St Lucia Distillers Individual Distillates

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

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

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

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

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

John Dore I

John Dore Pot Still – 1500 litre capacity

John Dore II Pot Still

John Dore II Pot Still – 6000 litre capacity

Vendom Pot Still

Vendome Pot Still – 2000 litre capacity


Coffey Twin Column Continuous Still

Tasting Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Don Papa Rum

Don Papa Text

*Edit – Countless amateur sugar and now lab tests have been carried out on this product. I can say with some confidence based on the data that this is not something that should be considered Rum. 2.4 g/L of glycerol and 29 g/L of added sugars were found in the result data. I simply cannot recommend such a product when it is masquerading as something that it is not. These are personal opinions remember, but I have my eyes opened on this product in particular*


Don Papa Rum had been on my radar for a while as I’d seen the images from Rumfest and already thought that the label design was a real knockout… looks as though you could almost tear it off and use it as currency! I was very keen to get my hands on a bottle given the marketing of the product, its unique origins in the Philippines (as I’m only aware of one other brand from that location), and the buzz surrounding its imminent launch over here in the UK. I was fortunate enough to attend the Boutique Bar Show in Manchester in early May where I got to try a lot of spirits……including Don Papa. I think that there was maybe a little palate fatigue on the day, coupled with the fact that I’d just imbibed a drop of Brimstone which killed my sense of taste for a good half an hour or so, as I wasn’t fully able to make my mind up about my feelings on the rum beyond the initial heavy sweetness….I knew that I needed a little more time with it though to address it alone.
Anyhow, more about the brand. Don Papa Rum or The Don is a rum inspired by the actions and story of one of the unsung heroes of the Philippine Revolution: Dionisio Magbuelas, better known locally as ‘Papa’ Isio. Initially a foreman at a sugar plantation, Papa Isio, also a healer, shaman, seer, rebel and leader of a group of babaylanes, played a pivotal role during the late 19th Century Philippine Revolution. Papa Isio’s spirit and leadership played a critical part if freeing Negros from Spanish Rule, ultimately leading to independence for the Philippines, his beloved country. Don Papa Rum which was created in 2011 is said to embody Papa Isio’s spirit of independence, irreverence and sense of justice. That’s it for the flashy marketing anyway.

Don Papa Rum – 40 % ABV

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As for a little about the Rum, Don Papa is a ‘premium aged small batch rum’ from the isle of Negros Occidental in the Philippines which utilises locally sourced sugarcane. Negros Occidental is said to have an ideal climate and a rich, volcanic soil that is ideally suited to sugarcane production. Don Papa is aged at the foothills of Mount Kanalaon for 7 years prior to being blended. Bit of a strange one given the age of the company vs the age of the Rum…..also there is no mention of a distillery either…..things are not looking good. Right, onto the notes…………

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The rum displays itself a lot darker in the bottle but is dark gold and orange in the glass. Sickeningly sweet vanilla instantly billows out of the glass along with a little citrus. There is a ripe fruit note akin to a warm strawberry compote. Swirling the glass shows the rum to be very thick and almost syrupy. Orange oils are carried on the vanilla along with a synthetic apricot jelly sweetness being backed up with cinnamon and raisin spice. There is hint of something very similar to Tizer or Irn-Bru and it is all rounded out by warm custard. There is no trace of anything that I have come to know as Rum within the bottle. From the aromas alone I am bracing myself for some real heavy sweetness.

In the mouth: The entry of this is very very sweet and all synthetic vanilla. Raisins, syrup, candied citrus peel and Christmas cake. Dried apricots follow alongside sugary mango pieces. Cola is also very prominent as is custard and crème brulee both in flavour and in the mouth feel. Egg custard and nutmeg is another thing that is brought to mind. There is a backbone of citrus running through it and it is almost to the point of being orange liqueur like. It is a spiced Rum, or maybe a neutral alcohol masquerading as a spiced rum even though it is not being marketed as such. The finish is of a medium length and starts off with orange sweetness and ends slightly dry with a tiny bit of oak at the end. Further sips are not required. The cork becomes so sticky that removing it from the bottle neck becomes a real issue. Most certainly sweetened. 


This ‘Rum’ sits on the sweeter sweetened end of the spectrum and will most certainly have its fans, I can’t see why. It is an easy way into the world of alcohol for those who prefer bold, vanilla heavy synthetic sweetness and it will tick the right boxes for a lot of people and bars. As with most things, I prefer to spread positive thoughts and honesty whilst always bearing in mind that the purpose of this whole venture for me is to get people drinking good quality Rum. Sadly, none of that is present here. I would see this as not meant for me. It would be an easy drinking introduction for anyone new to the category and would hopefully lead to further interest and a willingness to seek out some really amazing Rums moving forwards…..and this can happen….But if this particular thing is your preferred profile, you’re unlikely to appreciate the subtleties of a well aged Rum. My tastes have developed and perhaps matured a little and whilst I have a pretty sweet tooth generally, (though not as much for my spirits these days) and I am a big fan of certain spiced Rums that have gained mixed opinions based on their sweetness, I just find this particular liquid too sweet for my personal tastes at any stage in my journey. On top of this, the flavour profile doesn’t sit well with me.

One thing that I would love to see is a lot more clarity. The label mentions the words ‘rich smooth taste, and just a touch of vanilla’ but not in a way that would make me entertain that the vanilla, or any other enhancement is added to the mix prior to tasting. If the rum were to label itself as spiced and it really does, for me, have a lot more in common with certain spiced rums, I think that I’d feel slightly more comfortable with the flavour profile and feel that it sits within a group where I would expect to find flavour adjustments. I do still think that it’d be too sweet and synthetic for me though.

As per usual, we would love to hear your experiences of Don Papa……We also love to share so feel free to pop in and sample the rum……

© 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.