We will have to get away without an appetizer today, but given what we are about to have, that should be fine. Note that the name of the title might be a bit exaggerated, but at the end of the day todays rums are some of, if not the best, Saint James I’ve ever had. Only a magnificent 1997 bottling comes to my mind, which should play in the very same league.
Saint James ~1970s (47%): Let’s be fair. I’ve already had this and the subsequent one multiple times already and there’s probably some serious bias involved but a semi-blind tasting would be completely futile this time. Nose: If I had to describe it with just a single word that would surely be “lovely”. It is very floral with edible flowers, citrus, red berries and stone fruits, a hint of vanilla and a support from the cask which is just spot on. It doesn’t have too many facets to it, and it also doesn’t have this ‘wow’ factor, but it is nevertheless one heck of a nose. Palate: 47% don’t feel thin at all and with its cherry and vanilla flavours, the aroma profile kinda reminds me of J.M. Then the red berries from the nose, paired with lovely (yes, I’ve said it again) floral notes as well as a subtle oakiness which once again feels just right. Here and there we get some more spices but all in all, this one is more on the mellow, fruity side of things. Finish: Grains, incredibly rich, almost syrupy fruit juice and some wood stay with us for some time, before they dry out and become slightly bitter, almost like stale black tea. This is a rum just to my liking. It is definitely not the most complex Saint James, but oh boy, it is definitely one of the very best. (92/100)
Martinique Pure Rum (Saint James) 1944 20YO (50,3%): Two things. The label says it is more than 20 years old, so we just took that for twenty, as it has been bottled in 1965. Notice also how rare such old rhums are from that area! What is more, the label says 88 British Proof, which, if I am not mistaken, should amount to 50,3% abv, but let’s taste this baby. Nose: Grapefruit anyone!? At first I wasn’t sure what it is but this note is just unmistakable. Then bitter oranges, wood, vanilla, allspice and again the grapefruit. Admittedly, this is a profile that you have to like, but if you do, I am sure you will love it. Palate: Way sweeter than the nose suggested and then constantly switching back and forth between the sweet and bitter notes – just as a perfectly ripe and tasty grapefruit! Then cherries and raspberries, pepper, allspice and quite some wood. I am wondering if this has been at least partially aged in Martinique!? Finish: More of the same with the grapefruit switch from sweet to bitter, paired with wood and the peppery spices. The rum doesn’t have the same kind of magic as the 47% from the 1970s but it has a flavour profile that is absolutely unique. At least I didn’t have anything like this before. (90/100)
Yes, that was indeed rather special. Let’s finish with another special one, albeit one that is special for other reasons.
Saint James 2003 15YO “La Confrérie du Rhum” (59%): Firstly, this is only the second Saint James at full proof (or at least at a high proof) that I am aware of. Secondly, our buddies from La Confrérie du Rhum always came up with extremely nice releases in the past. Thirdly, we just had a small love affair with some older Saint James’ so the stage is set. Nose: At first I thought “oh my wood” and after about twenty to thirty minutes I am starting to think that there’s still a lot of wood, but that there’s also a bit more. I get vanilla, caramel, tobacco, bitter oranges, muscovado and then quite a few spices such as pepper, piment, nutmeg and even cardamom, but these certainly come from the cask. It takes about another quarter of an hour before the rum finally opens up. It now reveals the underlying distillate with sour cherries, plantains, lemon and ginger. A really rewarding experience, if you are patient enough. Palate: Lots and lots of wood, mocha, cocoa and bitter walnuts. Then the bitter oranges, leather, tobacco and burnt sugar. It is a pity that we aren’t getting the full dose of the fruits at the palate anymore but if you concentrate on the aromas more than usual (i.e. use more of your nose when tasting than you would anyway) it is still a very good package overall. That said, I still believe that it probably would have been a better rhum at twelve years, say. The finish is ultra long and dominated by wood, cocoa and tobacco, but otherwise doesn’t have much to offer. It is a rhum that needs time and patience to be fully appreciated, and probably also a lot of experience with cask strength agricole and the Saint James range in general. But then it does have a lot to offer. Everyone else probably won’t have as much fun with it, you really need to get past the massive wall of wood first. (88/100)