Foursquare Redoutable

20210309_133923What is it? Single Blended Rum (molasses based, column and pot still, single distillery) from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. This is an Exceptional Cask rum from the distillery, specifically Exceptional Cask Selection Mark 15 – Redoutable, and follows on from Détente (ECS14) and the 2008 Vintage (ECS13) – we’ve been a little late in getting this in the UK unfortunately. So what’s in the bottle this time? Well we’ve got a Madeira rum to play with here. As in usual Foursquare ECS fashion this is rum that was distilled in pot stills and column stills, blended together and then put into a variety of casks, after maturation the various rums are blended together again to get the end result. The casks used in this rum are both ex-bourbon casks and ex-Madeira casks but I don’t have details on the maturation makeup here; it may be that some of the rum was fully matured in ex-Madeira or may be that they were part matured in ex-Madeira and recasked to ex-bourbon. The total maturation time for the rums is at least 14 years, all done tropically in Barbardos – that’s a long time in the tropics, accounting for around 30-40 years worth of European aging in terms of interaction impact.

Released in limited numbers of 12,000 bottles worldwide; 6,000 in Europe and 6,000 in the US.

No coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled at cask strength of 61% abv.

Note: I’ve been drinking this rum at around 57% abv so that’s the strength I’m reviewing it at.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Black Forest cake soaked in cask strength Foursquare (something like a Vintage Release, 2007 or some such). Loads of dark cherries, blackberry, blackcurrant and a big dollop of dark chocolate. We’ve some black or red plums, meaty figgy notes, mushrooms and the smell of an Autumn forest floor – dropped leaves and damp soil. There are fainter smells of roasted pecans, almonds and cashews, some coconut and vanilla. Near the end there is old waxed leather, boot polish and a sharp lift with some zingy redcurrants or cranberry. Gorgeous stuff.

Palate: Full mouth, weighty stuff right here folks. Pretty easy on first contact, not really that hot at all. Big oaky notes initially with toasted oak, coconut, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Pretty drying and tannic. Then we’re on to the cherries and chocolate but with a kick, so we’re looking at some type of cherry, chocolate chunk and red chilli jam, pimentos, dark chocolate coated stem gingers, blackberry and black pepper compote. It’s a real mix of dark fruit, dry dark chocolate and just enough fragrant spice to prickle your mouth. Roasted nuts again but a bit more earthy here with walnuts this time and a little phenolic flurry at the end with grease, black olives and stamp glue.

Finish: Waaaaaaaay long. We’re right back to the nose with boozy rum soaked Black Forest cake and dirty muddy boots. Not much heat here either, save for a sweet red chilli or 2, then things sweeten to caramelised pineapple and plums. That tiny undertone of oil or grease lingers if you look for it which gives some nice savoury depth.

Thoughts? Another belter no doubt about that, as expected. This is the 4th Madeira matured rum so far, after Criterion, Sagacity and Diadem (although not an ECS releases but an exclusive to TheWhiskyExchange), it doesn’t live up to the Criterion for me but easily better than the other 2. It has the wallop over Sagacity and the balance over Diadem. It’s all the best bits of both added together and none of the flaws. For me this is a super winter warmer of a rum, a real heavy warmer and comforter of a tot. Is it my favourite ECS bottle from Foursquare? No it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cracking stuff but such is the quality of the rum coming along here all we can really compare Foursquare ECS releases to these days are other Foursquare ECS releases – I prefer this to some but not to others, that’s all I can say.

Retailed at £70ish, would I get another? Hell yeah! Can I? Shit no – this stuff sold out from the main shops within the hour it was released and various satellite shops sold their stock shortly after when everyone went hunting. Luckily I was able to get hold of one for my own personal consumption before all the “Investors” snapped them up.

Ninefold Edition 1 cask strength – 1 year old

What is it? Scottish Pure Single Rum (molasses based, pot still, single distillery) from the Ninefold distillery in Dumfries & Galloway. Ninefold is a tiny distillery on the Dormont estate near Dalton and is situated in a converted stone farm building. It’s pretty much a 1-man-band with Dr Kit Carruthers making the rum on a hybrid copper pot still, you can see a bit more about the distillery and the online shop on the website Ninefold Distillery

Ninefold is very small batch craft distillation and therefore there isn’t volume of product being pumped out, as such the range is still relatively small consisting of an unaged (white) rum and a spiced rum, although I know that will change with some time once aged stock starts to become ready. So far there’s been a couple of aged rums that Kit has produced, Edition 0 which was very limited in numbers and the rum which is being reviewed here; Edition 1. This edition of the rum was aged for 12 months in a new/virgin oak cask (specifically cask number 3!) after which it was released on 28th September 2020 and is a run of only 246 bottles, all of which are well past sold out now.

