Foursquare Diadem

What is it? Single Blended rum (molasses based, pot and column still rum from a single distillery) from Barbados, produced by the Foursquare distillery. There’s so many Foursquare releases these days it’s hard to keep up, this year alone has seen Nobiliary (ECS 12), the 2008 vintage (ECS 13), imminent UK release of Detente (ECS 14) and in a few months, Redoutable (ECS 15). So which one is the Diadem then? Well, it’s not any. It’s not an Exceptional Cask Selection release, it’s a Private Cask Selection which has been bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange, the same vein as Hereditas from last year if you can remember that far back. So what’s in the bottle this time? The rums in here are from both pot stills and column stills and are blended together prior to aging. A portion of the blend spent 12 years in ex-bourbon casks whilst another portion of the blend spent 12 years in first fill ex-Madeira casks, the resulting rums were then blended together again (at an undisclosed ratio) to get the final blend. So 12 full years of aging, tropically done in Barbados.

There is a total outrun of 2000 bottles in this release.

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at a 60% abv.

I’m drinking and reviewing this at around 55%, which is the strength I tend to take these beasts down to. A drop of 5% doesn’t seem like much but it makes a world of difference to the nose, palate and the inside of my throat.

Sugar? Nah.

Nose: Yeah, this has spent some serious time in Madeira casks alright. Lots of dark fruit here at first with blackberries, black cherries and black plums, some meaty figs, prune and a shitload of roasted nuts; walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, brazils, almonds and cashew – like sticking your gonk into a Christmas nut selection. Following the nutty onslaught comes to oak, with varnished wood, cinnamon, ginger, clove, roasted coconut, smoked vanilla and the classic “old” smells from dusty libraries and leather armchairs. There’s a thread of dark chocolate that runs through it but it’s not prominent and as you get deeper in there’s a surprising zesty lift of pineapple and candied lemons. Yuletide here we come.

Palate: Hot. Full and rich oily mouth feel. Hot – ginger, black pepper, clove – it’s a fiery blighter at the start. A couple of sips in and we’re starting to get somewhere, it sweetens but still holds on to the spice; black cherry and chipotle jam, a pack of glazed pineapple and chilli cashew mix, those big bars of dark chocolate you get with chilli in them, chocolate covered stem gingers and black pepper infused caramel. There’s this constant play between sweet and spice, just when you get a nice bit of sweetness along comes the heat and chilli spice and punches you in the mouth.

Finish: Initially your mouth is left with the heat from the palate, but it does soon disappear. The finish is long and once the spices have left you’re left with all the flavours that were hidden before; black forest chocolate cake, liqueur cherries, candied ginger and a lighter fruit note of raspberry and nuts, almost like Bakewell tart. There’s still oak here and prickles of heat, notes of the “old” from before with leather and mushrooms, so it’s not all fruits and fancies. Part way through the finish I keep getting savoury flashes of something oily, like WD40 or some type of glue, which is really nice as it just keeps you paying attention to what else there might be hidden in here to find. It bitters at the end with a really good cup of tea (Yorkshire) and some raw walnuts.

Thoughts? I’m not sure how to take this one. The last Madeira cask Foursquare I had was the Sagacity and I struggled with that for a while, this is way more intense and much better for it, it’s just really bloody hot! I like Madeira and this is dialled down somewhat but still clearly the main force of the rum, unfortunately I think that the usual wonderful balance that we find in Foursquare rums is lost here, it doesn’t know what to do to you; the Madeira wants to be all earthy and nutty and sweet, the bourbon wants to be all toasty and caramelly and something else inside it wants to kill you, but all 3 elements fight each other.

It’s really good, the day Richard Seale puts out a shit rum is the day I find another drink, but I’m looking at a line-up of Foursquare ECS bottles and shrugging with this. Yes I’ll enjoy it massively once Autumn proper starts, and no there isn’t any part of me that regrets buying it, but I just feel like it’s “another” bottle that’s been put out there. Where would I put this in the range of Foursquare bottles? Well you can’t do that really, the goal posts move forward at such a damn rate! I think it’s better than the Sagacity, but not as good as the Hereditas (yes I know they are different rums, but I’m placing it based on the Private Cask Selection and some Madeira).

