Saint James celebrate 250 years of remarkable history

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250 years of rumculture and history in this bottle. The 250th birthday bottle of Rhum Saint James contents a blend of millésimes from 1885, 1934, 1952,1976,1998 & 2000. A Masterpiece with only 800 units available for the global market. Scroll down to read the English version.

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La distilleria Saint James festeggia quest’anno i 250 anni di attività. Se avete programmato una vacanza in Martinica il prossimo luglio durante la settimana tra il 6 e il 12 che tradizionalmente segna la chiusura del taglio della canna da zucchero non mancate di partecipare agli eventi, masterclass e laboratori collegati alla distilleria che aprirà le proprie porte a tutti gli amanti del rhum per questa straordinaria occasione.

Una lunga storia..

 Nata nel lontano 1765 quando padre Edmond Lefèbure acquistò lo zuccherificio di Trou-Vaillant per necessità del vicino ospedale di Fort Saint Pierre nel nord ovest della Martinica che ospitava più di 500 pazienti. All’epoca il rum prodotto chiamato guildive o tafia era ottenuto dalle melasse create dal processo di estrazione dello zucchero, ma padre Lefèbure grazie anche agli studi sull’alcol di due padri dominicani: Du Tertre e Labat, ottenuti qualche decennio prima, si mise al lavoro per creare un nuovo spirito di più alta qualità e dagli archivi sembra che si possa affermare che il rhum agricole della Martinica era nato.

Per colpa dell’editto del gennaio 1713 le importazioni verso la Francia di distillati erano proibite per non andare in competizione con cognac, armagnac e calvados che erano prodotti nazionali. Così padre Lefèbure decise di guardare al mercato delle colonie britanniche del Nord America, ma il nome Trou-Vaillant era troppo difficile da dire in inglese ed allora si pensò al nome dell’habitation vicino alla distilleria: Saint Jacques. Per gli inglesi Jacques era sinonimo di James (dal latino Jacomus) e quindi lo ribattezzarono così. Saint James Rum era nato.

Nel 1882 un mercante di Marsiglia di nome Paulin Lambert intuisce il potenziale di quest’azienda ed anche di un nome vincente, registra il marchio e compra la distilleria che aveva iniziato ad usare in distillazione la colonna di tipo “Creole”(patent still). Lambert registra il marchio il 21 agosto di quell’anno con la dicitura “Rhum des Plantations Saint james” e inizia ad occuparsi personalmente del controllo della produzione dalla piantagione alla bottiglia. La bottiglia infatti diventerà una firma d’autore proprio per la sua forma, comoda per l’imballaggio e ben presto invaderà i porti del mercato francese. Paulin non si ferma qui e per primo decide di lanciare il primo vintage rhum nel 1885, in un’epoca dove il blending era l’unica pratica usata.

Nell’arco di un decennio il mercante marsigliese riesce ad acquisire magazzini ed uffici nelle principali città europee come Bordeaux, Londra, Ginevra, Amsterdam, Amburgo, “sfruttando” l’epidemia di filossera che afflisse l’Europa, con la conseguente crisi dei distillati nel vecchio continente, e grazie all’innalzarsi della richiesta di alcol generata dalla guerra di Crimea.

Alle 8 del mattino dell’8 maggio 1902 il vulcano sito nel Mount Pelèe nel nord dell’isola erutta. Saint Pierre sarà ridotta in cenere e si conteranno più di 30 mila vittime. Miracolosamente le piantagioni e la distilleria subirono pochi danni, ma l’evento fu la spinta ad aprire tre nuovi siti di produzione: Saint Joseph, Lamentin e Case-Pilote. Dal 1973 la distilleria si trova a Sainte-Marie.

Ora aspettiamo di assaggiare questo rarissimo vintage prodotto in sole 800 bottiglie da un blend di 6 millesimi a partire dal 1885.

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Puoi anche leggere la mia visita in distilleria:    Il viaggio Day#10 Le Galion & St James

o vedere la foto gallery:  Saint James – Martinica

English Version

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In Martinique, the SAINT JAMES name will be associated with art in all its forms. On the Sainte-Marie site in Martinique, dressed up in livery symbolising the 250 years, 12 renowned artists will take turns each month with unique exhibitions. The week of 6 to 12 July, which traditionally marks the end of the sugar harvest festival, is set to be particularly lively. The programme includes rich and varied activities: visits of the site and distillery, master classes and tastings with our oenologist Marc Sassier, a bartender competition and an exceptional live show by a graphic artist.

The evening of 9 July 2015 will be particularly special, revealing many surprises to guests including the prestigious 250th anniversary Cuvée, a unique blend of rare vintages, perfectly illustrating the art of SAINT JAMES rum. Throughout 2015, the anniversary will be celebrated in Metropolitan France and around the world with a strong communication. The festivities will begin in April 2015 with an anniversary party to be held in the heart of Paris. Massive advertising campaigns will unveil a new SAINT JAMES visual on many media, including outdoor, press and digital. A strong and worldwide communication plan has been developed through exclusive limited editions and outstanding point-of-sale promotional activities, in honour of the SAINT JAMES Plantations 250th anniversary. Master classes will be organised in key markets.

SAINT JAMES will also specifically communicate with rum experts, enthusiasts and influencers, and has signed up to work with a renowned mixologist bartender, Stephen Martin.

