Saint James 1885

92,40

Average score

Bottle Profile
Distillery Saint-James
Origin Martinique
Bottler none
Type Agricole Rhum (artisanal column)
Alcohol By Volume 45%
Sugar Measured 0 g/L
Description
Review 5

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Review by "Cyril" Score: 93

1885, une année qui semble si loin qu’on pourrait se demander si elle a vraiment existé : Zola publiait Germinal quelques mois avant que Victor Hugo ne quitte ce monde à l’âge de 83 ans ; La même année, un certain Louis Pasteur sauvait le premier enfant de la rage. Et pendant ce temps-là, on fabriquait du rhum à la distillerie Saint-James, comme on en fabrique encore quelques 127 837 jours après.. La robe de ce rhum est impressionnante, et tellement concentrée, qu’elle est pratiquement opaque à la lumière: de couleur café, elle est lourde et fertile, remplie de vaisseaux qui naviguent sur les parois mince du verre, comme en pleine tempête en mer, traçant des lignes sinueuses et tourmentées dans une nuit noire frappée par la foudre, ou peut-être est-ce par la poudre.

Nose: Le nez est si lourd qu’il vous ferait tomber à la renverse, un uppercut nasal en quelque sorte, un k.o. technique avant un premier contact. L’ambiance est pesante, et la couleur café laisse place à un nez de bistro: celle du petit noir matinal, bien serré et compact. La coupelle de fruits sec n’est jamais bien loin : pruneaux, raisin, figue, mais aussi de l'olive, sans oublier un morceau de cuir encore fumant. Ajoutez de la réglisse, voire une touche de goudron, et bien plus encore: des petits fruits rouges acides et sucrés qui arrivent jusqu’au nez, pour flatter l’instant, fatidique. Malgré cette lourdeur apparente, le nez a quelque chose, étrangement, de léger ; c’est balsamique, pesant et aigre, mais avec une certaine délicatesse, de la tendresse pudique, et foncièrement élégante.

Palate: La mise en bouche est épaisse et sombre, chaleureuse, et plutôt sèche ; la réglisse et des notes retenues de tabac caressent un fruité légèrement acidulé (cassis, pruneaux) et naturellement mature, sans sucre et sans fioriture. Le chêne, les tanins que l’on pouvait craindre en masse, sont ma fois très bien intégrés, assimilés, fondus. Impressionnant et déconcertant. L’olive est là aussi, des noix, et tout ce qui est noir mais dans un somptueux équilibre et une complexité sans nul autre pareil.

Finish: La fin de bouche n’est pas excessivement longue ni fougueuse, mais le souvenir que laisse ce rhum durera des heures, et il semble même coincé quelque part entre le palais et l’esprit, hors du temps. Mais peut-on vraiment lui reprocher de ne pas vouloir disparaitre? Il délivre, dans son dernier souffle, de la réglisse, de légers tanins cuirassés et des fruits secs, mais aussi de la fraicheur, en toute fin ; comme pour nous remémorer sa parenté, et nous parler d’avenir, ce fantôme aux mains vides, qui promet tout et qui n’a rien…

Thoughts: A l’instant même où j’ai ouvert cette maisonnette de verre, j’ai fait fuir un temps que je ne pourrais jamais rattraper, ni même effleurer. Nous ne sommes jamais grand chose, mais au fond, qu’est-ce-qu’une année ou deux sinon le volume infini d’une pincée de secondes ? note complète : http://durhum.com/saint-james-1885/

Review by "Lance" Score: 90

Yes, you read that right. 1885. Holy molasses this thing is old. How can anyone even begin to assess a spirit that was made so incredibly long ago? I'm literally in awe. What was going on back then anyway? Sino French war in Vietnam; the Mahdist army overran Khartoum and killed General Gordon; AT&T was incorporated in New York; Gottlieb Daimler patented his engine; the North West rebellion in Canada; the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York harbour; the Third Anglo-Burmese war...and St. James began bottling its vintages that year, same year as they introduced the square bottle. It may be the very first ever made, anywhere. At around £6000 per bottle, all one can say is "ouch," be grateful for the sample, and dive in on bended knee with head reverently bowed. Colour - dark brown, almost black, Strength - 43%

Nose: Dark dark dark and so very plush. Made me feel I was sinking into an old Chesterfield. Plums, dark grapes, figs and black olives without the salt. Some vegetal in the background (really far in the bushes). Deep and thick, smoky, dusty. Not very sugary at all, and had some essence of tart and juicy overripe pears. Then soy sauce and teriyaki, mixed with dark molasses soaked brown sugar. Fresh and heavy, both at the same time.