This was £85, would I get another? Heh, of course. It may not be my favourite bottle of Foursquare rum but in the world of rum it’s still playing a whole other game.

You can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here:

Foursquare Diadem

Monymusk EMB 9 year old (2010) – Habitation Velier

What is it? Pure Single Rum (100% pot still, molasses based, single distillery) from the Clarendon distillery in Jamaica and bottled under the Monymusk name – you can read a bit more about Monymusk and Clarendon here in this review. The rum was distilled in 2010 after which it was aged tropically for 9 years before being bottled in 2019 for the Habitation Velier series of rums. The aging has taken its toll on the rum with an Angels Share of over 64% lost in that short 9 years. This particular bottling is from the EMB marque of rum meaning it has an ester level of 275.5 g/hlpa – so a mid level range of esters.

Not chill-filtered, not coloured and bottled at 62% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Woody at first – toasty oak, varnish, furniture glue, toffee, maybe a touch of golden syrup. It’s not an ester bomb that’s for sure but Monymusk rarely are. We’ve got fruit in here though, richer, darker than you’d expect from a Jamaican with prune, plum, black cherry, sultana and dried apricot. There’s a little pineapple hiding in here too but it’s almost candied, some roasted nuts, marzipan, vanilla and dried coconut. Maybe a little note of chocolate here and there but it’s faint. It’s quite fruit cake like on the nose.

Palate: Full mouth feel. We’re at the same party as the nose, which is good. Cherries, figs, prune, black plum and raisin. Some dark chocolate, butterscotch, golden syrup, molasses, dates, flamed oranges – all that deep stuff. There’s a burst of sourness part way which is almost gherkin or caper like, some varnish notes, pear drops, mango and fresher pineapple, but it goes back to the richer side and gets cake’y again.

Finish: Long. Stays as we are here, nothing fancy. Brioche buns, vanilla, chocolate and fruit cake with marzipan again. The odd burst of sourness pops up with brine, some pear drops and mango too but it remains largely darker and cake’y. We get the addition of some rubber gloves and black olives here at the end as things tail off.

Thoughts? Very good. It walks a careful line between Demerara and Jamaica, and it’s definitely more brooding than normal Jamaican rum – it’s a cracker for our shit Autumn weather. Ok, this probably isn’t the “best” Monymusk I’ve ever had, but you often get a bit of a curveball with these Habitation Velier releases and this is one of them. This was a touch over a ton when I bought it, I think it was around £105 or £110.

Would I get another at that price? You know, I really enjoyed this rum but if I were pressed for an answer, no I wouldn’t. There’s just something missing here and I can’t put my finger on it, but if I’m spending over £100 on a bottle I want a little something “extra”.

If you fancy giving this one a go it’s still around on The Whisky Exchange here:

Monymusk EMB 9 year old (2010) – Habitation Velier

 

Or Master Of Malt here:

Monymusk EMB 9 year old (2010) – Habitation Velier

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 13 year old (2006) – The Whisky Exchange Exclusive

What is it? Pure Single Rum (molasses based, pot still, single distillery) from Saint Lucia Distillers, made on the island of Saint Lucia. The distillery produce a range of rums and one of their brands is Chairman’s Reserve which many people may have seen in supermarkets as simply “Chairman’s Reserve”, a spiced version and also the “Lost Casks”. They have 4 stills at the distillery; a two column still (a Coffey still) and 3 pot stills (2 John Dore stills and a Vendome), this rum is distilled on the John Dore 1 and the Vendome stills and mixed together to form a blend at 50% from each still, at which point it was matured tropically for 13 years in an ex-bourbon cask before being bottled on 16/08/2019. They use sugar cane juice as well as molasses at St Lucia on both of the pot stills that were used for this rum, but the information I have states that this rum is molasses only. This was bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange and you don’t see many single cask bottles from St Lucia distillers, so when this popped up I jumped on it.

This single cask rum produced 286 bottles and mine is bottle number 129.

Natural colour, no chill filtration and bottled at 56.3% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Crikey there’s a lot going on in here, it’s massive too; initially notes of thick molasses, raisins, red cherries, hazelnut, walnut and vanilla. Some cigar box notes, light tobacco and sandalwood. Very old balsamic and strong breakfast tea give it a sharp and tannic edge. Then things get phenolic, very phenolic. There’s boot polish, pine resin, eucalyptus, menthol, wood glue, bandages, sticky plasters, iodine, fennel and loads of brine. Right at the end is a floral note, cut flowers I guess, maybe lavender and a touch of herby marjoram.