 
A long history:

In 1765, in France, the monarchy was in jeopardy, but 7,000 km away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the tensions and troubles that lay ahead were poorly understood, while Martinique was becoming one of the most productive «sugar islands» in the Caribbean. On the west coast of the island at the foot of Mount Pelée, the Brothers of Charity, a religious order established in Spain in 1540, started managing Fort Saint-Pierre hospital at the request of King Louis XV with orders to prioritise treatment of the military, but also the needy. The hospital was able to accommodate up to five hundred patients.

The order’s superior, Father Lefébure, built a sugar mill nearby for the needs of the hospital, in a locality called ‘Trou-Vaillant’.

And as is tradition, the sugar mill paved the way to the creation of a ‘vinegar mill’ where molasses residues were distilled to obtain guildive (Kill Devil) or tafia (taffia).

In the West Indies, prominent Dominicans, Father Du Tertre (1610-1687) and Father Labat (1663- 1738), botanists in their spare time, had already worked on distillation and brought stills from France to improve the quality of these somewhat rustic alcohols, dedicated to pirates and slave labour… But Father Lefébure, who obviously understood the potential of this cane spirit, decided to continue their work and endeavoured to produce rum worthy of the name. In the archives, a precise description of various qualities of spirit would suggest that rhum agricole from Martinique was born.

A man of faith, but also a good manager, Father Lefébure had good business sense. He gave the trade of surplus rum to one of his ‘brothers’, Father Gratien, who had no choice but to offer Trou-Vaillant production to the geographically close British colonies in North America, because shipments of ‘Tafia’ were prohibited to France after the edict of January 1713 (until 1803), to avoid competition with wine-based spirits. But it’s hard to say ‘Trou-Vaillant’ in English!

In the industry, each ‘house’ had a different name, and one of these, near the famous Trou- Vaillant, was called Saint Jacques. In English, Jacques is James (from the low Latin Jacomus), a name that the British brought back from France after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. So what could be more natural for these men of God than to choose the name of a saint to baptise their rum! SAINT JAMES rum was born.

After the Revolution and up until 1820, religious areas in the settlements had been declared national and state property. In 1820, under the Restoration, these concession contracts were cancelled by royal decree. This ‘return to normal’ allowed a smart and enterprising man, Paulin Lambert, to take an interest in rum production in Martinique. Saint-Pierre became the first rum producing port in the world, and production started to be organised formally. Small sugar mills shut down giving way to larger ones, which joined a ‘Creole’ distillation column (continuous distillation). Paulin Lambert ended up buying
several ‘houses’ including that of the Trou-Vaillant.
Was he already aware of the potential of the SAINT JAMES name? An English-sounding surname opens wide horizons!

Original SAINT JAMES Rhum des Plantations registered trademark.

Whatever the case, he registered the trademark on 21 August 1882 and personally took charge of production, insisting on controlling the entire industry: from cultivating the sugar cane to bottling

The very pragmatic, shrewd Paulin Lambert, whose SAINT JAMES rum barrels invaded the port of Marseille’s docks, favoured bottling in glass and chose a revolutionary style for the time: a bottle with a square base. “Exiger la bouteille carrée.” the ads proclaimed, demand the square bottle! An effective way to maximize space in the holds of ships and limit breakage.

SAINT JAMES brand identity was born. The label also registered on that date was precise. It clearly stated “Rhum des Plantations SAINT JAMES”. In the centre, it contained an alligator in a sugar cane field. A caption explained in French and English that the “SAINT JAMES Plantations owed their long-standing reputation in the West Indies to their first-rate rums known for their finesse and flavour ”.

Another significant original feature for the time: very early on, Paulin Lambert set its production apart from its competitors, by already referring to SAINT JAMES as «the first rhum agricole in the French Antilles». This suggests that he was directly using fresh cane juice rather than molasses. Paulin Lambert went further in its approach, deciding to offer connoisseur customers, a vintage rum. An original approach for a time when blending was the only practice. This vintage was to be the first of a long list

In 1820, the port of Bordeaux in France, gateway to the Atlantic, became the capital of rum and has been ever since. Import volumes were ever increasing. This development accelerated during the Crimean War (1853-1856), because the soldiers were entitled to significant alcohol rations; at the same time cognac producers decided to start ageing their spirits and immobilise their stocks. In addition, in 1867, one person’s misfortune being another person’s opportunity, the phylloxera crisis that destroyed French vineyards increased the alcohol demand in the colonies, which ended up being exempt from customs duties. Paulin Lambert, a wine and spirit trader from Marseille, took advantage of this momentum to acquire warehouses and offices in major European cities (London, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Amsterdam..).

8 May 1902. 8:02 am SAINT JAMES escapes an Apocalypse and must expand. Mount Pelée, which had been rumbling for a week, erupted triggering a volcanic cloud that consumed everything in its path within hours. The town of Saint-Pierre was reduced to ashes. There were 30,000 casualties. Miraculously, the crops and SAINT JAMES Distillery that were in a very deep valley withstood this Apocalypse and were only partially destroyed… Despite this apocalyptic event, business resumed very quickly because the rum demand had become urgent. Three other sites opened their doors in Saint- Joseph in 1911, in Lamentin in 1912 and in Case- Pilote in 1929. Packages shipped to World War I ‘poilus’ soldiers included a bottle of SAINT JAMES rum… and the conflict lasted quite a long time.

In 1973 SAINT JAMES changes hands and sets up in Sainte-Marie where it stands today.

Courtesy of Benoit Bail – Luxembourg Brand Ambassador of Saint James Rhum

A presto lungo #leviedelrum

Marco Graziano

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