We are in the mood for Saint James, especially since we just managed to get samples of two very promising (and hyped bottlings). We did also find some much older stuff in the library but shall reserve this for some other time. Put differently, we will stay in the current century, but as we shall see, even that can already produce 20YO, tropically aged Rhums. Good lord. Let’s have a standard as a starter, however.
Saint James Fleur de Canne Vieux (42%): I think this is a rather lower-tier expression from Saint James but it should be between four and five years old nevertheless. Nose: Quite uncharacteristic with tobacco, aromatic leaf bitters, mocha, a whiff of cocoa and indeed more of those rather aromatic and slightly smoky tobacco leafs. Quite nice, even though it is very simple and one-dimensional. While reading these lines again, I notice that the discription of the profile is actually rather standard, but this one is kinda atypical nevertheless. Palate: More of the same, and thinner than the nose. Slightly smoky tobacco meets notes of dark chocolate, nuts and oak. I bet a good bartender can make one heckuva drink with this but as far as neat sipping is concerned, it just isn’t quite there with the top end expressions. Finish: Once again, more of the same, but kinda short, even though those tobacco leafs indeed stick around for quite a bit. It’s not a good Rum, but I think it is important to have bottlings like these from time to time in order to fully appreciate the real gems out there. (68/100)
Saint James 2008 10YO (bottled for V&B, 62,1%): Nose: Might this be the perfect age for these type of Rhums!? It starts with fresh cane juice but quickly adds oak, spices, more grassy notes and herbs. After a while also tobacco, pomegranate, hints of coffee and definitely cardamom. If the palate can keep up with this we are in for something very good! Palate: You don’t really notice the high abv, which is kinda surprising I think. We get oranges, oak, sugar cane juice, cold brew coffee, spices (from the cask I think), chocolate mint, a hint of juniper, sage and that pomegranate again. What a wild ride! This is unlike any other Saint James I am aware of and blindly I surely wouldn’t have detected it as one! Finish: Relatively long and going back and forth between the notes of the distillate and those that have been added by the cask, which makes for a very interesting interplay. I think this one already joined my personal Saint James top five but we shouldn’t jump to early conclusions, after all there are still a few top notch expressions (on paper) left today. (87/100)
Velier Elliott Erwitt Saint James 2006 15YO (45%): I don’t think I have to introduce Elliott Erwitt to you, right!? Anyway, this is the Saint James bottling of that small series by Velier. What puzzles me a bit is the reduction with this bottling but it is what it is. Nose: Extremely dusty and reserved. It takes some time until notes of cocoa, dark roasted coffee beans and oak come through. Here and there we can detect a few bitter notes but even after a good half an hour there’s nothing fruity whatsoever. Then a mix of spices – the Rhum now definitely resembles some old Demeraras if you ask me. Palate: Slightly bitter, spicy and adstringent with mocha, espresso, cocoa and a mix of spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. This reminds me of Indian coffee, just without the sweetness and milk or, while we are at these comparisons, certain Armagnacs. It does have those notes that are often times described as Rancio. I must say that I kinda like this one, and the low abv is no problem at all here. With the fifth or sixth sip I also get rosewater and jasmin petals, mild green tea perhaps and a few nutty notes. Yup, it works! Finish: Relatively long and slightly bitter with espresso, oak, tannins and wood. It is very nice and mouth-watering. A seriously good Rum and you don’t hear us say often times that 45% seems to be ideal. (87/100)
St. James “La Confrérie du Rhum” 2003 15YO Batch 2 (56,4%): The first edition was a very good woodworm and I guess that the profile isn’t going to be very different with this Rhum. Nose: Indeed, we get wood, cocoa, coffee and more wood but you’ll immediately notice that it deviates a bit from the first batch. While the former had these somewhat subtle notes of caramel, orange bitters and tropical spices, this one is stronger on coffee and herbs perhaps (think thyme). After some time we also get a few glue-like notes, pepper and different woods. Not bad at all! Palate: Quite bitter and woody, and unfortunately not as layered as the nose. Fir cone, resin, glue, wood, cocoa and coffee are strong notes, as is mint/ menthol towards the finish; the nose just was a bit more promising however. Don’t get me wrong, this is still quite good, but a small let-down nevertheless. On the plus side we might record that it is a bit less woody than the first batch, for what it is worth. Finish: Quite long with herbs, wood, Rancio, some bitter notes and that lovely adstringency that often times come with old Saint James. All in all, the difference are relatively minor between the batches after all, but they do exist. (87/100)
Saint James 2001 20YO (bottled for V&B, 57,6%): I don’t want to say it out loud but we have been spoilt a bit by full proof Agricoles lately. From a relative historical perspective, that is. Nose: Plenty of wood but also menthol, herbs, unripe plums and cherries, apples, ginger and indeed, freshly cut grass. I am already getting some bitter impressions akin to over-extracted black tea as well but we should take a sip before jumping to potentially early conclusions. Palate: Not too bitter at all. While there’s lots of wood (which was to be expected), this is still a rather lively distillate, way more so than the 2003s for example. A mix of tropical and continental fruits, fried cinnamon, cloves, burnt caramel and sweet Turkish coffee would be my main associations. Next we get both, milk and dark chocolate, the fresh grass as well as more and more spices. I have absolutely nothing to complain about here! Finish: Long and slightly bitter with oak, plums and the full dose of spices. While it is essentially just an extension of the palate, I really love this finish I must say. Pretty neat stuff, even though I know that my Rum buddies have been celebrating this a bit more than I do. For me, this is as good as Saint James gets I think. (89/100)
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