A Caribbean legend that began in 1765 is celebrated its 250th birthday this week with major festivities on the French island of Martinique.
Rhum Saint James, the rum consumed by so many legends (including Ernest Hemingway), is one of the world’s great rum marques and perhaps the best-known rhum agricole in production.
The distillery, which was founded by a clergyman named Father Lefebure, has, like many of the rhums of Martinique, a rather fascinating history.
While its name today sounds far from Gallic, that was for a reason: in 1763, Louis XV gave Martinique the right to export its rum to countries other than France: but the only market able to buy it was the American colonies in New England; serving that market necessitated an Anglo-Saxon name, however: hence the shift to Rhum Saint James.
Above: the Musee du Rhum
And over the centuries, the legend grew and the rum survived, from world wars to the 1902 eruption of Martinique’s Mont Pelee, which Saint James miraculously survived.
Now, it produces more than 3 million liters of rum every year, all of it under the strict regulations of Martinique’s AOC rum designation, the only of its kind in the world.
Above: the Rhum St James rum house in Sainte-Marie, Martinique
The company’s existing rum house is located in and home to what is one of the leading museums of rum, home to a rather striking collection of ancient and medieval distilling instruments.
The brand has even released a special Saint James Cuvee 1765 for the occasion, a blend created in homage to the rum first produced back in 1765.
The blend is a mix of six vintages, including some rum from 1885.
But we’ve long been fans of the wider Saint James range, from the Hors D’age you can find in Martinique and the US in wide supply to the year-specific marques.
But celebrations like this only come around so often. So find a bottle, pour a glass (neat, naturally) and raise it to one of the great enduring spirits.
Happy birthday, Rhum Saint James. Here’s to another 250.