How made
How made

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How Chairman’s Reserve rums are made

Chairman's Reserve, is a blend of column and pot still rums distilled, aged and blended at St. Lucia Distillers. Proudly, "Saint Lucia's Finest Rum" the island's Piton Mountains proudly adorn its label.

Molasses – the raw ingredient

Due to the closure of the last sugar processing plant in the 60s, banana plantations have now replaced sugar on Saint Lucia, so the distillery sources its sugar cane molasses, the raw material to make its rums, from Guyana.

The molasses are shipped into a jetty in Roseau Bay below the distillery from where the viscous syrup is pumped onto shore and then up to the storage tanks at the distillery via a half-mile underground pipe.

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Fermentation of the molasses uses two different third-party sourced distiller's yeast strains, which are used independently to produce two different washes. One of these strains yields a wash with a particularly strong butterscotch flavour, which can be found in Chairman's Reserve. The yeasts are propagated with gradually more molasses introduced in two consecutive mother tanks, then a stainless steel propagation tank before finally being pumped into one of eight open concrete fermenters. Fermentation takes 24 hours, with temperatures up to 34°C to produce a wash of 7% - 8.5% alc./vol..

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The wash is then distilled in one of St. Lucia Distillers' four different stills: - a two-column McMillan Ltd Continuous column still made in Prestonpans, Scotland (commissioned in 1985) which produces a distillate at 95% alc./vol.
- a John Dore (No.1) 422-litre pot still (commissioned in 1998);
- a Vendome 1,000 litre pot still (commissioned in 2003);
- a John Dore (No.2) 6000-litre pot still (commissioned in 2004). Both the John Dore stills have two retort chambers so produce heavy distillates of 80% - 81% alc./vol.. [When visiting the distillery, I found the samples from the John Dore No.1 were by far my favourite.]

This array of different stills, each using two different yeast strains, allows the production of various rum styles with many different flavour profiles - thus giving more blending options. The John Dore produces pungent fruity, estery rums while the Vendome, originally mainly used by the bourbon industry, gives the benefit of pot distillation with a rectifying column with variable plates.

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St. Lucia Distillers mostly sources white American oak casks from the Kentucky bourbon industry but additionally use port pipes for final "polishing" of some rums. The distillery has also experimented with Hermitage and Chilean wine casks, as well as sherry butts, madeira and sauternes barrels. However, for Chairman's Reserve maturation is in ex-bourbon barrels.

Due to the tropical temperatures, maturation is extremely quick - said to be two-and-a-half times faster than the equivalent in Europe. St. Lucia Distillers tries to avoid the overly woody notes that can come from extended ageing in such conditions, so they closely monitor the ageing of their rums to judge when mature - rather than being governed by strict age statements.

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The philosophy at the distillery is to gain complexity through the blending of older complex rums with fresher, yet characterful rums and so there are no age statements declared on any of their blends. That said, the average age of the blend is around five years.

Chairman's Reserve is built from blends of different aged rums produced using both copper pot stills and the Coffey column still which are married together and rested in oak vats for an additional six months.

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With the exception of caramel for colour-correcting purposes, St. Lucia Distillers does not add sugar or other additives to its rums. The water used for hydration prior to bottling is filtered and treated by reverse osmosis.

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