Saint James Fleur de Canne

St. James Fleur de Canne Blanc-RG1-USE

Product of:  Martinique
Aged:   unaged
Price: $27
Alcohol: 50% ABV 
Sugar: 0 g/L 
Context: Rhum Blanc Agricole
RG Rating: 10

Tasting Notes 
Color: Silver.  Appearance:  Shimmering.  Legs:  Immediate, prolific, long and long lasting  - quite a surprise for an agricole blanc of 50% ABV.

Saint James Fleur de Canne opens to a delicate, well developed floral vesou bouquet, as if you standing close to the the cane crusher.   Next  come fruity aromas of mild lemon citrus and sweet grassy cane stalk – ample evidence that you’re about to sip one of the world’s finer agricole blancs.  Close your eyes, sniff, and the rhum will transport you to the innermost workings of St. James distillery on Martinique.  I think that’s all you can ask of an agricole blanc, the purity of the harvested source is carried through to the finished rhum.  It cries out for a ‘Ti Punch made with the  minimum of lime peel and sirop de canne.  In fact, add a bit of ice to the rhum straight and you’d have an equally enjoyable drink.

Nah, let’s try it au naturel.  Initial tasting brings instant satisfaction.  Scrumptious big mouthfuls of anise and earthy cane woodiness, even the 50% alcohol is incredibly well balanced to the flavors and medium-heavy body.  Of course the finish leaves you both satisfied and wanting for more; it’s long and luxurious; the sweet rhum flavors linger on the tip of your tongue till the final curtain in this singularly beautiful performance.

Anecdotes 
Saint James adorns this rhum bottle with secondary labels decaring Cuvée Spéciale Reserve Numérotte, basically meaning something special indeed is contained within, available in limited, numbered quantities.  Translated literally, Fleur de Canne means Flower of Cane.   It is an orchid of a rhum, appealingly sweet, yet sturdy.

One of the few overproof Agricole blanc’s perfectly adept at being sipped neat, Fleur de Canne nevertheless makes a refreshingly dry and different ‘Ti Punch when combined with minimal sirop de canne and a lime disc.  Perfectionnez pour avant le dîner.

Copper as scuplture [Fleur de Canne review]

Saint James boats more than two Centuries of rhum production.  According to M. Michel Fayad, tour leader on the estate's overwhelming Musée du Rhum, impressive distillery and aging facilities, Saint-James is the largest rhum producer on Martinique.   Distilling began on the island in 1635, and 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)  could be used to heat the water boilers and produce steam, made it more efficient to use the new technology column stills.

Saint James Fermentation  Tank being filled with cane juice and yeast.

Today, Saint James uses 18 fermentation tanks, filled every day during harvest season.  Fermentation starts with Baker’s yeast, but naturally occurring airborne and cane stalk yeasts contribute to the conversion of sugar into ethanol. for 36 hours.  The conversion is complete or halted, then the vesou is distilled in a single pass though the column stills.  The raw sugarcane spirit is rested for 12-18 months (maximum) before being transferred ino smaller aging barrels.

Opinion 
I approached this rhum with few expectations, but wow, was I pleasantly rewarded.  On nose alone, St. James Fleur de Canne is a winner.  And that’s only the beginning.   After thoroughly tasting and reflecting, I realize that the best surprise of my tour of Martinique’s distilles in March 2013 was how delicious some of their special agricole blanc’s are.  St. James Fleur de Canne is superb, on par with the best white rhums available on the island.  How has the distiller managed to keep this rhum a secret from the Angels.  It’s that good.

Reviewed: Bottle No. 16425, July 20013 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017