A Work of Friendship
When we met Alexandre Gabriel of Cognac Ferrand at the recent Paris Rhum Festival he was found to be clutching a bottle of rum (which is hardly unusual) marked only with a handwritten label bearing the words ‘Plantation Saint Lucia 2013 Barrel Sample’, noting also a signature, the date and a contents ABV of 43%. Alexandre was particularly keen for us to taste this and to tell us a little about the story behind it as it was the product of a great friendship between two men with a passion for rum.
Background Note: There seems to be an acknowledgement from Alexandre Gabriel that his first St. Lucia Vintage release (and I can only assume he means the 2001) wasn’t very good, as time passes he seems expresses more regret at its release and seems to want to atone. I’m not sure why this is with any certainty – I’m not sure that I’ve tasted the 2001, although there may have been a single occasion and I certainly don’t recall thinking it was horrible. Perhaps when you strive for the very best you become your own harshest critic?
Stepping back in time to 2003 to a conversation between Alexandre Gabriel and Laurie Bernard of St Lucia Distillers. Laurie (whom sadly passed away in 2012) issues Alexandre with a challenge to make a St. Lucian rum the finest in the Plantation range. Challenges like this seem to inspire Alexandre and it was accepted wholeheartedly.
St. Lucia Distillers is well known for having a variety of stills from which they can produce their rum and it was the spirit from the John Dore pot still that Alexandre preferred. However, Laurie preferred the spirit from his Vendome pot still – a spicier distillate. Debating the two styles, the friends reach an agreement for a blend of both (80% John Dore, 15% Vendome) along with 5% of their column still rum. This rum was laid down in American White Oak for a few years in St. Lucia, then transferred to Cognac Ferrand for a second ageing in French oak as is the norm for the Plantation rums. The result is the 2003 St. Lucia Vintage and it is rather lovely.
“I am sad that my friend Laurie is no longer with us because we wanted to present the outcome of our teamwork together” said Alexandre Gabriel. “I am proud to be able to introduce this fine rum, the fruit of our labour, our shared passion and our friendship. I am sure Laurie is looking down with a smile of a passionate producer, happy to see people enjoying one of his best rums”
We hope that this 2003 Vintage allows Alexandre to stop fretting about the previous St. Lucian rum as he has more than atoned with this release.
Official Tasting Notes:
Plantation St. Lucia 2003 Vintage reveals a powerful nose combining notes of currants, frangipane, dried apricot, spice and vanilla. It is rich and harmonious on the pallet, mingling flavours of tobacco and toasted almonds. The finish is exceptionally long and generous. Quite simply, a tasting experience that takes you to rum paradise.
Plantation St. Lucia 2003 Vintage will be available in Europe from the end of April 2014.
Retail price 45 Euros.
Rum Databank: Plantation St. Lucia 2003 Vintage
Country of origin: St. Lucia / France
Cost: 45 Euro (£ TBC)
Available From: Specialist spirits resellers and online