St Lucia Distillers 1931 Series was originally released to commemorate 80 years of St Lucian Rum making. If you do the maths you’ll work out that the first release or batch 1 or “80” was released in 2011. St Lucia Distillers have then released a new blend in the series each year with each different edition sporting a different coloured label.
Over the last couple of years I’ve managed to collect the complete series to date. Originally the releases were selling for around Aus$145, however I’ve recently seen a couple of the releases going for $260.
Up until I compiled this taste test I had only tried (and finished) a bottle of the 1st edition. I was a huge fan and luckily I discovered this rum by accident when I ordered a bottle of Chairman’s Reserve (Also by St Lucia Distillers) on-line and the 1931 was sent by mistake.
I fell instantly in love with the 1st edition and it soon became my favourite rum and the one that I judged and compared all other similar rums on.
I’ve had the complete collection for a few months now and I recently decided that a comparison between them all at once would be interesting.
Before I started I made sure I had a glass of water on hand between each sample to try to alleviate palette fatigue and I worked my way through the collection in chronological order.
I also let each sample sit and “air” for about 20 minutes each so that I’d be smelling and tasting more of the rums nuances rather than the initial alcohol notes.
So let’s get started.
Edition 80 – Batch No1 – Bottle No 0182. Bottled 17th May 2011.
Label states 43% Alc/vol – Tested at 45%
This one shocked me a bit. I’ve already finished one bottle of this edition and this particular bottle was nothing like I remembered. I’m not sure if air or something has got to this but it just didn’t taste right.
The aroma was slightly acidic, it reminded me of malt vinegar and white wine. There was a subtle amount of alcohol on the nose and later I noted aromas of stewed tea with sweeter tones creeping in.
I instantly tasted wood then a dry peppery warmth that spread across my tongue. There was an odd bitter taste at the back.
The finish was dry with aniseed and a medium length. Not at all how I remembered this rum to be.
Edition 81 – Batch No2 – Bottle No 9641. Bottled 23rd July 2012.
Label states 43% Alc/vol – Tested at 43%
Nice fruity aromas mango and dry warm drift wood.
Tastes warmer and “rummier” than the 1st edition. This one isn’t as peppery and I can taste green bananas, very dark chocolate bitterness and thick black coffee. The finish is long and oaky which I love, with hints of leather and tannins. Nice and much more what I expected. Very well balanced.
Edition 82 – Batch No3 – Bottle No 0932. Bottled 12th August 2013.
Label states 43% Alc/vol – Tested at 40%
At this point I’ll explain that I tested all the rums with the hydrometer after I had tasted them. I didn’t want any readings to influence what I thought I might taste. I had heard mention that a couple of the 1931’s may have had a small amount of added sugar but I didn’t remember which ones and I purposely didn’t check before I tasted them.
Anyway I instantly noticed that this one had a sweeter aroma than the previous two with a nice treacle toffee smell to it which was followed by vanilla and then brine.
That warm peppery heat was there again on the palette which lead nicely into salted caramel and finally black kalamata olives in brine. This tasted sweeter but not over the top. I much prefer dry rums over sweet and this seemed to have got it just right. The sweetness was what I’d describe as flavour enhancing rather than a prominent feature. It just seemed to compliment everything else well. It tested at 40% rather than the stated 43% so nothing too much was added and if it had tested as stated I still wouldn’t have been surprised. This edition was my choice of the best so far. The finish was a beautiful lingering oaky, liquorice root experience.
Edition 83 – Batch No4 – Bottle No 6674. Bottled 8th December 2014.
Label states 43% Alc/vol – Tested at 43%
Aroma was quite floral and citrusy. I can’t put my finger on it but maybe lemon or even cumquat. Not sweet like the 82 but a later nosing and the sweetness started to edge through.
Again the peppery heat but with a slight sweetness to it not as sweet as the previous edition but still noticeable. Vanilla sponge cake, a slight brininess and a noticeable buttery mouth feel.
Again, a nice oak finish which dried out to butter menthol.
Edition 84 – Batch No5 – Bottle No 4051. Bottled 7th December 2015.
Bottle states 46% Alc/vol – Tested at 46%
The aroma was quite vegetal and more robust. This is possibly pot still heavy and although the AVB is only slightly more than previously, it is noticeable (Well I think so anyway)
This tastes quite different to all the others. It’s a lot heavier and more complex. Not quite so user friendly but in a good way. There’s instant sweet notes which die away quickly to a dry expression. Thick treacle toffee morphing to molasses bitterness. Again there’s plenty of wood on the finish and that liquorice root again. Beautiful long lingering finish. This is competing for top spot but doesn’t quite have the edge over the 82 for me.
Edition 85 – Batch No6 – Bottle No 2326. Bottled 14th November 2016.
Bottle states 46% Alc/vol – Tested at 48%!
Strangely this edition tested at a higher AVB than it stated but I’ll add a disclaimer in that I’m currently writing this in the middle of the Australian summer and the temperature in my kitchen probably isn’t at the optimum level for the most accurate testing.
This final edition has a milder aroma than all the others so far. There’s a noticeable warm creamy vanilla aroma. It’s almost custard-like.
There’s a distinct flavour and apart from the 1st edition which just didn’t taste right, it’s interesting to see how the editions have subtly changed each year but the last is quite different. This is very tasty and well balanced. A slight tang on the front of the tongue but spicy warmth elsewhere. I love the heavy candied orange which is like a good quality marmalade. Interestingly different and pleasant.
So there it is. Apart from the 1st edition, none of them disappointed. Thankfully I know how good that 1st edition should be so I know that something is up with this one. I’ll go back to it in a few weeks and see if I get the same experience.
As for the rest of the series, I loved them. All great rums and all individual in their own way. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
Michael Speakman of St Lucia Distillers previously divulged what each blend was made up of but for the life of me I can’t find that information now.
So on a personal note I’ve ranked them as I see them. In order of preference I’d say the 3rd edition is my favourite followed by 5th, 6th, 4th, 2nd and 1st.
As a comparison, Michael Speakman ranks them 5th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, 1st and 3rd. Interesting how my favourite is his least favourite but apart from that we rank the rest in the same order.