Sister Isles Reserva Rhum
St. Kitts & Nevis
ABV Hydrometer Test: 37% ABV @ 20°
* A S
Today I am reviewing a bit of a mystery product.
Sister Isles Reserva Rhum claims to hail from the tiny islands of St. Kitts & Nevis, yet it appears that these tiny islands either have no active distilleries and do not produce any home-grown sugar cane anymore, or if they do, then they do not have stocks of aged r(h)ums. Demerara Distilleries Limited (DDL) from Guyana DO have a presence on St. Kitts, so it is entirely feasible to envisage that the sugar cane juice is from Guyana and that the rhum could have been distilled in Guyana, but this is just me speculating.
So, what do I know about this rhum? Well, it is an agricultural rhum, having been created from freshly pressed cane juice. It has been described as rhum vieux, which in agricultural rhum circles refers to the product having had three years of aging in oak barrels.
It is produced by The Haciendas Rhum Company using a blend of rhums that have been aged for between eight to 12 years in total, with six to ten years of ageing in the Caribbean before being transported to Hacienda Zorita in the amazing Spanish wine-producing region of Ribera del Duero for a further two years of ageing. The rhum has this secondary ageing at 800m altitude in a combination of French and American oak barrels that were previously used to age Hacienda Zorita’s Crianza and Reserva wines. Speaking as a fan of red wines, Ribera del Duero is probably my favourite wine producing region of the world. Some of the most amazing heavy and full-bodied red wines you could ever find hail from here so the prospect of ageing r(h)um in these casks is exciting…..well, for me anyway.
But, the cynic in me smells a rat at this point.
- Secondary ageing in red wine barrels – how wet were these barrels when the rhum was added?
- Finished? Either it is aged or not – a finish just makes me more suspicious about how much wine was in the casks when the rhum was added. How much time defines a “finish” compared to ageing?
- Slow ageing at altitude? Surely, that is just marketing b*llsh*t! One of the appeals of rum ageing is taking advantage of the tropical climate that ages spirits faster and produces more intense flavours compared to ageing in a temperate climate.
Unfortunately nowadays, any new r(h)ums have to have some accompanying marketing story – I would much rather have some info about the r(h)um itself and be told about how it is produced, but that is asking too much. Sister Isles do not talk about the actual rhum, but as is all-too-common, they reference some vaguely related concoction linking the product to something unique and remarkable in history aka more marketing b*llsh*t. In this case, the historical connection is linking none other than Christopher Columbus to the Islands of St Kitts and Nevis. Columbus received funding for his voyage of discovery to the Caribbean from “the Kingdom of Spain at Hacienda Zorita more than 500 years ago.” Columbus founded and twinned St. Kitts & Nevis. So as they (Hacienda Zorita) cannot talk about the history of their r(h)um production as they do not have any, or mention the artisan production methods or quality of stills, they have to have a tenuous link to history instead.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be uncategorised due to the non-disclosure of the distillery involved and unknown types of stills used. In addition my hydrometer test showed this to be 37% implying that around 12g of sugar per litre have been added.
The bottle is a slightly stubby version of a regular shape and features some nice gold leaf lettering.
We have a lovely looking label with the obligatory marketing story but absolutely nothing about the rum’s creation whatsoever, just a few vague tasting notes.
The rum is a medium amber with a slightly orange aura. There are very thick and heavy, syrupy legs that are quick to descend the sides of my glass.
The initial aroma is sweet. Some caramel and overly sugary vanilla, light oak and flambée banana.
Taste, Initial-middle 18/40
The first sip is very easy going. It is very light such that one could almost be drinking a liqueur.
There is little flavour to it. Initially the taste is like one of those nondescript desserts you sometimes get in a cheap Spanish restaurant.
Taste, Middle/Throat 26/40
It is at this point that the first real rum presence is noticeable. There is a gentle burn like the dying embers of a wood fire, with some light and slightly bitter oak notes. The rum feels very syrupy but not quite sticky. Further tastings reveal some tropical fruit notes, in particular some ripe banana.
The rum is quick to finish. It is very light in the back of the throat with a touch of oak and some welcome dry wine notes, not quite tanin-esque but there is a soft feel to the rum. Subsequent tastings improve this feeling.
It often seems that whenever a rum has any connections to Spanish/Latin countries, the production of the r(h)um is a mystery and shrouded in secrecy. Sadly, being as cynical as I am, I believe this is usually due to the fact that they have no r(h)um producing expertise, history or providence and hence need the marketing and pirate b*llsh*t stories to sell their products.
That aside, the liquid is actually quite surprisingly tasty although anyone expecting a full-on agricole will be disappointed with this. The same applies to someone who enjoys high ABV rums. In fact, for most of the tasting I had forgotten I was drinking something from fresh cane juice. I could almost not be drinking r(h)um, such is the softness of the product.
This is the sort of drink that I would have enjoyed when I first started exploring new products and may well be useful as a stepping stone for r(h)um drinkers to go from the sweetened styles to proper r(h)ums.
For anyone who enjoys lighter r(h)ums, then this is an ideal introduction albeit a little on the sweet side. For the price there are many better products available and ones that are proud to describe the production methods, but there will be a market for this somewhere between sugar-bombs and real rum.
NOTE: There is speculation regarding whether this is actually molasses or cane juice based. And herein lies the problem with many producers – a complete lack of information and transparency, hence one does not know whether it is value for money or not. Caveat Emptor!
P Denotes the rum contains POT still distillate.
C Denotes the rum contains traditional/Coffey COLUMN still distillate.
B Denotes the rum contains a BLEND of POT and COLUMN still distillate.
M Denotes the rum contains MULTI-COLUMN still distillate or is a MODERN rum.
A Denotes the rum is an AGRICOLE i.e. from Cane Juice.
S Denotes the rum is presented in a SWEETENED style.
Bottle/Presentation Out of 3
Glass/Aroma Out of 10
Taste, Initial-middle Out of 40
Taste, Middle/Throat Out of 40
Afterburn Out of 7