We’re back with St. Lucia Distillers, one of our secret favorites. Secret because there just haven’t been many releases and because so far at least, the official bottlings didn’t really convince us. At least not to the same extent as the IBs. With the distillery not selling bulk anymore and promises of more pure pot still rums at full proof in the future, that might be about to change though. Anyway, today we shall check out the 1999 batch, my first proper encouter with the distillery (some rather dull OBs aside) next to the 2002 batch. These rums are still widely regarded as some of the very best that came out of St. Lucia. We shall start with a rather easy appetizer, followed by a pair of “legends”.
Berry Bros & Rudd St. Lucia 1999 11YO (46%): Nose: Even at just 46%, the nose is very aromatic and lovely. We get a combination of herbs and honey, which is not only characteristic for the batch/ vintage, but perhaps also St. Lucia Distillers in general. Then red pepper, the scent of moss and humid forest as well as unripe berries. Let’s hope the palate works just as well. Palate: I’d say it is slightly sharp. This is a good example of the not too rare phenomenon where dilution results in a more alcoholic experience overall than the rum might have been at full proof. The texture is slightly watery and I believe that it has tickled out this vanilla-like note from the barrel. The honey and herbs combination is still there of course and it is now joined by citrussy aromas such as lime or tangerine. The nose was really nice, the palate falls off quite a bit. Finish: Relatively long with herbs, oak and the red pepper. The rum might have been really great at cask strength, like this, it is just good. It simply lost too much to the water. RTN (84/100)
Blackadder St. Lucia 1999 12YO (68,2%): I’ve had this rum at several occasions and it was always exceptional. Nose: Just as with the Berry’s, we get the honey and herbs combination, just at a completely different level of intensity. What is more, we get a pronounced vanilla note, followed by something that reminds me of plastic/ rubber (elastomer, you know…) Then slightly floral notes (jasmin, gum tree), more wild herbs and summer rain on an asphalt road winding through a forest. Did I mention that there’s almost no sign of the alcohol!? Palate: Very heavy, rich, aromatic and creamy. Judged by its high abv, I’d even say it is very smooth. The honey is a bit stronger than the herbs this time and the esters are present in the form of sour cherry and even pineapple. Then whipped cream, grapefruit, more herbs, macadamia and toffee/ caramel. Now this is my type of rum! The finish is incredibly long and offers an ever changing variation of the notes from the palate. Now the herbs, then the honey, followed by sour cherries, herbs again and so on and so forth. A truly great one – this is the kind of rum that makes us have this hobby. RTN (93/100)
Cadenhead’s St. Lucia “SLJD” 1999 9YO (70,8%): This should be even more extreme (in the good sense) than the Blackadder. SLJD should stand for St. Lucia John Dore by the way, denoting the still that was responsible for this rum. Nose: This one needs time. After about a good 45 minutes, the alcohol has settled down a bit and gave way to notes of vanilla, honey, beeswax and of course also the herbs, even though they play a smaller role here than with the other two rums. Behind that I get a mix of sweet and sour cherries, sugar cane and a whiff of lemon grass perhaps. It might not be the most complex rum ever, but oh boy, it is great! And at least in the nose we do not get the impression that this might be too young or too boozy. Palate: Very similar. The alcohol isn’t too sharp and nothing makes us think that this might be an immature distillate. I even think that the relatively young age might actually be helpful in this case as it really makes the distillery’s characteristics shine. Honey, vanilla, caramel, toffee, herbs, cane juice and oak are my main associations here but the cherries, cream cheese and something remotely akin to truffle butter can be found as well. Finish: Medium long with oak, honey, herbs and vanilla. Rather unspectacular in comparison. Another really great rum, for all the right reasons. While it is even more intense than the Blackadder, the relative lack of complexity and the inferior finish make us deduct a point. RTN (92/100)