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Rum Review: Saint James Extra Old Rum

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How do you rate St. James Extra Old Rum (five is best)?
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3499
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 6:41 pm    Post subject: Rum Review: Saint James Extra Old Rum Reply with quote

Saint James Extra Old Rum: "Smooth Rice Mat"

Or as Saint James puts it: "Thanks to its unique intense color and its subtle aromas, Extra Old can be enjoyed as a digestive..."!?

It's time to review another cane juice rum (or rhum as rhum snobs may prefer). Neither Saint James Ambre or Extra Old are super expensive and can be found for about $20 and $23 respectively. The Saint James Sugar factory was established in 1765 on Martinique and produced sugar, molasses and some rum until the eruption of Mount Pelee. The company and distillery relocated and then began producing cane juice rum, er rhum, since then. Saint James cane juice rums currently carry the French AOC designation and is accordingly produced under those voluminous and stifling regulations.

Interestingly, Saint James does in fact filter, vacumn and concentrate some of the fresh cane juice into a light syrup (semi-syrup) to preserve it for later distillation after cane season ends in June!

This semi-syrup is later diluted to the orginal brix (concentration) and fermented into alcohol. BTW, these details (also posted at the Ministry) pretty much crushes Preacher Ed's phony contention (on the same basis) that Barbancourt is anything other than cane juice rhum. Sorry your inconsisteminence...

And as always, I cite your own words and website for this delicious contradiction.

I think it's also worth noting that St. James white rhums are allowed to rest for 6 months in huge (68,000 liter) stainless vats. The more aged SJ Paille spends 18 months in massive (35,000 liter) wooden vats with the notion that the rhum will exchange compounds with the wood and form desired complex esters.

The truth: There's really insufficient wood surface to accomplish this task in a mere 18 months.

The older rhums like the SJ Ambre, and Extra Old spend their time in 200 liter oak barrels (like large wine barrels). Now, for good aging, this is more like it, but these are still relatively large barrels which provide less surface area per liter. Keep also in mind that the Martinique distillers age their rum at higher alcohol content for fewer years than Barbancourt (who ages for signifcantly longer periods at lower alcohol content - more expensive and time consuming but for demonstrably better results).

But I digress. The reviews:

Sue Sea:

The St. James bottles are very attractive, square bottles that look and feel old, and reminded me of fine whiskey bottles. Classic! Now before I start, I must admit that I am not especially enamored of cane juice rum, particularly after tasting St. James Ambre, which is quite pungent. But Jim convinced me to try once again, this time tasting their Extra Old.

Much better, no doubt the result of aging. The initial aroma was an orange/vanilla, with some light cane, reedy, like bamboo. This pleasant aroma certainly set up my expectations, but the taste was disappointing. Extra Old is consistent and light bodied. It tastes of cane, reedy, and a pungent cork, turning astringent with a bit of licorice or anisette (like a pitzel). The finish is short and consistent, and leaves an aftertaste of cane and perhaps a hint of cigar box.

After nosing, there's really not a whole lot going on with Extra Old. Don't get me wrong, it is a great improvement over the Ambre. Like the Ambre, this is one of the few rums that might compliment Asian food, and would be a nice, light appetizer/sipping rum to whet your tastebuds.


St. James Extra Old is a blend of aged cane juice rums, and indeed shows the benefit of aging (compare to Ambre). It is a medium clear amber with medium/light legs. Its aroma is a deep cane, with a hint of vanilla and orange. The body is light and the taste is entirely consistent. The late palate turns astringent - its medium finish is of cane and light pepper, leaving a slight tobacco aftertaste.

Extra Old is certainly an improvement over the Ambre, but is still not very remarkable. It does demonstrate the effects of aging. This is one of those rums that attempts to begin well, but it's all downhill after that. The cane dominates throughout. Yes, smoothly and with quality. But although I'm sure this quality taste of reedy (not sugary) cane is an acquired taste like say, aged grass clippings, it's not rum as 97% of sales and drinkers think of molasses-based rums.

Digest that...

Score (10 is best): 6.


Note: Some of you may be wondering what the notable differences are when compared to St James Ambre. Comparing both is a worthy endeavor - which I highly recommend - as it illustrates directly the effects of aging and good oak on rum.

When compared, Ambre is noticeably more pungent - more caney, moldy, horsy, almost sour. There is a hint of tar, old leather and a distant sweetness. Aging has reduced the cane to a lighter, smoother note in the Extra Old and the sweet tones are much less distant. And so it goes throughout the tasting. Aging reduces the cane, brings up the background and complexity.

It's a funny thing. The rhum snobs have wet dreams over the notion of AOC-nannied "fresh cane juice" products, but the highest rated and extravagantly priced "vintages" (going for $90) are those where aging has come close to eliminating the "cane" notes they espouse.

An interesting contradiction. Acquired because it's from cane juice, but is more appreciated the less you can taste it. Or when you hide it in "Ti Punch". Hmm...


Go to Save Caribbean Rum Petition!

Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Wed May 26, 2010 7:18 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:51 pm    Post subject: Saint James Extra Old Reply with quote

I just picked up my four bottles of Hors D'Age today which I had to 'Special Order' from the local Crown Liquors. That is the ONLY Saint James they can get for me - the Extra Old isn't available. However, in every case in which I've checked on Saint James rums online, the Hors D'Age has always been more expensive.
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