Palate: Full mouth feel, very dry, tannic and oily. It’s massive in the mouth too, once you get used to it there is a sharp acidity to start with, almost like under ripe nectarine, very sharp. It doesn’t last too long though but it stays medicinal from the nose; licked stamps, TCP, menthol, throat lozenges, liquorice, ginger root, pine sap – like sucking on a damp pine branch – olives and balsamic again. Mid palate brings in the sweeter notes with some dark chocolate, mushy banana, a little papaya, vanilla, leather and sugared almonds. Almost marzipan like.

Finish: Long. Not as medicinal here but it’s still about. More of the sweeter notes and nutty depth with those roasted, caramalised mixed nuts you get a Christmas, raw walnut and candied stem ginger. There’s some sweetness of cherry jam and a cooling feeling of cherry stones which is something I often find in Talisker Scotch whisky. A hint of herbal toffee, iodine and olive brine pop up here and there too, every now and then.

Thoughts? Erm….not what I was expecting. The Vendome still produces a phenolic spirit but this is very intense, it’s almost like a blend of molasses and sugar cane rum and reminds me a lot of some Bellevue rum from Guadeloupe – I did initially question whether this was fully molasses based, but I’ve been told it is, so there we go! I love it. My sway in rum is towards the more savoury side of things anyway so this is right up my street. It’s really quite different to a lot of rum out there but I must say that I’d rather the sharp acidity be dialed down a bit as this is pretty polarizing and takes a while for your palate to adjust, but the flips and playoffs between the sweeter notes and the massive phenols is just ace.

I picked this up for £70 and would again if it were still on sale. As with single casks they come and they go. Recently TWE have had an 8 year old out and there are other single cask exclusives popping up at places like Royal Mile Whiskies so there’s clearly more of this stuff to come.

 

Foursquare Nobiliary

What is it? Single Blended Rum (molasses based, both pot and column still at a single distillery) from Foursquare in Barbados. This is Exceptional Cask Selection Mark 12 in the line-up of frankly ridiculously good rums from Foursquare and named Nobiliary, and I’m going to review the shit out of it – spoiler alert, it’s really, really good.

With non vintage ECS releases that have fancy names, you usually expect some type of cask play (Port, Madeira, Sherry, whatever) and the vintage releases tend to be ex-bourbon cask matured, so I was a little surprised when this was released to see that it has a fancy schmancy name and it’s ex-bourbon matured. My first reaction was that it was a little odd, given we had a 2008 vintage of the same type of cask, but I trust Richard Seale and any doubt lasted about a picosecond before I hit the “order” button. So what do we have in the bottle? As with the normal ECS run, we have a blend of rums that have come off a column still and a pot still, blended together and then casked up into ex-bourbon casks (I believe these are a mixture of 1st, 2nd and 3rd fill casks). The rum is then aged, tropicaly in Barbados, for a minimum of 14 years before being released in December 2019.

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

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at full cask strength of 62% abv.

I’m reviewing the Foursquare Nobiliary at around 55% abv (ish) as that’s the strength I’ve been drinking it at. 62% isn’t any good for getting the depth out of the rum, it’s too tight there.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Wow, this thing is incredible. Initially there is a lot of oak, but that does blow off after a bit. It’s actually fairly sweet at first with lovely toasted oak, toasted coconut, really rich vanilla pod, clove, nutmeg, and an rum infused caramel or butterscotch. Then we’ve got deep woody smells of varnished old bookcases, those red or green leather chairs with buttons in that you see in stately homes, walking into a cobblers with leather clue, grease and old shoes. There’s this fantastic perfumed note that I can’t put my finger on, it’s a little like sandalwood but not as heavy mixed with some type of cut flowers and it’s gorgeous. Under the heavier smells, and once you get used to them, there’s plenty of fruit on offer too; red apples, red plums, figs, sultanas, dried banana and pineapple.

