Plantation St. Lucia 2003 (43%, Old Reserve, 2014, St. Lucia)

Last year I reviewed two other Plantation Old Reserves. One from Guyana, and one from Jamaica. Both were quite good, and very well priced. Both were quite sweet as well, since both have some sugar added. Plantation calls it dosage, enhancing Rum with sugar, in the same way you use salt for your food. Cane sugar (syrup) is added to the Rum before ageing. They do it because they really believe it makes for a better Rum.

Most of the Rum-world lacks regulations, although efforts are being made, but on the other hand, Rum also has a history based on the production of sugar. Rum in a way is a by-product of sugar, so why shouldn’t a little bit of sugar be allowed to use?. In my early days, getting to know Rum, I somehow assumed Rum should be sweet, must be sweet, at least half-sweet. Only when I encountered high quality Rums, and single casks Rums, preferably bottled at cask strength, which obviously aren’t laced with added sugar, that I really came to know about Rum! So some believe Rum has a particular sugar-history, and some believe Rum gets better with adding some sugar in the early stages of production. Others are more militant and will kill you if you add sugar anywhere in the production of Rum. Rum should be pure. No mention though of Rums being to dry or to woody.

Looking back on its history, and its use in cocktails, I’m not against adding sugar to Rums in general, as long as it enhances the final product, making it really better. There is a market for it, just like there is a market for Spiced Rums. There is a market for mixers and there is a market for sippers. Nothing wrong with Spiced Rums, it is a subdivision of Rum. As an aficionado though, a Rum sipper, I would like to know upfront, from the label on the bottle, not by searching the internet that a particular Rum contains added sugar, and especially how much was added. I have experience enough to know how much sugar I can “handle”. Because, dear reader, too much added sugar in Rum can taste really bad! (It reminds me of the discussion around caramel coloring in Whisky, which I found makes the final product not only darker, but also taste rounder, more mono, more flat. Too much sugar will flatten your Rum). I won’t kill you, but for me, many Rums are too damn sweet. On the other hand if used sparsely and with taste, why not?

Since the intro is already quite lengthy, I never got around to say much about this bottle. So in a nutshell, if you want to know more about Plantation, I invite you to read my other reviews of Plantation Rums. It is no secret this Rum comes from the St. Lucia Distillery located on the St. Lucia island. It is a distillery with a few different stills. For this Plantation expression, 80% John Dore Pot Still, 15% Vendome Pot Still and finally 5% Column Still rum was blended together. Initial ageing took place in American oak casks on St. Lucia, shipped to France where the Rum was transferred into Ex-Cognac casks made from French oak for a secondary maturation for, I believe, 18 months.

Color: Full gold.

Nose: An explosion of aroma, almost like a Jamaican high ester Rum, but with many differences as well. Rummy and very fruity. Rum-raisins. A lot of sugared yellow fruits as well as some ripe banana skins, aided by some wood, paper and a fantastic burnt note. Vegetal oak mixed with sweet black tea. Creamy dried apricots with powdered coffee creamer and a slightly acidic note on top. Toffee with something extra. Chocolate with caramel. Nutty. Unripe red berries, old ginger and ripe plums. Grape seeds with some wood and rubber. Hints of smoke. Herbal and grassy. Next, a nice floral part emerges, sweet perfume with hints of rose and juniper. Cold black tea with a slightly smoky edge. Bonfire combined with burning cables. Almonds and butter. Fresh air after rain. Wonderfully complex, it never ends. I adore this one, a wonderful (tamed) beast. Perfect nose.

Taste: The slightly burnt note comes first. Big Rum. Fruity and floral, almost Gin-like. Sweetish but in no way cloying and hardly disturbing due to the humongous body this has, however this might very well be a bit too sweet. Luckily a minor problem this time, but a problem nevertheless. Next, an aroma of sugar-water. Big. big Rum. Nutty and leafy. Burning newspapers with hints of sweet peppermint and sweet chlorine. Medium bitter wax. I know this sounds weird, but it works. Medium, slightly bitter, finish, but with a long aftertaste. Very nice. Not as complex as the nose, but still top-notch. This may very well have some added sugar, but I don’t care, I love this one to death. Easily the best of the Old Reserves. I wonder how a good cask strength St. Lucia tastes like…

This Rum is a labour of love. In 2003 the master distiller of St. Lucia Laurie Bernard, who sadly passed away in 2012, challenged Alexandre Gabriel to blend a St. Lucia Rum choosing from the many Rums produced with the many stills on site, making it the best of the Old Reserve range. The result of that challenge is this very bottle, and I have to say. Job well done! This Rum is great in many ways. When placed in a Rum line-up, it doesn’t matter where you fit it in, it can cope with anything put before it, even heavy hitting Jamaican or Demerara Rums. Amazing. Second, it is really good, it is delicious and smells fantastic. Where the aforementioned Plantation Guyana and Jamaica were ok, or even good, this one is wow!

Points: 89

Plantation Jamaica 2000 (42%, Old Reserve, 2013, Jamaica)

Some two months ago I reviewed the first Plantation Rum bottled in the Old Reserve Series, time for another one. The first one was made in Guyana, an easy choice since I do love Demerara Rum. Same with Jamaica. Jamaican Rums tend to be big and bold, high on esters. Actually Jamaica 2000 (in the old bottle, like the review of the Guyana), was my first Plantation Rum ever. That one was stunning. Here we have probably the first batch, released in the new bottle. There is a laser edged code on the bottle stating this one was bottled on April 18, 2013. I know both batches already, and there is some batch variation. I found the earlier one even bigger than the one I’m about to review here…

Plantation Jamaica 2000 (new bottle)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Extremely buttery start. Lots of caramel and toffee aroma’s. Big, big, big! It smells sweet, candylike and so funky. I love stuff like this. Sugared yellow fruits in alcohol. Buried deep down below, there is a wine-note, so Cognac is noticeable. Ex-Cognac casks were used to finish the Rum in. Leather, chocolate, wood and sawdust. It’s all in here and for you to smell, so the big Rum didn’t even overpower it all, so no heavy thick cloak of toffee lies over this Rum. Next, because these is an evolution going on, a more nutty aroma emerges. Wood, almonds and cold black tea. The whole seems to become drier, which I like. Smells great, as often with Jamaican Rums.

