Review: Chairman’s Reserve 2009 Vintage

Chairman’s Reserve 2009 comes from Saint Lucia and is made by Saint Lucia Distillers (SLD), the island’s sole distillery. There’s quite an array of diverse rums made at SLD such as Bounty, Admiral Rodney, Chairman’s Reserve, the locally enjoyed Denros Strong Rum, and also some other liqueurs and wines.

The Chairman’s brand started in 1999 when it was first blended and overseen by the Chairman at the time, Laurie Barnard, and it became a staple of the distillery ever since. The Chairman’s core range consists of Chairman’s Reserve, Chairman’s Reserve Spiced, Chairman’s Forgotten Casks and Chairman’s Legacy plus a number of limited releases under the same brand.

There is a fairly large number of different rums coming out of one distillery and that is thanks to the production processes employed by them. They use molasses imported from the Dominican Republic and small amounts of sugar cane juice sourced from sugar cane grown close to the distillery. The fermentation is 36 hours long and it occurs in 8 open fermentation tanks using 2 different types of yeast with the ferment reaching 7% ABV before being distilled. The distilling equipment at SDL is quite varied as well, they have a coffey still and a number of pot stills as it follows:

  • Vendome Still – 1364 litre hybrid still with 9 plates that uses batch distillation – installed in 2003;
  • John Dore I Still – 450 litre pot still – installed in 1998;
  • John Dore II Still – 6000 litre pot still – installed in 2005;
  • Coffey Still – column still with 45 plates, used to distill between 93% and 95% ABV – installed in 1985.

Everything is then aged on site in the tropical climate, using mostly ex-Bourbon casks, but they do use former Port casks as well. The blending is the most important process according to their website, with Head Blender Deny Duplessis being in charge of it.

Chairman’s Reserve 2009 is the second limited vintage release after their 2005. I’ve been told this is entirely molasses based, fermented for 36 hours and then distilled in a combination of the Coffey Still and pot stills with a 1:1 ratio between the John Dore II Still and Vendome still. The components have been aged separately for 11 years in ex-Bourbon casks and 6 more weeks after blending. The whole marriage then spent some time in a wooden vat to rest before being bottled at 46% ABV without any extra additions.

On the nose there’s a savoury note to it. Green olives brine, freshly baked bread, wasabi, mothballs and unripe stonefruits. Smoked almonds, Buffalo Hot Sauce, dusty furniture and dry tobacco. Just polished shoes, new leather and cardboard. Very interesting and fairly pungent profile. Some brown sugar and cinnamon as well.

On the palate there are layers over layers. After Eights, grapefruit zest, wasabi, caramel, stone fruits and black pepper. Warm with ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Some ripe banana, mango, lime juice, Fernet Branca and pears. Spicy and fruity, it has quite an array of flavours. Tobacco, balsamic vinegar, cappuccino and kiwi. The finish is long with coriander and stone fruits.

I have some Chairman’s 2005 left and comparing the two I can see the 2009 is focused more on the pungency of the distillate while the 2005 has more barrel influence going on. I do slightly prefer the 2009 as it doesn’t have the tannic bitterness the 2005 presents, instead it’s brighter and fruitier.

I can see why this won gold at the International Spirits Challenge, it’s an amazing drop. It retails around the £67 mark which is a good price considering the quality of the rum vintages coming out lately.

Chairman’s Reserve 2009 Vintage score:
Flavour/taste: 61/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 91/100


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