1931 83rd Anniversary Edition (Fourth Release - Black Label)

1931 Fourth Edition 83rd Anniv Black Label B&B-RG3-USE

Product of: St. Lucia 
Aged: blend of molasses and fresh sugarcane juice rums aged 6 years and more. 
Price:  $EC125 ($US47) purchased on St. Lucia 
Alcohol: 43% 
Sugar: 0-5g/L (estimate)
Context: Premium Aged Rum 
RG Rating: 10

Tasting Notes 
A bright bouquet of rich aged scents emanates from the tasting glass with little coaxing.  Further sniffing reveals the Guyanese molasses base common to St. Lucia Distillers’ other fine rums, but accelerated by the fresh sugarcane grassiness of a small percentage of rum agriciole in the blend. Still, it is the molasses that carries the rum, the cake to the agricole’s frosting if you like. Lesser notes of wet leather, unlit cigar, then spices (clove, nutmeg) and fruit (banana peel and ripe mango).

It is also a bit forward on the nose, purposeful yet polite, an intoxicatingly complex invitation.  The color is that of beautiful mahogany heirloom furniture, like the finely figured wood used to backdrop an impromptu photo (below, right) taken just prior to writing this review.  Once poured, legs run many, thick and fast inside my tasting glass, adding power and visual presentation to the aromas' release.

Sip and discover pronounced flavors building upon the strong aromas with tremendous excitement, the rum’s Gemini personality is fully displayed on your palate as each side vies for attention.  Relax and let this rum drama play out in your theater of tastebuds.  It’s a long act, the encore finish never seems to fade completely away, so you sip and enjoy once again.

1931 Black label was released in November 2014.  As the fourth in a series, 1931 Black label commemorates 83 years of rum making at a distillery founded by Denis Barnard in the Mabouya Valley near the small fishing village of Dennery.  That distillery ceased in 1972 after merging with St. Lucia’s only extant distillery, forming St. Lucia Distillers, in Roseau Valley.  

1931 Black Label DNA Chart1931 Fourth Edition 83rd Anniv Black Label Desk-RG5-USE

As with the 80th, 81st and 82nd Anniversary editions of 1931 , this 83rd anniversary edition is a unique blend.  It is different in every manner; age, distillation, source material, color, aromas and flavors from previous editions.  this 83rd Anniversary edition blends molasses-based rum distilled in St. Lucia Distillers’ copper pot stills –known as John Dore I, the larger John Dore II and the lone Vendome, plus their single Coffey still – with six year aged sugarcane juice rum produced in one of the John Dore pot stills after fermenting with natural yeast. 

For starters, 1931 83rd Anniversary blends approximately 11% agricole rum with rum distilled from Guyanese molasses, the latter is the fermentation foundation for all other St. Lucia Distillers’ rums.  A few acres bordering the distillery complex were set aside for growing sugarcane while a small cane crusher was installed in a separate building centrally located at the facility.  The agricole rum was aged in oak barrels for six years. before blending with aged molasses-based rums to create this 1931 83rd Anniversary expression.

Before setting sail south from St. Lucia in October 2014, I was humbled during a visit to the distillery by tasting four candidate samples the 1931 83rd Anniversary.  The four samples differed in their percentage of agricole rum, 10-11-12-16%.  After sampling the four with Master Blender Roger and VP of Sales & Marketing Michael Speakman, I was put on the spot by the inevitable question:  “Which version should we use for the final product?”  

1931 Fourth Edition 83rd Anniv Black Label final blend candidates in St. Lucia Distillers' lab

It is a dream come true to be under such pressure, but given a few moments to taste each version again, with a bit of nose and palate cleansing, and summoning my most immediate clarity of mind, I replied “I seek out the funkier, less-frequented corners on the rum world, and therefore what I prefer might not be what the rum consumers and aficionados would buy in larger quantities.”  I liked them all, and added that the blend using 11% or 12% agricole would probably meet with the most success, but damn if I didn’t want some of the 16% version for my own rum locker.  

And the final product?  11% agricole in fact.  

Looking for context, perhaps it’s entirely appropriate that the 83rd anniversary edition of 1931 embraces molasses and sugarcane juice rums.  After all, St. Lucia changed hands between the French and British during the colonial period, and was frequently fought over.  The independent island lies between Martinique, Tres French and home to the World’s only AOC Rhums Agricole, and just North of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a 32-island nation with a primarily British and African cultural influences proudly apparent today. In any event, the rum is as special and unique as St. Lucia, and arguably their best rum to date.  This one sends me …

Handily, the bottle’s stopper and the color of the packaging changes with each edition, making it easy to identify subsequent annual releases.  I’ll forever be on the lookout for more black label.

1931 Fourth Edition 83rd Anniv Black Label Mini-Label-RG1

Reviewed: October while visiting St. Lucia Distiller’s and sailing around the island, and again with a bottle from Batch 04, Bottle No. 1782, bottled on 08 December 2014, during November 2016 at The Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017