St Nicholas Abbey Single Cask 15 year old rum review by The Rum Gallery

22 September 2013 . By Camilla Whitehead
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Tasting Notes 
Extremely Smooth.  Dozens of thick, long legs grace the sides of my tasting glass as I gaze into the rum’s bright golden/polished copper hue - lighter in color than many rums half it’s age.  After 15 years in oak, there is no reason to hurry this rum.  Watching those legs dance is satisfaction enough – for awhile anyway.  But, St. Nicholas Abbey’s rums are a true rum sniffer’s dream.  A bouquet of sawn mahogany  that is almost floral in its fresh scents first greets your nose, quickly followed by aromas of supple tanned leather, mild tropical fruit (mango, banana), smoky wood, mild caramel and maple sugar, subtle vanilla, phenol, coconut and nutmeg.  Aromas are remarkably consistent with SNA 12, yet rounder and more pronounced.  The taste is: Scrumptious.  This is not a rum to dissect – it’s the balance and integration of the rum’s flavors that set it above.  Enjoyment comes from appreciating the consistency, from aromatics to the full body of flavors to the velvet finish. 

Anecdotes
Comparing all four bottles of SNA rum sitting shoulder to shoulder in The Rum Gallery, they range in color from lighter to darker in this order:  8, 15, 12, 10.  Note: The bottle shown in the main sidebar was specially lighted to accentuate the detail of the St. Nicholas Abbey Mansion etched onto every bottle.  The rum's color is more accurately shown against a white background, as in the photo at bottom.

Simon Refilling3

Each bottle is filled from a single oak barrel.  When a barrel is depleted, another one is tapped in the small bottling room.  Because each barrel is different and evolves over time, rums of the same age but from different barrels will show slight variations in color darkness and slight variations in the intensity of aromas and flavors. In my experience, every rum bottled by St. Nicholas Abbey is sublime, regardless of age.

SNA 15 Bottle-RG3 FINAL-USE

It’s worth visiting the historic rum temple known as St. Nicholas Abbey simply to bask in its hallowed aging grounds.  While visiting, damn the expense and buy as much rum as you can cart home.  Tour the Abbey’s restored Jacobean Mansion, built in 1658 during the period that King James I briefly influenced British architecture, and one of only a handful still standing.  The grounds themselves, located in the Parish of St. Peter in the forested highlands of Northern Barbados.  The Bajan location’s special microclimate contributes to the unique aromas and flavors of St. Nicholas Abbey rums.  Return with your empty bottle on your next visit and they’ll refill it for half price, and engrave it for free.  As they say, you should always move up in age.  I say, that’s a bargain!

Rum aficionados who have toured the Abbey (and stopped in a couple of the islands 1,500+ rum shops along the way) can claim to have truly visited the Best of Barbados.

There’s more to learn about St. Nicholas Abbey by visiting the Rum Gallery's reviews of their 8 Year Old and 12 Year Old  discontinued rums, as well as their 10 Year Old rum.  Also please view the Rum Gallery's Photo Tour of the St. Nicholas Abbey mansion grounds and distillery.

Opinion 
Always excellent, yet St. Nicholas Abbey continually surprises.  After sampling their incredible 8, 10 and 12 year old rums over these past few years, I was expecting  the 15 Year Old to be exceptional even by SNA standards.  I hadn’t set my expectations high enough.  Masterpiece?  Perfection? Delicious?  Intoxicatingly Rich?  Yes.  I’ve used  those words to describe previous releases from St. Nicholas Abbey.  Still, those superlatives fall short of this bottling.  St. Nicholas Abbey 15 Year Old is the benchmark by which all other Bajan rums should be measured.

Reviewed: June 2013 at The Rum Gallery, USA.

Credit:  Thank you Mike Streeter of Rum Connection and Co-founder of the International Rum Council for the photo of Simon Jackson Warren, congenial son of distillery founder Larry Warren, refills a bottle straight from the aging cask - at half price no less!   for this photo.

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