Brand: Down Island Spirits
Origin: Distillerie Saint-James, Sainte-Marie, Martinique, France
Age: 6 years
Today, we are reviewing a new release from Florida-based independent bottler Down Island Spirits. Founded by Mike Streeter, this new independent bottler has come roaring onto the IB scene, having been featured on the Rumcast, offered pours of their first four releases at the 2023 Miami Rum Congress, and has enjoyed numerous reviews on rum communities like /r/rum.
This rhum is part of the pair of bottlings that Down Island released this summer; Martinique Agricole Rum SJ 2017 is a rhum vieux agricole from– you guessed it– Martinique. Although the label doesn't disclose the exact distillery (as said before, plenty of valid reasons this happens), it's pretty clear from the "SJ" that this is Saint-James rhum– they're also the only distillery in Sainte-Marie.
Saint-James is not too common of a brand seen around the US, so it was a nice surprise to see this producer featured in a widely-available IB release. Founded in 1765 near Sainte-Pierre, the brand is known for their distinct square bottle and their role of primary rhum supplier to the French military during World War I.
This Down Island bottle is a sugarcane juice-based rhum, distilled from Saint-James's column still in 2017. It was matured on-site in ex-Bourbon casks for 4 years, before being transferred to Europe for a further 2 years of aging. I've got bottle #206; let's crack it open and give it a taste.
Dark copper, medium clarity, medium viscosity
Toasted marshmellow, apricot, fresh-cut sugarcane, acrylic paint, Playdough, red wine vinegar
Spiced Red Delicious apples, cinnamon, black tea, orange rind, star anise, sugarcane, honey
Long, spicy, earthy; cinnamon, vanilla, star anise, oak, nutmeg, red apple skin
This is another young rhum vieux agricole that is really exceptional. It's not long-aged, but the complexity and proof help bring out the multitude of flavors and aromas this rhum has on offer.
The nose dances with toasted marshmellow and other savory/earthy notes, while the palate absolutely explode with spices, fruit, and tea. The finish is what I imagine it would be like if you randomly grabbed a number of spice bottles from a baker's pantry and consumed a blend of the selections. The proof is very apparent, but gets out of the way of the flavors and aromas, so as to not be overwhelming.
With Saint James being relatively rare around the USA, I would recommend grabbing this bottle from their website for an accessible introduction to the renowned Martinique distillery.