Palate: Full mouth, perfect weight at 55% abv. Not hot at all, which is really surprising. I mean, sure there’s a little heat of course but it’s so easy drinking at high abv is scary. A strange notion of sweetness, but not sweet. There’s the idea of sweetness here, with caramel, vanilla and coconut but it’s dry sweetness. Oak, varnish, buttered toasted bagels, peanuts, pecans, and some bitter walnut. There’s that perfumed note that I can almost taste on my palate again, slight violet note maybe, and liquorice root. Fruits come in later on with orange, red apple, red grape, plums, figs and date. There’s a little lift and zing some tropical or citrus with a lime, pineapple and banana but it’s fleeting – it’s just enough to stop the heavy oak from being too heavy. Unlike the vintage releases, there isn’t really any savoury in this rum, if anything there’s a touch of grease, stamp glue and a tiny bit of brine but it’s only faint and noticeable just as you swallow. Throughout the whole palate there’s a mild ginger root, black pepper and sweet red chilli that just sits there behind everything else, you feel the prickle and spice of it but it never comes to the front of the taste.

Finish: Very long. Things are sweeter here; rum and raisin fudge, dark chocolate, candied ginger root, candied pineapple and banana. There’s cinnamon, nutmeg and raisin, almost like a teacake or toasted cinnamon bagel with salted butter on. Lovely coconut, vanilla pod, roasted cashews and a sweet pipe tobacco that sits lightly on your tongue. I’m sure that this finish would go on for longer if I let it, but this rum is too damn good so I’ve usually dived back in for another swig!

Thoughts? One of my rums of the year, without doubt. This is utterly incredible rum. The rum itself it fantastic and the way it’s been matured in the cask mix has complimented it perfectly – if you’ve ever been lucky enough, as I have, to drink Eagle Rare 17yo there are flickers of the epic bourbon maturation that show in here and the mixing of old rum and those bourbon notes are seriously harmonious.

Whilst I usually like my Foursquare ex-bourbon casks with some savoury notes in them, and this has very little, there is just something else in here – it’s that perfumed note I’ve not been able to peg down. The way the oak works with it and then flashes of fruit and the overall softness is brilliant – if I were to describe this rum in one word it would be “beautiful”. A tip for you; make sure that as you drink this and swallow, and let the finish do it’s thing, that you constantly nose it at the same time. It’s quite an experience having both senses hit at the same time.

What’s the damage? £60.95. Would I buy this again? I bloody well can’t! It’s all sold out……yes, but yes. Oh yes, I would….

You can’t get this from the big boys anymore but The Whisky Exchange are still selling samples of this (at the time of writing) here, if you want one:

Foursquare Nobiliary Sample

Montanya Oro

What is it? Well I don’t think a category exists for this one so bear with me. First things first, it’s American rum, distilled, matured and bottled at the Montanya distillery in Colorado. Second things second, the interesting bit: The rum is a blend of sugar cane based rum and molasses base rum mixed together – not something I’ve come across before. Usually you have sugar cane based distillate or molasses based distillate, I guess you could go crazy and blend the 2 distillates together, but this is distilled from a mixture of sugar cane juice and molasses. Fermentation takes around 6 to 7 days, so reasonably long (sugar cane takes longer to complete its fermentation than molasses wash). Distillation is done in 2 Alembic pot stills which are direct fired and the rum is then filled into american white oak casks which have previously held Laws Whiskey where they are aged for 1 year in Colorado (so high altitude) – the casks are filled wet, which means they still have some remnants of whiskey sloshing around in them.

My bottle is from cask 552, in case you are interested.

Not coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled at 40% abv. The only addition is some local honey (less than 0.04% per bottle).

I’m not going to copy and paste details from their website so you can pop along and read all about it here; Montanya distillation and other stuff about them.

Now anyone who reads this blog and/or speaks to me on Social Media will know that I’m a huge flag flyer for disclosure and bit of a geek, so for me the Montanya website is gold dust. There’s not really much space on a bottle of rum after you’ve done all your nice labeling so you’re quite limited with how much disclosure you can do there, naturally a website is the next best thing. I like to know things like distillation periods, still capacities,  barrel size and stuff and the website is amazing – talk about disclosure, it even breaks things down to the volume of the raw ingredients used, abv levels of their wash, char levels of the casks, volume of rum produced per still run as well as explaining how distillation works, if that’s something you’re keen to learn about. Clearly there is a lot of love and pride going into their products, I’ve not seen a website with this level of content and commitment before and you don’t go to those lengths unless you care about what you do.

