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St. Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Barbados Rum

Review: St. Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Barbados Rum  84/100
A Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on July 20, 2013

A visit to the St. Nicholas Abbey Website tells us that the aged rum known as St. Nicholas Abbey 10-year-old Barbados Rum, was distilled and aged not far away at the R.L. Seale and Four Square Distillery. In fact, the folks at St. Nicholas Abbey have a maintained a close relationship with Four Square’s Master Distiller, Richard Seale who not only has provided the Bajan Rum for their current bottling, but also has assisted St. Nicholas Abbey in formulating the recipe for their futures rums, and aided them in distillation and aging techniques. The current 10 year Old St. Nicholas Rum is a blend of aged rums distilled on both column and pot stills. The rum is transported at some point during the aging process to the higher altitude of St. Nicholas Abbey where the barrels complete their aging in the more humid climate of the surrounding area.

The rum is produced in small batches to be a connoisseurs rum and are priced accordingly. (My bottle was priced at over $100.00 Canadian.)

St. Nic 10In the Bottle 4/5

Some things baffle me. The St. Nicholas Rum arrives in a nifty decanter (see left), with an extremely high price tag. Yet the first time I uncorked my bottle, the cork split in two with half of the cork disintegrating and falling into the rum, and the other half falling apart in my hand. When I asked a few other people about the corkage, I found this problem was not unique to me. The fault seems to lie in the actual cork itself which is of low quality, very lightweight and of insufficient strength to retain its integrity. On an expensive connoisseur bottling, I expect better. Luckily for me, I  had just finished a bottle of Ron Millonario XO, and the cork from that bottle was a perfect fit. Apparently the Ron Millonario closure was of sufficient quality to seal not one expensive bottle, but two and counting.

The corkage problem is really inexcusable in such an expensive rum, and when things like this happen, I wonder if other corners have been cut before the rum was placed in its nifty decanter. (I deducted 1 point from the score because of the crumbling cork.)

In the Glass 8.5/10

The St. Nicholas Abbey 10-year-old Rum displays itself as a light amber liquid. The initial nose is quite complex bringing forward aromas of molasses lightly stained by brine and tar. I also sense the aroma of sweet butterscotch, canned apricots, some sherry-like scents of raisin and figs, and coarse dark brown sugar. As the glass sits, the aroma in the air becomes spicier with the fine oak spices, rich vanillans, dark tobacco, pungent spicy cinnamon and hot cloves which all seem to hint at a pot still influence and tropical oak aging. A light mustiness of old leather sneaks into the fray  as does a light rubbery resiny smell which perhaps contains just a tint of sulpher.

The overall nose is nice, with only a few hints of astringency within the air.

In the Glass  51/60

The rum is rich, complex and fully flavoured. Oak spice and vanillins seem to dominate initially pushed ahead by rich butterscotch and dark molasses. Canned fruit (apricots and peaches), and dark fruit (dates, raisins and black currants) ripple through the rum, and the molasses I taste seems to have tinges of tar, brine, treacle and sulpher associated with it. As the glass sits, baking spices build which remind me of my Mom’s cinnamon buns which were always filled with dark brown sugar, cinnamon and roasted walnuts. As wonderful as this sounds, I find myself not enjoying the rum as much as I expected. Those hints of astringency I noted on the nose seem to have gathered strength in the glass and they are perhaps diminishing the experience for me. I need an ice-cube to keep the heat and spice at bay; and when I add that ice, the sweetness of the rum is affected allowing some unwanted bitterness and some unwanted rubber-like flavours  to come forward.

In the Throat   12/15

The ending is quite a surprise as the exit is more bitter than sweet, carrying flavours of treacle, charred coconut, burnt sugar, and peppery dry spice. I would prefer a better balance between the bitter and the sweet.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

St. Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Barbados Rum is a bit of an enigma for me. Most of the press for this rum has been extremely positive which perhaps raised my expectations to an unwarranted level. Unwanted rubber-like flavours and bitterness in the finish seemed to deflect my enjoyment. Although this is a nice Bajan Rum, I found myself wanting to mix more often than I wanted to sip.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.

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Suggested Cocktail

SAM_0633 Comfortably NumbComfortably Numb

2 oz St. Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Barbados Rum
4 oz pineapple juice
1 oz orange juice
1 ounce coconut cream
crushed ice
cinnamon and ground nutmeg

Mix in a tall glass filled with crushed ice
Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and nutmeg
Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Enjoy!

And remember, the aim is not to drink more rum and cocktails, it is to drink better rum and better cocktails!

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You may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

4 Responses to “St. Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Barbados Rum”

  1. It would be interesting to see, if you tried the 8 year old and the 12, whether the inconsistencies and not-quite-stellar notes you commented on, carried over to both the older and the younger variants. After reading this I trotted downstairs and dug out my own ten year old and resampled it, but still think it is a very good Bajan rum and definitely a cut above the ordinary, with none of the astringency you mentioned. I wonder if it’s a batch issue.

    • I do not think it is a batch issue (although one can never be sure), as I suspect all the rum that came to Alberta, your bottle and mine were from the same batch. I think it is more an issue of style with perhaps a number of additional factors at play as well.

      I admit in the review that my expectations were high with respect to the St. Nicholas Abbey both as far as reputation goes, and because of the high price tag. As you know it is unusual for me to mention price in my reviews. The fact that I did was an admission of sorts that this factor had influenced my opinion. When my high expectations were met with first a crumbling cork, which was lightweight and obviously not up to its task, and then with a flavour that did not seem to match my expectation, it caused me to struggle in the review to reconcile my feelings. In the end I decided was that the rum is slightly out of balance with not enough of the sweetness of the rum carrying through to the finish. (I did not like the bitter finish.) The bitterness in the finish coupled with what I perceived to be a light astringency caused me to prefer to mix rather than sip and my score had to reflect that. My high initial expectations may have caused disappointment that is reflected in the score as well.

      The bottom line is that at $100.00 a pop (in Alberta anyways) this is not a rum I would consider purchasing a second time. Although you seem to like it more than I, I suspect you will not be purchasing the rum again either. Am I right?

      • No, I probably would buy it again. But since I first bought this three years ago, there have been so many others to sample and review, I simply haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe if I did a horizontal with several other Bajans it might fall somewhat in my estimation…thus far, it hasn’t, though.

        • Funny you should mention a horizontal with other Bajans….
          Three of my next four reviews will other Bajans which I tasted side by side with the St. Nicolas Abbey. And yes, the St. Nic was the Bajan that carried the lowest score.

 
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