoming my must seek out pot still bottlings. They have their own signature in the way that the mythical Rockley (Style) Still does and it’s that medicinal, slightly smoke driven note (more so in the John Dore I) that adds so much to the blends that they are used in.
With such a huge range of marques available from their excellent array of stills, coupled with new French investment, what I would love to see in the future….and I believe wholeheartedly that the market is there for it…is a range similar to the recent Mount Gay Origins releases and the Habitation Velier range. A rare opportunity to try (at a decent +45% abv, full bottles, maybe 200ml bottles or 90ml tube container) these individual components along with a little background, still history and in-situ images of the stills. Fingers crossed.
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