Perhaps unsurprisingly, a good story can be just as important to rum brands as it is to so many whiskey/whisky brands. So it is with The Forgotten Casks from Saint Lucia Distillers, a classic example of turning lemons into lemonade.
Saint Lucian rum is something I’ve become familiar with just recently, when I tasted a lineup of rums from the island’s only distillery—Saint Lucia Distillers, SLD—back in September. These are what some rum geeks would refer to as “English-style” rums, produced in a combination of column and pot stills from molasses, typically rich and dark in flavor and color and more pungent than the lighter Spanish-style rums of Cuba or Puerto Rico. The distillery produces several different brands—the Admiral Rodney series is solely column distillate, while the flagship Chairman’s Reserve is a blend of pot and column still rums, which yields added complexity. In particular, I was very impressed with the premium Chairman’s Reserve 1931, which is aged in a combination of bourbon and port casks before being bottled at a somewhat higher strength of 46% ABV (92 proof). It remains the finest Saint Lucian rum I’ve had so far, and one that compares very nicely to aged bottles out of more famous rum locales such as Barbados and Jamaica.
One brand I didn’t get a chance to sample then, however, is the company’s mid-tier expression, The Forgotten Casks. I’ve now received a sample, however, so I figured I might as well make one more trip to Saint Lucia, especially to note the story behind this particular bottle.
Back in May of 2007, Saint Lucia Distillers was badly damaged by a fire, which in particular made large sections of the aging warehouses unusable until they could be repaired. This damage necessitated the moving of many barrels of rum to new locations, and in the chaos of this procedure, some of the barrels were misplaced and forgotten. The issue wasn’t identified until 2014, and by that time the barrels had aged far longer than the roughly six years typically present in the flagship Chairman’s Reserve brand. A decision was made to simply release those barrels as part of a considerably older blend, which became The Forgotten Casks. Response to that new blend was positive, so the distillery has continued producing it ever since.
The Forgotten Casks is an extra-aged blend of 6 to 11-year-old rums distilled in both column and pot stills, and aged exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels. It’s bottled at the baseline of 40% ABV (80 proof) and carries an MSRP around $45-50. With all that said, let’s get to tasting.
On the nose, The Forgotten Casks presents with significant molasses richness and loads of fruit as well, especially dark fruitiness. It’s a combination of dark fruit and booze that is slightly vinous, evoking malbec-like wine notes as well as fruitcake or something like brandied cherries. There are also hints of coconut and toasted sugars, implying something on the rich deeply caramelized side.
On the palate, this one is undeniably “rummy,” and a bit more boozy than you’d likely expect for the subdued proof point. Molasses and very dark toffee lead off, but once again this is quite fruity, with a combination of notes that range from the brighter red fruit of cranberry and cherry to dried fruit notes of raisin or prune. Fine oak spices then enter the picture, as do baking spice notes of clove and ginger. Again, I find myself thinking of boozy Christmas fruitcake, as the ethanol adds a slightly antiseptic character that perhaps knocks the enjoyment here down just a tad.
All in all, this is a rich and fruit-driven aged rum that will definitely play well in cocktails calling for that kind of character, but it doesn’t quite have the complexity and array of flavors present in the Chairman’s Reserve 1931—in particular, the more earthy tones and the dark chocolate/coffee likely added by that expression’s port barrel aging. The Forgotten Casks is somewhat more straightforward than that, but it certainly packs a respectable punch for a mere 80 proofer.
Distillery: Saint Lucia Distillers
City: Roseau, St. Lucia
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $45-50 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.