I decided to open my St. Nicholas Abbey 12 and chat about it. I used their website and the book “Rum Revolution” by Tristan Stephenson for the history bit and it is quite extensive.
The St. Nicholas Abbey Plantation was established by Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Berringer who arrived in Barbados in 1634 and had the plantation build by the 1650s making this possibly the oldest plantation in Barbados. It is rumored that Berringer’s bussines partner, Sir John Yeaman was the “cause” of his death in 1660 (poisoned or in a duel). After Yeaman married Berringer’s wife, Margaret, he merged his own property with with his and named it “Yeamans Plantation”. Yeaman died in 1674 and after Margaret died as well a few years later, the plantation was passed to Margaret’s son, and subsequently to Berringer’s daughter and son-in-law, Susannah and George Nicholas. Because Susannah hated Yeaman, she renamed the property “Nicholas Plantation”.
The Nicholas family ran the plantation until 1725 when a drop in sugar prices forced them to sell the property to Joseph Dottin, who then gifted it to his daughter, Christian, upon her marriage to Sir John Gay Alleyne in October 1746.
Sir John was one of the greatest plantation managers of his time, he not only introduced rum distillation to the Nicholas Plantation and made upgrades to the great house, but he also managed the Mount Gilboa Plantation helping his friend, John Sober. Today the said plantation carries his name – Mount Gay. We can thank Sir John Gay Alleyne for two great rum producers of the island of Barbados.
There were no surviving heirs of Sir John and Christian, and after failing to locate any other Dottin family members, the plantation was taken over by Chancery Court in Bridgetown in 1810 and it was sold to the Cumberbatch family and eventually inherited by Sarah Cumberbatch and her husband Charles Cave. It is believed that they named the plantation “St. Nicholas Abbey” by combining the place where they got married – Bath Abbey and their home in England – St. Nicholas Parish.
St. Nicholas Abbey remained in the Cave family until 2006 when it was bought by Larry Warren, a renowned Barbadian architect, and his wife Anna. Under the Warrens’ supervision the estate has been restored and it is said that it’s more beautiful now than it was in its glory days. Can’t wait to see it!
St. Nicholas Abbey uses ‘Annabelle’, a pot-column still hybrid (pot still with a rectifying column) to distill up to 92% ABV producing a light rum. Master Distiller Richard Seale from Foursquare helped them in “recreating an authentic recipe worthy of the St. Nicholas Abbey name”. It is the only distillery in Barbados that uses the sugar cane juice (stored as syrup to ensure production for the whole year) which is unique – and slightly confusing.
Now distillation at St. Nicholas Abbey (re)started, I believe, around 2009 (not 100% sure), and while they do make their own unaged rum and a 5 Year Old, the older stocks they have are actually coming from the Foursquare distillery and aged on site, including my 12 Year Old. I assume it’s a blend of column and pot still, molasses based and aged in ex-Bourbon casks for 12 years. Unblended after the ageing and bottled at 40% ABV in gorgeous glass decanters (I simply love their bottles), no sugar added. Enough writing, more tasting!
On the nose smells dusty, old, fruity and earthy-floral. Dusty furniture, white oak, leather, rose water and milk chocolate. Smells creamy with a lot of vanilla custard. Fruity too, with cherries, dry fruits, peaches in syrup, apple pie, marmalade, orange and lemon zest. Oak spices, cinnamon and nutmeg. For just 40% ABV there is quite intense but well balanced aroma on the nose.
On the palate spices and woody notes come through quickly followed by the fruits. Maraschino cherries, ripe apple, pear, mango, raspberries, orange and lemon peel. There is a funk to it, I’ll assume this is a bit more pot still heavy. The white oak and vanilla custard reappear giving it a creamy mouthfeel. There are some burnt oak, nuts and peppermint notes in the background. The finish is quite long with raspberry puree, cloves and, of course, oak. Some floral notes too but I can’t really put my finger on them. Again, just 40% ABV but it’s packed with flavour.
Giving that no blending occurs after the ageing in barrel, this is really impressive. While not as intense as the ECS releases from Foursquare the balance is still amazing with the oak being the star here. The production credit for the rum goes to Foursquare, but the ageing it’s all St. Nicholas Abbey. They age their rums in the plantation’s old stables which are located in the highlands of Barbados where there are cooler temperatures, theoretically giving them a better control over the ageing process. This rum isn’t cheap and some might argue you pay for the bottle, but in my opinion it’s well worth it.
St. Nicholas Abbey 12 Year Old score:
Value for money: 9/15