Saint James XO

Dipping into an agricole today, I must admit that this is not my forte and my palate is still getting used to agricole rums, so make of this what you will. For what it’s worth I’ve gone for something with a touch more age and a more “classic” rum profile in the way of Saint James XO for this review.

What is it? Agricole rum (column still from cane juice) from the Saint James distillery in Martinique. Given where this is from they have a nice little AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) which governs exactly what the rum must be restricted to for production and aging. The AOC Martinique regulations are very (very) extensive and you can read about them directly online here if you fancy geeking out, so I wont go over this too much, but to cover some of the more interesting points it indicates a rum made from sugar cane cultivated in strictly authorised areas on the island, with limited yields and agricultural practices that protect the land and the quality of the crops. 100 per cent sugar cane juice must be used in production, distillation is made through columns or continuous stills, alcohol levels must not be lower than 40% ABV and colouring must be natural from ageing only in oak casks. There are only seven AOC accredited distilleries on Martinique. Just 3 per cent of the world’s rum holds the AOC Agricole Rum mark. It goes on and on to include the brix level (sugar content) of the juice, fermentation times allowed, level of organic volatiles for each grade, minimum maturation periods etc. This rum is also marked as an XO, which means that under the AOC regulations it has to be aged for a minimum of 6 years in oak barrels not exceeding 650 liters – obviously it can be made up of older rums too, but we don’t know the blend details in this other than it is at least 6 years old, aged tropically. I’ve seen reports that is contains rums up to 10 years old, but it may well change from time to time depending on yields and flavour profile consistency.

Not coloured (as detailed above), chill filtered and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Quite a full and rich nose with hazelnut, milk chocolate, fudge, pralines actually or whole nut chocolate bars, marmalade, chocolate covered gingers, raisins and vanilla. Under this are more typical agricole notes of hay, some sweeter white wine, fennel, tarragon and parsley. Some fresh root licorice and a touch of black olive as well as brine right at the end.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, sharp and dry. Ah, totally opposite to the nose; starts with cane juice, which wine, aniseed, tarragon sauce, sharp and tangy oranges and some sour woody notes – almost green sappy wood. Then come the nutty toasted oaks, white pepper, vanilla and cinnamon notes at the back of the palate. Still a slight sour note running through to the end.

Finish: Medium. Nutty still from the palate, hazelnuts, milk chocolate and nutmeg. As the Finish lingers you’re left with quite a bit of raw licourice, fennel, soil and brine. It’s more like the progression of the nose here.

Thoughts? Good but not great. I love the nose but the palate is just a bit too sharp and sour for my liking – it is an agricole, and as I say I’ve still got a way to go with my palate as it stands. This rum set me back only around £40 which is pretty cheap for an XO agricole, usually you’d be into to £60 plus range, as such I think it’s fair value for money and one worth seeking out to dip your toe into the matured agricole world. Personally though it’s not for me at the moment and not something I’d look at buying again.

If you fancy a bottle of this then you can pick it up at The Whisky Exchange here:

Saint James XO

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