Aging the rum in virgin oak was a very clever thing, if you ask me. It’s pretty cold in Scotland and the Angels Share is only around 2-3% a year (albeit quite a bit higher in year 1) so there isn’t a massive amount of speedy maturation going on here. Unlike other cask types which are reused vessels (they’ve previously held Bourbon, or brandy, or whisky, or whatever), virgin oak is brand new. It’s charred up (in this case to a medium char) and filled with rum, this means that the first wood impact is directly into this rum and has not been taken away by any previous contents; it allows for a spirit that drinks at a higher maturity level than it otherwise would in refill casks. They do the same thing with Boubon, that has to be new oak, which is why there’s a lot of wood impact after just a few years. The problem is you can overdo things, so a 12 month period seems like a good middle ground.

Bit of a geeky bit now. The cask was filled at 60.9% abv and this is actually quite interesting. A lot of distilleries (especially Scotch Single Malt ones) fill to cask at 65% as it’s believed to be the most efficient abv for cask interaction – below 60% you get more water soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as sugars in the form of hemicellulose (a spirit at 55% abv will extract twice the sugars of a spirit casked at 70% abv). Above 65% abv and you get more ethanol soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as lignin (wood notes). So a fill down near 60% is letting the natural wood sugars come out into the spirit to mellow the youth whilst still allowing high oak interaction with the virgin oak. Filling this higher up, nearer to 70% would likely have left it harsher and a lot more tannic.

Not coloured, not chillfiltered and bottled at cask strength of 59.6% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Big and thick with huge amounts of butterscotch. It’s really forward on the caramels; toffee pennies from Quality Street, Caramac bars, real butter fudge, Banana Skids (that’s a sweet) and white chocolate. Under this caramel onslaught there is some fruit with vintage marmalade, green banana, grapefruit and mango jam. A little prickle of cinnamon, nutmeg and black peppercorns at the end.

Palate: Full mouth. Some heat at first, hey look it’s a young rum at cask strength so this wasn’t unexpected. Caramels again, golden syrup, maple syrup, tiffin and a big hit of chilli. After there’s a herbal aspect I can’t quite pin down, lemon barley sweets and menthol perhaps. Some really nice ginger biscuit notes as you swallow.

Finish: Medium. Quite hot as you’ve swallowed with red chillies, black pepper and tannic oak. Moves on to cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger root then sweetens again to Stroopwafles, toffee chews and milk chocolate. There’s a slight char/smoky note right at the end.

Thoughts? I don’t know what I was expecting here, but it blindsided me a bit. It’s very much on the sweeter note side (not actually sweet, no sugar here) but there’s enough spice and cask to stop it running away with itself. For a cask strength young rum it’s dangerously easy to drink. It’s not hugely complex at this point but it’s certainly very enjoyable. It’s clearly very well made rum and I can’t wait to see how Kit progresses Ninefold forward with future releases – exciting times.

This cost me £45 straight from the distillery online shop, now that is quite expensive for a 1 year old rum but you’ve got to take into account that this is being made by a bloke in a shed (ok, a big, very nice and very clean shed) and at the output volumes being done here there’s a unit price that things need to be sold at to even be viable to make. This is pretty much as craft as you can get with a spirit, and for the price I feel like I’ve definitely got value out of my bottle, so there’s no problem there – in fact, if there were any bottles still around I’d buy another.

This is the first rum I’ve had from Ninefold and based on this I’ll be picking up whatever the next release may be, no doubt about that.

Montanya Valentia

20200528_084420What is it? American rum, distilled, matured and bottled at the Montanya distillery in Colorado. The rum is a blend of sugarcane and molasses mixed together for fermentation and distilled via direct fired Alembic pot stills – you can read more into this on my review of the Montanya Oro. In terms of maturation this one has had a different treatment; it’s at least a 4 year old rum with initial maturation in Laws Whiskey casks (white American oak) and then a finishing period in Rye casks from Catoctin Creek (like Montanya this is also female owned and distilled). Valentia means “courage, bravery, grit” in Spanish and was originally a limited release put out to celebrate the progress women have made in craft distilling but it was so successful that it’s now an ongoing release. Unlike the Oro and the Exclusiva there is no honey added to this rum.

