St. Lucia Distillers, known to rum geeks as “SDL,” tends to present a unique case of blended stylistic influences. Throughout its history, the tiny island nation of Saint Lucia changed hands between the English and the French repeatedly, which left its mark on their rum-producing tradition. The signature distillate coming out of SDL is heavier, molasses-based pot and column-still rum, but there’s also a smaller operation at the same distillery producing estate sugar cane juice rum from the distillery’s own fields. This rum is never bottled by the company on its own—there’s not nearly enough of it to do that—but is instead used to give a rhum agricole-like funkiness and complexity to some of its blends. Most famously, it’s seen in SDL’s Chairman’s Reserve 1931, a premium product (roughly $100 MSRP) that blends every one of the company’s distillates into a truly delicious result.
The rest of the SDL lineup showcases how much the spirit of rum can vary when distilled and aged differently. The Admiral Rodney line, for instance, focuses entirely on the distillery’s Coffey column still distillate. The flagship Chairman’s Reserve lineup, on the other hand, blends distillate from the column still and several different pot stills—the John Dore pot still, and the hybrid Vendome pot still.
Newly introduced to that Chairman’s Reserve portfolio in the U.S. is a new brand called Legacy, a tribute to Laurie Barnard, the last founding family member to hold the “Chairman” position at St. Lucia Distillers, and creator of the brand in 1999. Barnard sadly passed away in 2012, but this new mid-shelf brand is a tribute to his particular blending prowess.
Chairman’s Reserve Legacy also gives SDL a brand that serves perhaps as a more genuine stepping stone between the flagship Chairman’s Reserve Aged Rum (MSRP around $30, a good value) and the Chairman’s Reserve 1931 (MSRP around $100) than the existing Chairman’s Reserve Forgotten Casks, which is priced around $50. The Forgotten Casks is essentially an extra-aged version of the flagship aged rum, a blend falling between 6-11 years. Legacy, on the other hand, is not so much about the age statement (5-8 years) as it is about the blend, which seems to contain a larger percentage of pot still rum, as well as some of the sugar cane juice-based rum grown on the distillery grounds. This makes the flavor profile of Chairman’s Reserve Legacy more like a younger version of the 1931 than The Forgotten Casks manages to be, and we can attest after tasting it that it nails this role. Even better is the accessible price point, as Chairman’s Reserve Legacy carries an MSRP of $43. Its makeup, meanwhile, is reportedly as follows:
Coffey Column Still: 5.5 years old, molasses based (72%)
John Dore pot still: 8 years old, molasses based (16%)
Vendome pot still: 8 years old, molasses based (4%)
John Dore pot still: 5 years old, sugar cane juice rum (8%)
There will probably be rum geeks out there looking at those numbers, immediately disappointed that the column still rum makes up almost three fourths of the final blend, but trust me when I say that SDL’s pot still rums are pretty powerful, and make their presence felt assertively in the final blend, which is presented at 43% ABV (86 proof). So with that said, let’s get to tasting.
On the nose, Chairman’s Reserve Legacy presents as big, rich and slightly funky, redolent in molasses and allspice. There’s a slight mustiness, and a bit of earthy funk, met by syrupy pineapple and overripe. This is met by a more resinous quality, like pine needles. All in all, an excellent balance of different dimensions between caramelized sugars, spice, fruit and freshness/oak.
On the palate, Legacy is again delivering flavors that are big and bold, but also nicely complex. There’s tons of spice again, with prevailing notes of nutmeg, clove and allspice, which combine with molasses richness to evoke ginger molasses cookies. It’s also slightly earthy and savory in nature, with notes of truffle and light tobacco. Residual sweetness is mild, but it really transitions away from overt sweetness or richness into pleasantly spicy oak, toasted baking spices, and a dry finish. Fruit flavors touch on overripe banana, and some of those more resinous and floral notes pop up again on the back end, perhaps as a result of the sugar cane juice rum in the blend.
All in all, Chairman’s Reserve Legacy has a feeling of slight wildness and earthy terroir that I quite enjoy, balanced by more traditional molasses rum richness and pot still spice and esters. For neat drinking in particular, I can say with no lack of certainty that I think this is much more in my wheelhouse than The Forgotten Casks, and given that its MSRP is actually a bit cheaper, it’s without a doubt the one I’ll be looking for at the store in the future. It delivers many of the same alluring notes as the wonderful Chairman’s Reserve 1931, but at a fraction of the price. You can’t help but be impressed.
Distillery: St. Lucia Distillers
City: Roseau, St. Lucia
ABV: 43% (86 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $43 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.