Chairman's Reserve 11 Year Master's Selection Cask Strength Rum
Perhaps more than any other spirit, Rum has always relied on blending, and not just blending of different casks to create batches, but blending of completely different styles of rum. Even though many rum brands hail from a single distillery, they are often blends of pot and column distillates of varying styles (particularly Rum from the former British colonies), carefully combined to create a balanced, full, and elegant profile. St. Lucia's Chairman's Reserve has long been beloved for their finesse in producing rum of this style. But in the growing community of rabid rum fans, even the most toothsome blends only further pique curiosity, and keen drinkers naturally develop a desire to try the characterful components that make up the blends they love. Much like after wearing out one's copy of ABBA Gold, one might consider checking out the group's back catalog for a more in-depth experience (something we also heartily recommend). For years the real jewels of Chairman's stock: the uncut, well-aged single casks, have sat slumbering away, only rarely available through independent bottlers. These often represent not just an academic deconstruction of a blended whole, but ultimate, fully realized statements of the characters that make up the well known Chairman's story. Luckily for the rum community, Chairman's Reserve seems to have had their ear to the ground and realized that there was a thirsty and ever-growing market for this stuff and have begun to bottle those barrels under their "Master's Select" series. Most of the series finds its way to shelves through private store picks, and last year we were thrilled to pick out our first barrel: a wily 13 year from their Vendome pot still, which remains one of our favorite ever barrel picks of any spirit.
But of course, those wonderful blends we initially fell in love with aren't made of just pot still fire, and we were very interested this year to be able to try an even wider variety of distillates for our second barrel pick. The distillery makes rum from both molasses and cane juice, and on a variety of pot and column stills, making both heavy and light styles of column rum. We ended up selecting an 11 year coffey-column still rum that was so distinct, full, and juicy, that at first we thought it might be one of their agricole style cane juice rums, but it is in fact just a stellar example of heavy column distillate, made from molasses and distilled to a much lower degree than is typical, preserving more flavor and character.
On the nose, there is coconut, vanilla, a hint of old cigar box, and ripe red fruits: strawberry jam maybe? The jammy element follows through on the palate, where the rum's cask strength of 57.8% abv translates to an intensely full-bodied, viscous texture. Juicy fruits mingle with hefty, peppered oak spice, toffee, espresso, vanilla bean, cranberry, and apricot. The industrial, gasoline like element that in some ways defines their pot still rums isn't there, instead incredible fullness, richness, and depth rarely found in column still rum, thanks to the lower distillation level. An utterly delightful, unique rum, further demonstrating how woefully underrated St. Lucian rum has been generally, and because of that, what a great value these fantastic single barrels are.
If you are of an experimenting nature, and we hope you are, it can be an enlightening and delicious journey to take these two single casks, pot and column still, and try your hand at home blending to make your own (very well aged and high proof) expression of Chairman's Reserve to see how these different characters can complement each other beautifully.