This is a single barrel release and my bottle is from barrel 500.

Bottled at 40% abv, not chill-filtered and not coloured.

Sugar? No; 0g/l in this one.

Nose: A very dry nose and pretty spicy; loads of ginger, white pepper and clove, there’s certainly a real influence from the rye casks in here that’s for sure. Where the Exclusiva is fruity, this is spicy. Under the initial blast some more subtle smells appear in the form of honey, butterscotch, lemon sherbet sweets and coconut. There’s also this creamy note sitting next to the sweeter smells, it’s like almond butter and crème patisserie, a vanilla rich thick custard cream. Right at the back end is a touch of pineapple and a little peanut.

Palate: Good weight in the mouth, certainly for a 40%’er. Dry again. Yeah, a kick here too, it’s hot at the start with black peppercorns this time, ground ginger, cloves and pimento. We follow the same progression as the nose moving on to honey, a little caramel or butterscotch sauce and a spiced vanilla cream. That really nice creamy note is here too which really counters and cuts the spices well, and a candied chilli infused pineapple chunk mix arrives at the end. Still stays nice and dry right the way through.

Finish: Medium. There’s some lemon cream and apricot just as the finish starts and the whole thing reverses; honey, vanilla, coconut, almond and then the last thing to go is the spicy ginger and pepper.

Thoughts? This is yum. I’m a fan of what Montanya are doing and it’s great to see the breadth of style in their range, but for me this is hands down the best. It’s much more my preferred style of rum and has added complexity over and above their other core bottlings, all of which are very good. I’ve found quite a lot of spice in all of the Montanya rums and add in the rye casks, well, it’s great. You’d think that the rye and inherent spices would massively over-do things but really it doesn’t, I mean let’s be honest it is a spicy rum, but it’s certainly not overdone at all. The cask and the rum both let each other do their thing and show their best bits.

£45. Easily the top of the Montanya core range (as things stand) and certainly a rum I’d recommend picking up if you’re into a dry, spicy rum or if you were moving into rum from a whisky background. It reminds me very much of Balblair, which is a big compliment as it’s probably my favourite Scotch.

El Ron del Artesano 8 Year Old – Ruby Port Finish

What is it? Traditional rum, molasses based, from Panama and bottled by El Ron del Artesano. There is, however, more to this. El Ron del Artesano are a German company who source rum and mature it in their own casks, the USP here is the wood management; they are experts in cask selection and maturation and use this to drive the resulting rum. The rum they source is from the Varela Hermanos Distillery in Panama which operates a four-column still as well as a two-column still and don’t distil over 76% abv, which allows retention of flavour in the spirit. This distillery is used because of the consistent output but also because, whilst the quality is good, the rum doesn’t have a dominant or overbearing character. The desire here is to let the casks speak and have the right influence over the end result, working with the rum rather than adding a top layer to a powerful spirit – Artesano are not acting as in Independent Bottler here, the rum is the same all the time and this lets them build their own style. Here wood is key.

This particular bottling is matured tropically in Panama for approximately 6 years in ex-bourbon casks initially to allow the rum to settle and carry out the first stage of aging without too much extra influence, it’s then shipped off to Germany to be aged in an ex-Ruby Port cask for around 30 months.

This is a single cask, 178-16, and was bottled on 5th June 2020. My bottle is number 172 of 436.

Bottled at 40.6% abv, not coloured, not chill filtered.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Loads of red fruit, as you’d expect. Strawberries, red cherry, raspberries and some tart cranberry too. The nose is actually drier than I was expecting and also carries some spice with ginger, cinnamon and black peppercorns. Sitting next to the spice is a slightly chocolatey note and a lift of citrus, so chocolate orange maybe, and some pink grapefruit. Under it all is a distant smoke, like smouldering leaves a few gardens down.

Palate: Medium. Sweet at first and very juicy with all those red fruits. The cherries take centre stage along with blackberry and caramelised red apple. After the initial sweetness fades there’s spices again with clove, ginger and cinnamon, tannic breakfast tea, chewed pencil ends (graphite included) and a meaty mushroomy smoked note, almost like Brunswick ham. There’s a little milk chocolate again, lemon and orange rind and some caramels.

