There has been a large bunch of special Chariman’s Reserve releases and given that Saint Lucia Distillers (SLD) is one of our favorite distilleries, we did have to check them out of course. By the way, these should all be single casks released for private groups, mostly shops. And yes, my buddies also chose a barrel, which will be dedicated towards a very special project. But more on that when the time has come!
What’s a huge plus with these releases is their transparency: we basically always get an indication on the utilised still(s) and the share of the rum(s) in the “blend”. That said, I think it makes sense to start with SLD’s “own” release, the Chairman’s Reserve 2005.
Chairman’s Reserve 2005 14YO “St. Lucia Distillers” (46%): 2005 was the inaugural vintage of the brand, which, at 40%, always felt very lackluster. This is a blend of rums from both John Dore pot stills and Coffey column still distillate. Nose: My first impression is that this is not as intense as I expected this to be. If that’s mostly because of the blend or the abv is not clear. I get corn, cheap bubble gum, a whiff of mouth wash, some citrus, sugar cane perhaps, quite some oak and eventually also some herbs. It is somehow a well-known profile, but at least in the nose, this combination doesn’t really get me excited. Palate: Very tasty! A really nice mix of herbs (mint, rosary), spices (pepper, cloves, nutmeg) and fresh cane juice, paired with just as much oak as we’ve had in the nose. It’s really a huge leap from the nose but I must say that this very dry and woody side doesn’t suit the distillery too much. Finish: Quite long, dry and woody. Here and there some of the herbs and spices, but mostly cask aromas. It is not a bad rum at all, it is really good in fact, but other profiles work just so much better in my opinion. (82/100)
Chairman’s Reserve 2011 8YO “Lucky Liquor” (46%): Here we have 50% John Dore I and 50% Column still. However, we are still at 46% but let’s see. Nose: Immediately much fresher and more intense than the “2005”. It all starts with the mouth wash and fresh herbs (mint, mostly) and basically it stops right there. Sure, we get some sugar cane, lime and pepper perhaps but that’s about it. I know that this doesn’t sound promising, but if the palate can keep up with this, we are in for a very nice and simple rum – which is a rare sight these days. Palate: This is St. Lucia as we know and love it! I am not sure if I would have been able to point out the column still share blindly by the way. The John Dore I still is just so succinct. While we basically have a one-to-one mapping from the nose, the palate actually offers a bit more in the form of oak and spices. This is another perfect demonstration which shows that it really doesn’t need much more than eight years in the tropics for rums like this to shine. The good news is also that the 46% don’t give us the impression that we are missing out on anything. Finish: Short to medium long and just as fresh as the rest. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t enough oak or cask influence though. A well made rum. It is a one-tricky-pony, but it works. (86/100)
Chairman’s Reserve 2006 13YO “Royal Mile Whiskies” (56%): A rum from the newish Vendome pot still, which is extremely flexible from what I understand. And we did like the rums from it in the past! Nose: Relatively speaking, this one is more vegetal than the John Dore and/ or Coffey rums but make no mistake, it is still incredibly fruity and herbal. However, here my first associations would be glue and ripe banana, followed by dark berries and the “typical” St. Lucia notes (sugar cane, fresh herbs such as mint and citrus). It is really cool how we have this standard profile, but with banana instead of oak in the background. Palate: Kind of what I thought and the logical consequence of the previous sentence: Your standard Saint Lucian rum but with banana providing the main texture instead of oak. But there’s more. I also get salammoniac, something between molasses and beet syrup, bitter grapefruit and cocoa. Wow! Going back to the nose, I can now also find many of these aromas again. Finish: Long and exceedingly dry with lots of oak (all of a sudden), cocoa and earthy notes. While I love the Vendome style, I definitely prefer John Dore in the finish! All in all, it is a very intersting take on the Vendome profile, I must say. Probably not the first Vendome you should try, though. (89/100)
Chairman’s Reserve 2006 13YO “The Whisky Exchange” (56,3%): An equal split of Johne Dore I and Vendome in an ex-Bourbon cask. Nose: Mmhhmm. I get a mix oh honey, sugar cane, sweet and sour cherries, a hint of banana, and quite some herbs. Deeper in the glass also glue. This is pretty much how I feel this distillery should be like these days! The wood is subtly present and is neither too dominant, nor too weak. A whiff of spices here and there round off a rather standard St. Lucian nose, but that’s not to say that this isn’t excellent, high quality rum! Palate: Kinda what you expect when you are familiar with these rums, even though it is both, more herbal, and sweeter than the nose suggested. I get a hint of bubble gum (a mix of cherry and spearmint), wild honey, ever so slightly smoky and medical notes (think Rockley) and later more and more herbal notes that are oh so characteristic. There’s nothing to complain about here at all. Finish: Long, dry with more oak than we’ve had at the palate and lots and lots of herbs. Now some of the honey but sugar cane and herbs are the name of the game. If this were an affordable, always available standard, the category of rum would be safe for years to come. Way to go Saint Lucia and nicely chosen, TWE! (89/100)
Chairman’s Reserve 2006 13YO “Old Brothers” (59,1%): This one is 100% pot still with a mix of John Dore I and Vendome as well. Nose: Dark, heavy and settled. I think this needs some time. There are prunes, dry wood, hints of pencil sharpenings, blood oranges, baked apple and a certain alcoholic note which is not really disturbing, however. It is a very different one and much rather reminds me of Guyanese than St. Lucian rums. Cool! Palate: I must say that we’ve had better integration of the alcohol with SLD before but ok. Once again, my first impressions are the dark and heavy notes. But baked apple, paired with vanilla, prunes and oven-dried oak seem to be a good descriptors as well. There’s also this hint of molasses/ beet syrup that we’ve had with other St. Lucians before. With the third sip also plums, cinnamon, grapefruit and dried tomatoes perhaps. Finish: Medium long and more of the same same. There’s at best a hint of John Dore distillate to be found here. A very good but also very atypical rum, that will not necessarily please every St. Lucia fan. Put differently, this is not the barrel I would have chosen, but I am glad that they did! (86/100)
Chairman’s Reserve 2000 19YO “Spiribam” (53,1%): Since Spiribam just acquired Saint Lucia Distillers, we expect that they also were one of the first to select barrels and hence should have got one of the better ones (you never know, but let’s have faith in their abilities!). This is 100% John Dore I by the way. Nose: Maybe they did, as this is just nice. I get mint, fresh sugar cane, lime, basil perhaps, more or less the right amount of oak and corresponding aromas from the cask and deeper in the glass a pronounced peppery note. Palate: Super smooth and flavourful. Straight away I get the pepper again, paired with vanilla, lime, plenty of caraway, fennel and now clearly also cumin. Where’s the mint and mouthwash? Also, there’s very little sugar cane and citrus left over – I guess this is just something that goes along with such a maturity. Finish: Super long and just great with plenty of oak, caraway, fennel seeds and cumin. However, eventually there’s this one note that puts me off a little bit. It’s a great rum with just a tad too much cask influence if you ask me. It just tamed the profile more than it should – younger expressions work better if you ask me. Besides that, there isn’t much to complain about. I’d say this is the one for the lovers of spices in their rum. (87/100)