Brand: Chairman's Reserve
Origin: Saint Lucia Distillers Ltd., Roseau, Anse la Raye, Saint Lucia
Still: Pot & Column Blend
Saint Lucia Distillers (SLD), like the island it resides on– Saint Lucia, is a product of the influence of two colonial powers: Britain and France. Saint Lucia was once dubbed the "Helen of the West Indies", due to how sought-after it was by the two imperial powers; in fact, as mentioned in Modern Caribbean Rum, Britain and France traded control of the island 14 times between 1674 and 1814.
Chairman's Reserve Legacy is a tribute to Laurie Bernard, who created the Chairman's Reserve brand, and was known as an innovator of different rum production and aging techniques. Bernard founded a Dennery-based distilling facility in 1931, but SLD was not formed until 1972, when Bernard's family merged their rum business with that of the Geest family; thus, St. Lucia Distillers was born.
Today, SLD is the only rum producer on St. Lucia, which operates out of a distillery on Roseau Bay, which was owned by the Geest family before the merger. In 1993, the Bernard family fully bought out the Geest family, becoming the sole owners of SLD. In 2016, SLD was purchsed by Spiribaum, the spirits division of Martinique-based Groupe Bernard Hayot, who are the importers of Chairman's Reserve to the USA, alongside their other brands like Admiral Rodney, Bounty, Rhum JM, and Clemént.
The Roseau Bay distillery offers double-retort pot, twin Coffey column, and hybrid Vendôme still production, and can craft rum using either molasses or sugarcane juice as a base; truly one of the more versatile distilleries I've heard of.
The Legacy blend is a unique one, as it is a blend of molasses and sugarcane distillate; this is the only rum that I have come across that uses two different types of sugarcane byproducts. These distillates were produced in either a pot or column still. According to Spiribaum's product page, the rums used in the Legacy blend are aged between 5 and 8 years old in ex-Bourbon barrels.
This was my first foray into St. Lucian rums, and really piqued my interest due to the complex profile and unique funk. I could not think of a better expression to choose as my first St. Lucian review.
Orange-brown, medium clarity, medium-high viscosity
Underripe blueberries, pineapple, starfruit, rotten orange, industrial varnish, molasses
Rotten fruit (blueberries, grapes, oranges), industrial varnish, sugarcane juice, cinnamon
Medium-long, tannic, savory; bourbon oak, light roast coffee, molasses
It's not often that a rum provides as much funk as some of the more characteristic Jamaican rums, but Chairman's Reserve Legacy checks that box. It's a funk that leans more industrial than fruity, and has a lot of notes that I can't exactly distinguish.
In the glass, Legacy is an orange-brown color, with medium clarity and medium-high viscosity.
Underripe blueberries and pineapple lead the nose, with starfruit and rotten oranges quickly following up. Towards the middle-end I get the industrial varnish note, which is followed on by a subtle and mellow molasses note. Lovely nose, and informs the enjoyer that you better buckle your seatbelt for a wild ride.
Tasting Legacy, I get rotten blueberries, grapes, and oranges, which are 3 of perhaps more fruity notes that arrive at about the same time as the industrial notes, which then overpower the fruit and carry on through the mid and back palate. Some more astringent sugarcane juice notes appear as the fruit finishes, while cinnamon leads the back palate into the finish. This is excellent, and is such a unique slate of flavors that I have not experienced before.
The finish is medium-long, tannic, and savory. Fewer fruity notes at play at this point, with bourbon-soaked oak and bitter coffee notes abound; some sips offer molasses at this stage, and some do not. Not an unpleasant finish, but I have had better; it is one of those that prompts you to move on to the next sip.
As far as legacies go, Laurie Barnard and Chairman's could do a lot worse than this expression. It's unique, as a blend of molasses and sugarcane juice distillates, and stands out in the larger rum marketplace, with its industrial funk and challenging profile.