Finish: Medium, just. It doesn’t hang around for too long but does give us chocolate, milky coffee, caramel, cherries in liqueur and strawberry jam.

Thoughts? Very nice stuff. Rum from Panama can be a bit hit-and-miss, I’ve had some good ones and some very average ones, but nothing outstanding from the country. This is a good one. I have to say, I can see why they use this rum, it’s a very good candidate for cask play as it’s solid enough but it’s not going to fight too much with whatever cask you put it in, and that’s what we have here; the cask is clearly the main player, it’s giving most of the flavour and if this was another rum I’d say it totally overwhelmed it but here the rum just accepts and takes it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very Port forward, I just think that it works really well with the base spirit.

Ok. Very, very easy to drink. It is quite a lot softer than I’d normally go for (personal preference for intensity), but all the same it’s got plenty of flavour, it’s enjoyable and tasty.

This was £47, which I think is fair. This isn’t a bottle I’d pick multiples up of but for a change of pace and a different twist on rum it’s well worth looking at. I do like what Artesano are doing with their model and they are now on my radar. I’ve already a few other bottles from them and will continue to look at the range they put out with interest.

Chairman’s Reserve Legacy

What is it? Single Blended Rum (pot and column still rum from a single distillery) produced by the Saint Lucia distillery, in Saint Lucia. SLD have a range of different stills to play with and use both molasses and sugar cane juice to make their rums, this gives them a vast array of profiles to use for their rum brands. One of the brands that SLD produce is Chairman’s Reserve and this bottling, Legacy, is the latest release (at the time of writing) to join the core range. I’m not going to go into the back story on this by just repeating what is available on the SLD website but in short it is named after former Chairman Laurie Barnard who pioneered SLDs current outlook of using multiple still types, barrel types and a proprietary yeast strain to allow the company to produce the wide range of rums for blending, at a time when many other distilleries were just using column stills for high yield output. You can read a bit more about it on the fact sheet here Chairman’s Legacy factsheet.

So what’s in the bottle then? Well:

Chairman’s Reserve Legacy is a blend of rums from the John Dore and Vendome Pot Stills and the Coffey Column Still. The rums vary in age from 5 years old to around 7.5 years old, tropically, and all aged in ex-bourbon casks. The breakdown is thus;

  • Pot Still John Dore 1. Rum aged 5 years. Sugar Cane Juice based (8%)
  • Pot Still John Dore 2. Rum aged 7.5 years. Molasses based (16%)
  • Pot Still Vendome. Rum aged 7 years. Molasses based (4%)
  • Coffey Column Still RR104 marque. Rum aged 5.5 years. Molasses based (72%)

The rum is bottled at 43% abv. There are no alterations but I believe that the rum is coloured and chill-filtered.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Very fragrant at first with lavender, white flowers, pine sap and hay. Things get deeper then with rich tobacco leaves, leather, hazelnuts, pecans, toffee and vanilla. There’s a little spice here too in the form of anise, cardamom, clove, then phenolic camphor and menthol. Flashes of fruit pop up throughout with orange zest, mango, passion fruit sharpness and banana.

Palate: Good weight to the mouth feel. Sweet entry but gets spicy. It starts out with a little toffee and dry cocoa then loads of wood with notes of ginger, clove, allspice, cut planks or a chewed pencil, black peppercorns and a little liquorice. Sweet tobacco smoke billows around, handfuls of roasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate sits with it and then mentholly, minty, camphory notes arrive; really quite herbal in parts. Not massively fruity here but where it is it’s orange, banana and tangy gooseberry.

Finish: Medium. Plenty of nutty toffee and more banana at the end, intermixed with smoke, a little ginger or pepper spice and bags of herbal notes in line with both the nose and the palate as it ends.

Thoughts? Very complex with loads going on to interest, but at the same time very easy to drink. We’ve sweet notes, cask input, herbal spices, it’s really very good indeed. Yet another notch in the post for Saint Lucia showing what they can do with their stills and base type when it’s blended together.

This was released at just under £40, for a real rum of this quality it’s got to be up there as bang-for-buck rum of the year. A cracking price for this and one I’d definitely recommend picking up, especially if you’ve not tried any Saint Lucian rum before.