Sugar? OK, as with all my reviews I’ve dipped my hydrometer into this and it’s report a sugar level of 29 g/l. Now before we all jump up and down and start shouting about that disclosure you need to understand what a hydrometer measures – it’s not sugar. A hydrometer works by measuring the density of a liquid, and depending on the density it will sink or float at a certain level. The ones we use for measuring sugar in spirits are calibrated to measure alcoholic density – ethanol is less dense than water so the more water there is in a spirit (the lower the abv) the more dense it is, which means your hydrometer floats more. When sugar is added to rum the ethanol and water ratio doesn’t change but the sugar increases the density of the rum so the hydrometer floats more, we can then use conversion tables to map the stated bottle abv against the measurement on the hydrometer (it’ll show a lower abv as the sugar is causing it to float more) and work out how much sugar is added. It’s not an exact science as other things can impact the density. We know honey is added here, albeit a small amount, and I have no idea how honey will change the density of the rum. Honey is sugar but its a complex sugar so it may have skewed the results of this. There is some sweetness here, that’s for sure though as I spilt some on the bottle and it went sticky when it dried.

As I know other things are going on here, and Montanya have such a fantastic disclosure policy, if they say there is no added sugar then I’m pretty confident there wont be. I’m sure someone will chime in and put me to right on the whole thing.

Nose: Really fresh, lots of sugar cane, warm hay, cut flowers and wet grass. Thin caramel or honey, light vanilla, cherries, pastries, and a touch of ginger. There’s some spicy prickle here, like red chilies and white pepper. Fleeting hints of tart green apple, like a Granny Smith, pop up here and there, melon and a handful of spent coffee grounds deeper down.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Quite forward on the whiskey at the start, it takes a few good sips to realise it’s a rum. Honey, vanilla, banana (green ones though), cherry, pineapple and green apple again but sweet this time not tart. A little butterscotch. It gets quite spicy mid-palate with the white pepper and red chili, root ginger and tannic oak. There’s a touch of milky coffee, a little brown sugar and this cooling taste of cherry stones, almost almond’y note as it finishes off.

Finish: Short to medium. Quite creamy here with milk chocolate, milky coffee, pastry, honey and banana. There’s the odd burst of spice here and there, mainly ginger, but the finish doesn’t linger too long.

Thoughts? Unusual. It’s fresh, then fruity, then spicy, then creamy, so I got a bit lost with it’s direction and balance. I also find it quite sweet in the mouth. I’m not sure how the honey impacts this but luckily the sweetness I’ve picked up doesn’t do what added sugar normally does; there isn’t any of that flattening or buzz on the finish. I think I’d prefer it without the sweetness in it personally as the flavours are really lovely, it’s dangerously easy to drink and is clearly very well made. I’ve been lucky in drinking this during some glorious weather we’ve had over our summer and the combination of the light freshness, flavours and hot weather we’re spot on. I’d imagine this would also mix very well, if that’s what you’re into. Bearing in mind this is only a 1 year old rum, it’s packing quite a lot of flavour.

The issue I have with this rum is the price. In the UK it’s retailing for £40 a bottle, which is expensive for a 1 year old rum, especially when other rums from Montanya that are older are only a small amount more. I know it’s a small batch jobbie and that does increase the cost-per-unit a lot but still, it’s expensive. If I’m being honest I’d look to be paying around £30 for a rum of this age, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t run out and grab another bottle at it’s current price. If I was going to spend that amount I’d be looking at the Montanya Exclusiva and Valencia instead – both of which I’ve picked up by the way, if that’s any indication on my views.

Note: I’ve been made aware that Montanya are a B Corp certified business. This means that they have been certified as meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and their purpose. In layman’s terms it means that you operate your business as though people and environment actually matter, and do no harm, essentially looking out for other humans and future generations. As a result of this, one of the things it impacts is operating costs, so this is one of the reasons why the price per bottle is higher than you would otherwise expect to see for something of a similar age.

You can pick this up from Master of Malt here:

Montanya Oro