Saint Lucia Distillers was created in 1972 when the two distilleries that survived the 1960s – Cul de Sac and the one owned by the Barnard family at Dennery – merged to form one rum producer which at the time was making a discontinued rum brand called Denros Bounty Rum.
Fast forward to 2016 where SLD was acquired by Groupe Bernard Hayot which already had Rhum JM and Clement in their portofolio with plans to invest into the distillery’s aging cellars, production and a visitors centre. That’s always good news and looking at what just came out of St Lucia recently I’d say it’s working. The end of 2019 surprised us with the release of the very first vintage under the Chairman’s Reserve label along with some Master’s Selection bottlings that are exclusive for various retailers including The Whiskey Exchange (which was reviewed recently by Wes here) and it’s next on my list as well.
Chairman’s Reserve 2005 Vintage contains, as the name suggests, liquid distilled in 2005. It consists of two components, one from the John Dore pot still and one from the Coffey column still, both aged separately for 4 years in ex-Bourbon casks, then blended together and aged for 10 more years making this a 14 year old juice (says it all on the back label). My bottle is number 132 out of 340 bottles that came out of cask number 7 out of 10. That would make this a limited release of 3400 bottles. 46% ABV and no dosage.
On the nose has quite a bit of ‘funk’ to it complemented by oak spices. Old leather, pencil shavings, caramel, dusty furniture and some moth balls. Smells old and classy. Tobacco, juicy peaches, mango puree, candied orange and bananas. Sultanas, cacao powder, paprika, Earl Grey and cinnamon. I could smell this the whole evening, but I need to indulge my taste buds as well.
On the palate it’s softer than I thought. I forgot this is only 46% when I was nosing it because the flavours were quite intense. Nail varnish, floral honey, sea salt, cherries, watermelon juice, apricots and tobacco upfront. Has quite some spice to it with plenty of pink pepper, peppermint, chili, hints of ginger and some wasabi. A combo of orange and lime zest tingle my tongue. Underneath there are classic vanilla, toffee, prunes and dark chocolate flavours. There are some herbal/medicinal notes that linger towards the finish along with a tannic bitterness. Reminds me of having shots of Fernet. The finish is long with spices, saltiness and that Fernet note I was talking about.
Amazing sip, a 14 year old that retails at £60, I’d grab one ASAP. For some reason in my mind this is the love child of Appleton 12 and Foursquare 2007. It has plenty of complexity but it’s still quite mild, maybe part due to being under 50% ABV. Not that I’m complaining, it’s refreshing to have something ‘lower’ in ABV sometimes. I guess I’ll have to try the TWE Master’s Selection which clocks at 56.3 % ABV for some higher in ABV Chairman’s. To be continued…
Chairman’s Reserve 2005 Vintage score:
Value for money: 15/15