Review – St Nicholas Abbey Rum
One of the great pleasures of spirits is learning about the history that surrounds the brand. Alcohol has been so inextricably linked to the cultural heritage of so many countries that what starts as a little exploration into the background of whatever happens to be in your glass, often soon turns into an education your history teacher would have been wise to mimic. The history of the St Nicholas Abbey dates right back to 1627, just seven years after the pilgrims arrives in what was to become the USA on the Mayflower. Plenty went on in the interim, and the excellent St Nicholas Abbey website is worth a peruse if you are interested in such matters, but it was nearly 400 years later in 2006 that we find ourselves at the start of the story behind today’s rum offerings.
St Nicholas Abbey rum is produced from sugar cane grown on the Island which undergoes a single crushing in the steam mill to extract the cane juice. The juice is then transferred to the condenser where it is reduced to sugar cane ‘honey’. After fermentation, the liquid is transferred into a combination pot/column hybrid still named Annabelle for a double distillation. Post-distillation only water is added and chill-filtration is not used.
Nose: The intensity of this pungent aromatic nose will catch the unwary off-guard. Packed full of aromas of fermenting tropical fruit and warm honeycomb with butter sauce, this is no bland white rum. Sweet, but with so much complexity that it never veers even close to becoming sickly so.
Neat: Things start off a little more restrained than the nose suggested with a sweet fudgy entrance that opens out into a vanilla-laden mid palate peppered with hints of banana, pineapple and mango. A background of savoury vegetal notes evolves into a distinctly peppery and spicy finish which holds short of burning, but is nonetheless a big contrast to the fruit-dominated nose. This rum has both a rawness and complexity to it that is more reminiscent of an Agricole rhum, but without the same vegetal intensity. The absence of a highly ‘polished’ character results in a rum that somehow feels more authentic but without becoming so challenging to the palate than only hardened rum enthusiasts will enjoy.
Mixing: Like all great white rums, this spirit comes alive when mixed. Sour drinks in particular help to open out the flavour profile, revealing a complex and deep tasting rum that is quite at home in many a libation. This is, for example, a truly exceptional Daiquiri rum; the earthy and vegetal flavours come to the fore over the fruity notes, with just a hint of banana and cacao to offer a signature profile. If you love a good Daiquiri (and who doesn’t?!) then this simply must be tried. The vegetal notes first noted on the neat tasting that hint towards an Agricole rum make it a worthy choice selection to combine with orange juice in the Planteur, or the simple but effective Ti Punch with just a touch of lime and sugar. These notes also offer some more interesting mixing opportunities such as to combine with basil in the Bajito. Whilst the spicy notes mean that things can get a little out of balance in lighter cocktails such as the King’s Jubilee, they also by contrast make it an excellent choice for rum punches such as the Fish House Punch No.2 in which it has sufficient presence of character to stand up to the bold flavours of Cognac, but also the fruity and aromatic qualities to ensure it combines effortlessly with the creme de peche and Ear Grey tea. Whatever your favourite white rum cocktail, this is most certainly one to try.
St Nicholas Abbey White Rum is a real Barbadian beauty. It is both sweet and spicy, fruity and vegetal, complex and versatile. By all accounts this is a cracking white rum that must be tried.
St Nicholas Abbey Rum is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.