We get a chance to visit St. Lucia for a look at the facility responsible for Chairman’s Reserve, Bounty and the Admiral Rodney line of rums. Enjoy!
St. Lucia is popular with tourists for its beaches, luxury hotels and high end shopping, but we made our visit for another important reason, RUM. We boarded a bus bound for St. Lucia Distillers, makers of Chairman’s Reserve, Admiral Rodney, 1931 and several other premium sipping rums and liqueurs.
Our guide pointed out attractions and historic buildings as we navigated the busy streets of Castries city. The morning traffic finally gave way to the countryside as we continued over lush hills, past picturesque bays and finally arrived in Roseau Valley where the distillery is located.
As we stepped off the bus we immediately smelled the familiar sweet aroma that envelopes just about every distillery. We knew we were in the right place. Our tour quickly started with an overview of the facility, its history and the direction in which it is going.
Rum has been produced on this property for many years. Back when sugarcane was the big cash crop of St. Lucia, plantations dotted the island and all of them had private “house label” rums. This former plantation property is no exception, but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that the St. Lucia Distilling Group was formed. Back in those days they made one rum, Bounty, and it was sold exclusively on St. Lucia. The original brand is still a big player in the local rum guzzling community and is quite inexpensive and easy drinking.
The facility is smaller than some we’ve seen but produces a surprisingly high volume of rum. First, we walked through the fermentation area and zig zagged our way through a series of metal walkways and staircases that surround giant mash storage tanks. Beyond this area is the distillery with an impressive collection of pot and column stills. By using both, they are able to create very distinct and flavorful rums that are completely unique to each brand.
Beyond the main distilling room is the barreling and aging facility. There is a cooperage on site for making and repairing wooden aging barrels and it was fascinating to witness this nearly forgotten art form in action.
St. Lucia Disillers are making more than 20 rums and liqueurs at this facility and they are all run through stringent quality control measures. Our trip through the “rum lab” gave us a quick look at the precision of each formula and how new blends are brought to life through intense sessions of tasting, tweaking and development.
After our tour of the distillery we were invited to a tasting room to sample rums with Laurie Barnard, Managing Director of St. Lucia Distillers since 1972. We started with a flight of 6 different rums, three aged and three unaged. This gave us a look at how barrel time quickly changes the character of young rums and creates more depth and complexity.
Following this initial tasting, our group was set loose on a buffet of nearly every rum in the St. Lucia Distllers portfolio. The new 1931 aged sipper and Chairman’s Reserve Forgotten Casks were huge hits among our group and will surely be as popular once they make it to market.
As time at St. Lucia Distillers was coming to an end we had one last opportunity to sample even more rums and liqueurs at a pavilion tasting bar near their retail store. We all sipped away and stocked up on boxes of our new favorite St. Lucian rums. Our happy group finally boarded the bus and crept away from the property with hundreds of extra pounds of rum and a new knowledge and respect for the many great brands being produced here.
Cheers from St. Lucia.