Saint James Coeur de Chauffe Blanc 

Rhum St. James Couer de Chauffe Blanc Blue-RG1 USE

Product of:  Martinique
Aged:   NA
Price: $25 (purchased on Antigua)
Alcohol: 60% ABV 
Sugar: 0-5 g/L (estimate) 
Context: Rhum Blanc Agricole
RG Rating: 10

Tasting Notes 
Rhum St. James Coeur de Chauffe rhum blanc agricole is crystal clear of course, and there’s little visual drama in the glass, legs are few and fleeting, as most of the rhum immediately sheets downward after swirling.

It is in the nose where Coeur de Chauffe Blanc first demonstrates its magic.  The aromas are stellar; as perfect as an agricole can be. Floral, fresh sugarcane, herbal, and juniper scents emerge giddy from the glass, not wobbly from the 60% ABV, more like dancing, happy to be in fresh air.  The rhum delivers a harmonic balance of superbly cut heart aromas, at once lightly ethereal yet dense in their alembic structure.
The initial taste segues seamlessly from the aromas, delivering potent, distilled fresh-crushed sugarcane juice flavors and the taste of delicate croissant to give the rhum a light creamy body.  And yes, that 60° overproof finally catches you in the throat during the finish, as well it should.

Alembic Distillation
Saint James commenced distilling in 1765 in the capital of St. Pierre. After the earthquake of 1902 devastated the city, operations were moved to the current location.  In the early days before the 1870’s, rhum was distilled on Martinique from fermented molasses.  The invention of the Coffey still, and the realization that bagasse (spent, crushed sugarcane stalks) was an excellent fuel for heating the water boilers to produce steam, made it more efficient to use the new technology column stills.  This Coeur de Chauffe, however, was distilled in copper alembic stills, essentially a specialized type of pot still, used more often in the days before Martinique earned AOC status.

“This speciality of St. James is a rhum traditionelle. a foundation of the culture inherent in generations of Martiniquaise.  This white rum is produced at 60°, yielded from the hearts of the distillation in an alembic still.  It has much finesse, with floral and fresh sugarcane notes dominant, supported by a hint of juniper.  To fully appreciate the subtlety of Saint James Coeur de Chauff, consume it pure and without ice.” - Rum Gallery’s rough translation of the French-language text on the side label of the bottle.’

See a photo tour of the Saint James’ Musée du Rhum here.

Saint James recommends enjoying their Coeur de Chauff rhum blanc neat, no ice, and I cannot argue with their tasting notes.  The rhum is that well behaved and delicious.  Alembic agricole rhums from Martinique are a rare enough breed, so sipping with no influences on the rhum is appropriate, justified, and extremely pleasant.  But I love’s mah ‘Ti Punch, so I tasted this Coeur de Chauff blanc in that simple, highly personalized drink too.  You might consider it a bit wasteful, but if anything, a couple of lime rinds, a few drops of Martinique strop de carne, an ounce of rhum, all spun together with a bois lélé lets this tough-but-mannered Alembic rhum agricole's flavors shine and body strut. Yeah, I’ll be needing another bottle soon.

A couple of restored copper pot stills and retorts greet you upon entering Saint James' musée du rhum

This rhum is traditionally distilled in an Alembic pot still (perhaps like one of the stills pictured?), it circumvents Martinique's AOC requirement for a single pass through a short column still.  Therefore it is entirely fitting to evaluate it’s acumen in a classic daiquiri. generally acknowledged to use a Cuban-style ron blanco.  The verdict: it’s wonderful.  Served in a daiquiri, this earthy sugarcane, higher congener overproof rhum makes good on the soft/potent balance. 

Reviewed: January 2017 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017