A couple of years ago we visited the island of Martinique as part of a cruise my wife and I hosted. My group arrived in Fort-de-France, boarded our bus and left the bustling city behind to discover sweeping fields of bananas and sugar cane. Our first stop on the island was the Rhum Saint James Distillery and a museum.
As we walked through the tour, our guide shared the basic information related to Rhum Agricole production displaying artifacts from the companies past. Sugar Cane presses, fermentation tanks, stills and old bottles gave us a taste of the history of French Caribbean rhum production. At the end of the tour we were led to the gift shop and tasting room.
Knowing that the 8-12 year rum/rhums tend to be the range I enjoy I could not pass up on Rhum Saint James Vieux Réserve Privée 12 Year product. One of the things we learned on our tour was that all of the rhums are made using locally grown sugar cane. The cane is pressed so that the juice can be fermented and distilled before being aged in oak barrels.
The Vieux Réserve Privée is a comprised of a blend of rhums that are aged a minimum of 12 years.
The bottle is presented in a wooden case with a plastic front case to help hold it in place. Dark copper in the bottle the copper color lightens with amber hues in the glass. Agitating the liquid creates a thick band with fast moving legs that descend quickly down the side of the glass.
The rhum’s aroma delivers a front and center oak notes with additional notes of dried fruit, vanilla and nutmeg.
On the palate the rhum has a strong vanilla entry taking the high notes as nutmeg and allspice notes form the midline. The oak tannins form the foundation sharing wood, char, and mineral notes. Additional sips deliver the flavors consistently with the oak and mineral notes providing a long complex finish.
I found this to be an enjoyable sipper. Bottled at 43% abv the rum delivers a depth that we do not often experience in the U.S. rhum agricole market outside of Rhum Clement and Damoiseau. I also enjoy this rhum in old fashions and other classic prohibition era cocktails.