Taste: Not as thick as one would expect, and certainly not as chewy. It is not overly sweet as well, but the sweetness is your typical refined sugar as well as some burnt sugar. Right from the start quite some influence from wood, combined with the defining Jamaican funk from the nose. Toffee, wax and nuts. Vanilla Ice-cream with Rum and raisins, but also I remember from Christmas. No big toffee from the nose as well. Liquid toffee and alcohol. Without smelling it, tasting this blind I would almost call this an Abuelo expression (the 7yo), only less sweet and more powerful. How strange. It has a nice woody backbone, with a slight bitter edge to it. Cask toast, burnt sugar, something like that. Warming. letting this “melt” on your tongue, a more fruity aroma emerges and even some fresh artisanal cola notes, which aren’t so damn sweet. Whatever the aroma, it will always be slightly woody accompanied with a woody and waxy bitterness. I guess in this case the finish did some work on the typical Jamaican profile.

Just try something like this from Jamaica and try to compare it to a Rhum Agricole, I bet you can’t do that in the same tasting without losing something that both Rums offer. That far apart are both distillates, and so broad is the scope of Rum.

Since I still have it around, I compared it directly to the Guyanan offering I reviewed earlier: The Guyana seems more organic. More smells from the earth in that one. Flora and fauna and a wee hay-like Grappa note. Both share the same waxy notes though. In the taste the Guyana is a bit sharper and hotter. Similarly dry and influenced by wood. In fact, both are similarly good, and if you have one of them, you don’t really need the other as well.

Points: 84

Plantation Guyana 1999 (45%, Old Reserve, 2009, Guyana)

Walk into a spirits shop which sell quite a few Rum’s, you have a big chance to find at least a shelf worth of Plantation Rums. I don’t know if this is true in all the corners of the world, but here in Europe I feel it is. There are several reasons for this. They look quite interesting, quite a lot of Rum producing countries are available, and the price is quite nice. Especially if you are a novice it ticks all the boxes you care about. Having tried a few of those, I can also say that they are definitely not bad, not bad at all.

Who is Plantation? Plantation is the Rum brand of Cognac Ferrand. Cognac Ferrand being the mother company that has quite a few brands in its portfolio. If you punch in Cognac Ferrand in your browser, you are quickly transferred to Maison Ferrand and there you can see that Ferrand is definitely more than Cognac alone.

Back to Plantation Rum then. Plantation buys casks of Rum and ages them where they have found them. At the end of maturation, the casks are transferred to France, where they receive a second maturation for up to 18 months in small oak casks. Although it is not said that the cask previously held Cognac, we do assume that’s the case most of the time.

Here, we’ll be looking at one of the vintage releases from the Plantation Old Reserve. This particular example comes from Guyana, but according to the website there are six more Old Reserves available: Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama and Trinidad. I don’t know if they discontinued some versions, but I do have a St. Lucia version as well. All are vintage releases, so there are multiple vintages available. I have tried several of the vintages of the Jamaican version and found that not only is there batch variation between the vintages, but also that there can be more than one batch of only one vintage. Jamaica 2000 comes to mind…

Plantation Guyana 1999Color: Full Gold

Nose: Big, fatty and yet not entirely Demerara. It has a high ester quality like Jamaican Rum, but in a different way. Quite fruity and has a strange acidity to it. Cognac? Yes, maybe. Not quite sure if I’d call it well-integrated. Probably not. The strange acidity reminds me of standing in the produce section of an outdoor market in the cold. Hmmm, never saw that before in a tasting note, Crazy Quill. Since these bottlings have seen wood that previously held Cognac, I’m guessing, that’s its origin. Slightly dusty and yes some wood obviously. Hot oak. Old oak planks, freshly sawn. Soft Rum, but now for sure the acidic note is an off note. Hints of orange juice and banana. Dry soft wood and old toned down sawdust. Black slightly sweet tea and hints of licorice. The acidic off note takes a bit of a backseat and the fruity notes start to integrate better after prolonged breathing. The fruity notes themselves seem to take a back seat as well, giving way to a more thicker, nutty, waxy and toffee character. Ok, let this breathe.

Taste: Wood and extremely syrupy at first. Sugar and burnt sugar. A bit hot. Chewy and tasty, in a complex way. It’s not typically toffee of caramel, more like a combination of earwax and toffee. Slightly bitter. It’s in there but its more complex than that. Now its (sweetish) Demerara. Again not perfectly integrated and it never will. With this one I’m not sure the second maturation suits the original Rum. Wax with bitter notes of burnt sugar and burnt wood. The body is thick and in your face, but towards the finish that loses ground. It breaks down a bit in the finish, which otherwise has quite some length to it. Nice note of almond in the aftertaste. Not bad, but Demerara can be better, but you will be hurting your wallet these days to try some. At this price point, it would be hard to find a better deal. This is in no way perfect, has a good drinkablity, and I believe is very, very fairly priced. Good ABV as well. Not every Plantation Old Reserve is bottled at 45% ABV though.

This is an older bottle, from, April 9, 2009 (laser printed on the bottle), and has a slightly different look from current bottlings, which have a thicker glass base and a different icon on the shoulder.

Points: 84