Palate: Warm, full-bodied, thick and heavy. Must have been made before the French islands moved full time to cane juice. Dark prunes and cherries in syrup...and yet, and yet...where's the sugar? Treacle, bitter chocolate, pancakes and maple syrup, a cereal note in there somewhere, maybe rye bread. Molasses, plums and pomegranates, a flirt of anise, some oakiness but nothing excessive. Incredibly deep and tasty, amazingly well balanced.

Finish: Short and warm. Some last notes of licorice, molasses and raisins, and some dry earthy mustiness to wrap it all up.

Thoughts: It was a fantastic rhum (rum?). Can't imagine what a more leisurely tasting spanning many days would be like. The depth of the thing is amazing, and I felt it worked well even for a more modern palate: it was quite a remarkably rich and complex beast, and it felt almost sacrilegious to drink it at all. Other - No idea how long it was aged prior to bottling. According to Antique wines & Spirits, it was bottled in 1952. Can it truly be 67 years old? No, not really. According to Benoît Bail who spoke to the master blender at St. James, all the 1885 stocks were in fact destroyed in the eruption of Pelee in 1902. Some bottles of the 1885 were over in Europe and Pernod Ricard (when they took over the distillery), was able to locate many of them in Amsterdam, Paris and London, and sent them back to Martinique, where there were still on sale at St. James into the 1990s. The master blender was of the opinion that the rhum itself was/is 8-10 years old, not more. The different taste of the rums from that time (until the 1930s) arises because the cane juice was heated (not boiled) at around 40°C before fermenting it. Pasteurization, you see, had not yet made a big splash and large steel tanks were not common. I heard that Luca Gargano of Velier bought 300 bottles of this as an investment kin the 1980s. I can just marvel at the perspicacity and far-sightedness of the man.

Review by "Serge" Score: 92

His is the first vintage rhum ever, and it’s a miracle that it survived the eruption of the Montagne Pelée in 1902, which destroyed both the city of Saint Pierre and a large part of the rhumerie Saint James. Amazingly, these bottles could still be bought at the rhumerie’s museum in the 1990s. Now I’m not sure the casks had been kept in Martinique from 1885 to the 1950s, neither do I know how old this superb baby exactly is. Colour: black coffee.

Nose: Utterly amazing. It’s prune juice blended with mocha, crème de cassis and cane juice at first nosing, but the cane keeps growing – so to speak – with whiffs of capers, brine, olives, lemon juice and this very special sourness that’s almost agavy. Let’s just add a little tar and liquorice and you’ve got a good picture of this beast, which remained as fresh as a daisy. Some wonderful aromas and a stunning heaviness on top of the freshness, a combination that is quite uncommon.

Palate: Hurray, no sugar! And yet this a big fat daddy, syrupy in a good way – so rather oily -, starting with a truckload of liquorice, some notes of chestnut purée, plenty of black tobacco and tea, and a touch of cassis again. Then the briny brigade comes back, with olives, agaves, some smoked ham German style, more olives, and even more olives… This dry and concentrated style is quite amazing, you just wouldn’t quaff 50cl in one go, because of the thickness. There is quite a lot of oak for sure, but everything’s under control. Amazing.

Finish: Long, with a little earth and salt, plus always bags and bags of liquorice. A drop of old chartreuse as the signature.

Thoughts: Here’s to you Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski, legendary pirates! And to the ship's boys who died with you.

Review by "Marco" Score: 93

This rum was distilled in 1885 at the St. James Plantation. It has been bottled and shipped outside the island of Martinique before the eruption of Mt. Pelée in 1902 and then reimported back to the distillery. Colour: Oh no ... the rum is pitch black. That does not bode well.

Nose: Or does it? The nose irritates me now enormous. I smell an rich ester-containing odor. The rum smells of exotic fruits, such as pineapple and papaya. It is very compact and complex. After minutes in the glass discreet sugarcane aromas come to the fore. Magnificent oak interwoven with nutty flavours and sweet toffee caress the nose. I smell a very weak adhesive note. The sweetness is not too pushy or even to dominant. Impressive.

Palate: A pleasant sweetness floods the mouth, combined with walnut and exotic fruits. I taste no bitterness, which is absolutely surprisingly, if you consider the colour. I also taste oak aromas, toffee and very discreet cane flavors. After a few seconds slightly salty flavors come to the fore. Must be from the barrel. The rum is extremely gentle and fruity. Truly exceptional.

Finish: Aha. Now I taste oak and a slight bitterness is flashing up, but it quickly disappears. I do taste exotic fruits and sugarcane. The rum it is very well balanced, complex and unique.

Thoughts: Incredible taste coming from an old era of rum-making.

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