One that many people out there are no doubt waiting for reviews on. I’ve had this bottle since it snook up on TheWhiskyExchange a few weeks ago and I’ve been working my way through it slowly. I didn’t want to bang a review out straight away due to the nature of the rum; as it’s partly matured in ex-Madeira casks it needs time to open up. Pretty much every spirit I’ve drunk over the years that has spent a reasonable time in fortified wine casks has taken time to fully show it’s colours and the opening and drinking of the spirit allows the oxygen to mix with the juice and let the flavours settle and show. A quick fire review from the first glass was never going to do this bottle the justice that it deserves, so here it is….a little later than I wanted. Foursquare Criterion:
What is it? Round 5 of the Exceptional Cask Selection rums from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. So far we’ve had the 1998 vintage (which I missed and is looong gone), the Port cask finish, the Zinfandel blend and the 2004 full proof. Here we have something which is a sort of mixture of the previous versions – full proof and a cask dip. So, molasses based rum produced on both column and pot stills (the blend has not been divulged). The resulting blend of the rums was first matured in ex-bourbon casks for 3 years and then re-racked into ex-Madeira casks for a further 7 years, giving a total of 10 years worth of tropical maturation. As with the Port cask rum, this is not a wine cask finish, it’s spent a lot of time sitting in those ex-Madeira casks – 7 years is a long time in Madeira casks, especially in tropical conditions. This is a limited bottling, with only 2000 bottles being produced to market and this time is also finding it’s way over to America, so pickings will be thin. It appears that there is exclusive distribution rights in the UK of this through The Whisky Exchange.
I’ve been informed that this is natural colour (although it doesn’t say it on the bottle…..Richard!), not chill filtered (although it doesn’t say it on the bottle…..Richard!) and bottled at full proof of 56% abv. Game on.
Sugar? Get out of town.
Nose: Absolutely Foursquare, no doubt about that! We get honeycomb, some golden syrup, vanilla, gripping oak with cut planks, black peppercorns and green chillies. There are the usual and expected wood spice notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and some allspice ginger biscuits. Once the initial oaky onslaught has passed there are warm and deep notes of dry roasted peanuts, honey glazed smoked almonds, muscavado sugar, flame grilled pineapple and some salted butter. There is a touch of high quality, freshly brewed black coffee and the smell of a distant car garage with a little tiny bit of grease and motor oil. It’s mouth-watering , intense and almost pulls you into the glass.
Palate: Nose was pretty stunning, the palate is even better. Heavy, thick mouth feel, even at 56% abv – it’s beautifully oily and coating without being cloying. Big honeycomb again straight away, pretty sweet delivery and almost bourbon like at the start with caramels, corn syrup, charred casks and spicy oak taking hold – the abv really punches the flavour and the initial hit. A bit of time getting used to the heat of this we have some beautiful maple pecans, toffee sauce, fresher red apple – maybe even some tarte tatin. Salted butter again, some juicy sultanas, a little burnt banana, smoked custard (doesn’t exist but should!) and then the phenolic notes I found on the nose with motor oil, distant tar and old car engine that’s running the fuel mix too rich – or what I imagine that would actually taste like…
Finish: Long, very long indeed. Dry as hell, very dark chocolate (90% stuff), nuts that were burnt when being roasted, the ones that were at the bottom of the tray, salty caramel that has stuck to the pan. Some smoked nuts with a little sharp apple as it fades, maybe even toffee apples. It’s a very dry and quite bitter finish at it tails off, but not bad bitter more of the interesting oak laden bitterness you get with well aged spirits. Right at the end of the finish (right, right, right at the end) there is a musty cloth note and a little bubblegum, which could indicate that the Madeira casks this has been sitting in were pretty old and have held wine for a long time, just getting to the end of their life, if not slightly past it. I’ve found this note in old Armagnac before and whisky that was in very old Oloroso sherry casks, just a slight flaw with the cask condition. Usually you wont notice this as normal drinking wise you’d already be back in for another sip, but as I’m reviewing I’m deliberately looking for flavours…..so I guess you sometimes find things you wouldn’t normally.
Thoughts? What a beautiful rum this is. I’ll tell you right now that this is may favourite of the Exceptional Cask Selection rums so far, the abv is near on perfect (it’ll happily take water if you want to put some in though), the mouth feel is exceptional and the layers of flavours built up by the cask selection and the rum blend are deep as hell. Once again, as with the previous Exceptional Casks, the balance is the real player here, the way the flavours work together to give a whole greater than the sum of it’s parts is what takes this rum to the top of the pile. I’m all for single cask, single still, rums but this is a lesson from the master in the wonders of skilful blending and the results it can produce.
Price? £57 in the UK. Some would say it’s steep for a 10 year old rum, but forget age…that’s just a number on a label, it’s about quality of what you get in the bottle – £57 well spent in my view, and if I wasn’t such a tight git I’d have bought a case of it.