This liqueur is a mix of Madagascan vanilla, roasted peanuts, spices, cream and St. Lucian rum. It’s packaged in a very unique bottle and is the first spirit from St. Lucia to become available in the United States. It comes very highly rated – it received a 94 from the Beverage Tasting Institute and 2-time winner of BIT’s Best Cream Liqueur category, received a Gold Medal and 95 points in the 2004 International Review of Spirits.
Rum, peanuts, and a boatful of accolades and awards. I’ve been drooling over this stuff for months now, and I was finally able to obtain a bottle a few days ago. It runs about $29 for a bottle – for a 32-proof spirit – so it’s not quite cheap but still affordable. I hope it lives up to the hype, because I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.
Although this liqueur, as with any cream liqueur, should probably be served on the rocks, I have to start with it neat to get the full tastes and aromas. I’m sure that I will progress to a glass on the rocks – I may even try one of the cocktails listed on the website – but for now, it’s neat.
The first smells are a very nice balance of cream, peanuts, and slightly fainter rum. While this is to be expected I have to mention that there’s a very nice balance here – no one smell is predominant. The rum smell is a little beneath the surface and I wouldn’t be surprised if a non-rum drinker would not recognize it as rum. A good sip – it’s only 32-proof, remember – continues that balance of flavors I mentioned. This is very nice, though I have to think that it hasn’t opened up yet. A cream liqueur drunk neat is not ideal. Another sip was swished about gently since I wanted to check the mouthfeel. Most cream liqueurs coat the mouth with a cream leftover that I generally find unpleasant since I am not a lover of milk. The Castries also does the same, though it’s a bit cleaner than other creams I’ve had. The swish seems to have brought out the peanuts since they were predominant this time, pleasantly so, but noticeable. The finish here is expectedly mellow, but this is where the small amount of spices make themselves known.
Overall this has a very nice balance of tastes. The rum hides in the background a bit more than in the smell, and the peanuts come up a notch. The spices after the swallow are very pleasant and a nice way to finish.
On The Rocks
I have to stop a moment to talk about ice, the often-forgotten component of cocktails. This is because I grabbed the ice-cube tray in the freezer and it had obviously been there a while since the cubes had shrunk a bit from evaporation. I grabbed a half-dozen and threw them into an old fashioned glass and carried that over to the Castries. Then I sniffed the glass containing the ice cubes and made a face. They definitely picked up a number of smells and flavors from the fridge.
Be nice to your cocktails: Use Fresh Ice! Store-bought packaged stuff is best, since it goes through such a clean environment. But the ice in your freezer is probably a bad thing to add to a cocktail, so throw it out and make some fresh stuff.
I’ll be back in a few hours. Dammit.
On The Rocks – For Real This Time
OK, fresh ice that smells like fresh ice (that is, it doesn’t smell at all), and I’m ready for some Castries on the rocks. Yes, this is definitely the way to go – cold and tempered a bit, the Castries really tastes great. None of the tastes are forceful in any way and the balance is extremely pleasant. I could probably finish this bottle right now.
But I won’t, since I have a habit of sharing rums with friends in order to make them see the light. Most are usually very receptive to my sharing habits, and it’s a good way for me to get more insight into a rum. But hey, I have a full bottle, and that drink went a little too quick, so just one more…
I must have let the last drink sit a bit before I damn-near-guzzled it, because this one is more like it should be. It’s not too cold and not too watery so the aromas and flavors are far more apparent. It’s really surprising me how the peanuts work in this liqueur. That is, I had expected to be assaulted by the tastes and smells, but Castries has done a damn fine job of balancing the flavors. The rum and peanut tastes lag slightly behind the cream until the swallow when the peanuts take the lead role without being overly dominant. It’s really a quick flash of roasted peanuts that go by as it finishes, and then the mild spices let themselves be known. And I have to reiterate that it’s nice to have a relatively clean cream liqueur that doesn’t leave the mouth coated after a drink.
I have to say that I don’t really notice the vanilla – while I think that’s a shame because I love vanilla, I have to expect that the Castries folks are doing the right thing. When I search for the vanilla I can find it, but it’s really just another piece of the fine balance in this liqueur.
One thing I have to mention is that this liqueur may surprise you. A rum-based cream liqueur? A peanut-based cream liqueur? Rum and peanuts? Forget all that unless you’re allergic to peanuts, because this liqueur is not what you think if you’re asking those questions. It is an exquisite liqueur, with an outstanding balance of tastes.
This is a damned fine liqueur, for sure, and one that easily goes onto my Highly Recommended list. The flavors work very well together, and the balance is superb. This is going to be one that I love to share but I’ll hate to see it go.