We’ve already reviewed one of the famous 1998 bottlings of Saint James where you can find some background information on the distillery. Today we will have a look at two of their ‘standards’ and a rather special pair of rhums.
Saint James 12YO (~2017, 43%): The twelve-year-old has always been a good yet borderline pricy standard so it is about time to review it. With prices like these the abv may be a bit higher if you ask me. Anyway, in the nose I get lots of spices and wood, with almost no grassy notes. The nose is lovely, starting with vanilla, nutmeg and pepper to transition to heavy woods, roasting flavours and dried fruits (plums, cranberries). At least for me, the taste starts with the latter, i.e. the dried fruits and then progresses to the spices and oaky notes. It is balanced out quite nicely and while being rather woody, it isn’t bitter at all. Then vanilla, a jam made of plums and cranberries and more roasted spices, like a ground spice mix that is just being prepared. The finish is barely medium long and probably the weakest part here. It just fades out a bit too quickly without any proper lasting impression. At a higher abv this would be insane, at 43% it is “only” nice. I am quite sure we are missing a few of the notes here that might have come through with some less added water. Nevertheless, it’s a rhum you might always consider buying if you can find it at a discount. (83/100)
Saint James 15YO (~2018, 43%): The nose is a bit heavier than that of the 12YO and much more “closed” if you want. I am missing some of the fruitier elements as all I get are the spices and wood. Probably it just needs some more time in the glass. After some time I believe to find some slightly smoky notes here; I definitely did not have this with the 12YO. While it is somewhat different in its general character, it kinda feels like a stale version of the 12YO. However, it also has some more vinous, minimally tannic elements which remind me a bit of pomace. Palate: A lot better. The profile isn’t really different from the nose but the flavours are way more intense than the aromas. Even at 43% the rum is quite heavy but unfortunately it is dominated too much by the cask for my liking. It’s nice juice but I don’t think I’d be able to find this in a blind-tasting, which is a no-go. The three additional years relative to the 12YO definitely took some notes away rather than providing additional ones. The finish is medium long with dry oak, a hint of spices and the vinous notes, which now remind me of cheap red wine. Just give me the 12YO! (81/100)
Saint James Cuvée L’Essential (43%): This is a blend assembled by Marc Sassier and Gilbert Bolinois. The cuvée spans the vintages 1998, 2000 and 2003 and aged for more than twelve years. The nose follows the typical Saint James pattern but here notes of cocoa, cloves, turkish coffee and wood dominate. Add branches, roasted peanuts, bonfire and a hint of ash perhaps. Later apricots and other stone fruits. It needed some time to open up but now it doesn’t feel like your standard 43% rum anymore. The palate opens up quite differently and it is the stone fruits that I can taste first, closely followed by some bitter/ tannic notes (stem, branches, orange oil). Then oak, more bitter notes such as walnuts or orange peel, foul grapes and a whiff of wood glue. This works surprisingly well for me but going back to the nose I cannot find the same quality, even though it is not bad at all. The finish is rather short with grapes, branches and the familiar spice mix. That’s all complaining about first world problems though – the rhum is really good. (85/100)
St. James 2008 10YO (60,8%): This should be the first Saint James at cask strength ever. Compared to the bottlings at drinking strength this doesn’t smell much more alcoholic but it is also not as intense as the L’Essential, for example. We get spices (vanilla, nutmeg, cloves), roasting flavours (peanuts, cocoa, mokka) but with this one also citrus and stone fruits (plums, apricots). After quite some time also some sulphatic savours slightly reminiscent of raisins. Palate: Really different from the others. Yes, we do have the spices and stone fruits but a note of dark chocolate shapes the profile. Add maples syrup, bourbon (yep, really!), salt and probably also american pancakes and corn syrup. It’s becoming increasingly sweet now and the more I sip, the less Saint James I recognise. What an oddball. Finish: Medium long and still sweet with corn and maple syrup as well as stone fruits. At the danger of repeating myself: It’s a rather special one and I definitely recommend getting a sample first, even if you are a fan of the distillery. (84/100)