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Caribbean Related Discussion

Getting around the islands can be half the adventure of discovering new rum.


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Old 05-12-2008, 06:27 PM   #1
Edward Hamilton
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Default St Lucia & Martinique

The last couple of weeks have been busy while I flew to St Lucia, visited St Lucia Distillers Limited, sailed to Martinique, visited 7 distilleries, drank some rum, sailed back to St Lucia and then flew back to the US.

I didn't have time to post anything since the internet connections were pretty sketchy but I did learn a lot about the distilleries.

St Lucia Distillers was mourning the anniversary of a fire that destroyed a lot of their blending operation on May 1, 2007. They have been busy rebuilding and are about to come back stronger than ever. Behind the distillery about 6 acres of sugar cane has been planted which will be used in some upcoming projects but currently all of the production is made with imported molasses.

There are now three pot stills operating at St Lucia Distillers, though one is quite small, and a three column continuous still which is used to make the lighter base rum used for blending. Since SLD was purchased by the company that also owns Angostura in 2005, Laurie Barnard has stayed on as a consultant and is happy with the progress that is being made. The influx of money helped improve many things but the new parent is letting SLD build their business without a lot of interference.

On Martinique the effect of hurricane Dean last August caused a lot of damage to the sugar cane crop but it didn't wipe out all of the sugar cane as was feared.

With the growth of the rum industry and the increased demand for used bourbon and whiskey barrels has led almost all of the Martinique distillers to start buying used cognac barrels from France. Shaped slightly different than an American whiskey barrel, these barrels are made of French oak as compared to American white oak, which actually comes from four regions of the US. The French oak gives spirits more of an almond flavor that the American oak lacks. There are other differences, to be sure, but that is the biggest difference and the one which usually noticed first.

And while most of the large distillers are working to reduce the fermentation time to less than 24 hours, La Favorite is now using a slower fermenting yeast that gives their rhum a cleaner finish when tasted straight from the still.

Everyone in the rhum industry in Martinique is concerned with the exchange rate and hopes that it doesn't kill their fledgling American export business.

I also discovered an organic sugar cane syrup made on Martinique from organic Brazilian sugar. It is very good but lacks the flavor of the syrup I am presently enjoying since the Brazilian sugar is more refined than that from the Le Galion sugar factory on Martinique.

I've added a number of new pictures to the various distillery and island pages of the site. And though I'm a little tired I can't wait to continue the research on the next trip.
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Old 05-12-2008, 06:54 PM   #2
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Very interesting reading Ed, thanks for posting this to us!

Nice pictures too, "St Lucia spiced rum" what a bottle eh?
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Old 05-12-2008, 07:59 PM   #3
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Thanks for the informative update.

Why does the longer fermentation time yield a cleaner tasting distillate? How does the longer fermentation time affect the aged spirits from La Favorite? All three of the rhums from La Favorite are favorites (no pun intended), with the most recently tasted Ambre making a delicious Ti Punch (Punch Vieux, Punch Ambre)? Any change to their lineup is of immediate interest.

With the increase in aging of spirits in used barrels across the spectrum, do you anticipate any future shortage in used barrels generally, not just in American whiskey barrels?
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Old 05-12-2008, 08:15 PM   #4
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Barrels are going to be in shorter supply around the world as the demand increases and the forest are depleted, demand is rising faster than supply.

As for the fermentation, accelerating the fermentation too much becomes evident when you're only distilling to about 75% abv. In molasses-based rums it isn't the flavor changes are as noticeable due to the much higher distillation proof.
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Old 05-12-2008, 08:25 PM   #5
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Ed, how much will the change in barrels effect the flavor profiles, as compared to what we have now? Would it be smart to pick up a few extra bottles of the current products? I am sure the quaulity of the final product will be excellent as it always has. Will there be a note on the label telling of the different barrel usage?
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Old 05-12-2008, 08:48 PM   #6
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If my memory serves me, European oak has a tighter grain than American. The American variety when new lends a distinct vanilla and cream aroma/flavour. New European oak has a more delicate influence, and I would agree a more nutty aroma/flavour.

The French wine and spirits producers have also long been using oak from the former Yugoslavia, though they don't advertise that point much.

Of course rum producers are not using new oak in any case that I know of. How old the barrels are, what was stored in them to some extent, how they were "renewed" will all go to how the final result comes out.
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Old 05-12-2008, 10:29 PM   #7
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Don't expect there to be anything on the labels, in fact there is very little room to write much on the labels.

Neisson is buying used cognac barrels with new heads on them so while they aren't new barrels there is some new wood in them.
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Old 05-13-2008, 07:26 PM   #8
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So Ed...you need a research assistant?
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