Friday Happy Hour: Overcoming the Agony of Regret with Rhum Saint James 1939


It is undoubtedly among the most vile of emotions one can have, especially when it comes to travel. For me, few things are worse than that sinking feeling you get on your return flight home upon realizing that you missed out on something truly unique in a place that you’re not likely to re-visit again any time soon.

I had that feeling following my trip to Anguilla earlier this summer. A very special rhum from Martinique was to blame…

I met her at the sultry Sunset Bar at the Viceroy Anguilla. Our paths had crossed before in Martinique, where I also flirted with her older sister, though I never really had a chance to win either of their affections. She was just as beautiful and alluring as I’d remembered, and somehow, amidst the Viceroy’s seductive surrounds, she seemed more attainable.

The particular sexy rhum to which I am referring is the famed and fabulously pricey Rhum Clement Tres Vieux 1970. (Get to know her older sister, Rhum Clement Tres Vieux 1952, here). Seeing her sitting way up high on the top shelf behind the bar literally took my breath away. So did the price – a cool US$180… per shot!

This wasn’t a great surprise to me, of course, considering the hefty $1,000+ per-bottle price tag I was quoted in Martinique for the 1952 vintage, but it was enough to steer me toward a more reasonably-priced option, my rendezvous with rhum agricole royalty thwarted yet again.

Fast forward eight weeks to a mid-August night in Martinique. I had just enjoyed another amazing dinner at Le Belem, the elegant main restaurant at the five-star Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa, easily the most luxurious property on the island. Retiring to the bar area, I encountered the beauty above, a vintage 1939 bottle of Rhum Saint James.

It was love at first sight.

Never mind our 32-year age gap. Never mind my inability to speak French, or her lack of English. Never mind ANYTHING! I had tasted regret before with the Rhum Clement sisters… I wasn’t about to repeat the same mistake again!

So, how was it? Let’s start with the price…

I have no idea how much I actually paid for what amounted to be a shade more than a shot of this stuff. My total bar bill totaled199 euros, which worked out to about US$260 at the prevailing exchange rate. I had purchased a drink or two for a couple friends as well, but needless to say, the vast majority of that $260 could be traced to the 73 year-old object of my affection.

On the nose, Rhum Saint James 1939 temps and teases, emitting the type of warmth and richness that creates a delicious conflict among your senses. Your nose wants to continue his end of the romance, but your mouth and taste buds express strong desires as well. Eventually, the pair gang up on the nose, forcing the liquid to your lips.

On the tongue, more warmth, though not the harsh, unpleasant kind. It’s more of a gentle heat that caresses knowingly, a nod to her years of experience. Heavy notes of oak dominate the flavor, with the trademark dry finish typical of rhum agricole blends accented nicely by spice and tropical fruits I was too enraptured to even try to identify.

Without question, this will go down as one of the premier rhum sampling experiences in my life!

I’m sure that to many, no rum, no matter how rare or special, will be worth the type of price I paid to enjoy a taste of Rhum Saint James 1939. For me, though, I have no regrets… and that makes all the difference.

À votre santé!



Last updated by Steve Bennett on .

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