Foursquare Empery

It’s been out for a while now, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with this rum, so it’s really got to the point where I need to put out the Foursquare Empery review…..

What is it? Bajan Single Blended rum (molasses based, produced at one distillery and blended from both traditional twin-column still and pot still rums), from the Foursquare distillery in St Philip, Barbados. This rum is one of the Exceptional Cask Selection rums for 2019 and is ECS Mark 9. The rum contained within the blend, is as always, distilled and blended when new and prior to being matured in the casks, speaking of which, we’ve got a mixture of casks on offer here and it works the same way as some of the previous releases from the ECS series; whereby there are 2 batches of rum matured separately and then blended at the end: first there is the ex-bourbon cask rum which is where the rum has been filled into ex-bourbon casks and matured for 14 years. We then have the “finished” or “double matured” rum which was filled into ex-bourbon casks and matured for 10 years before being re-racked into ex-sherry casks for a period of 4 years. The 2 separate and mature rums are then blended together to produce the final rum, with a total age of 14 years old. So it’s a blend of a blend, if you will. All of the maturation, as you’d expect, is done tropically, so you’re easily looking at the equivalent of around 30 years worth of European ageing in terms of maturation impact on the spirit.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 56% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Oh yes, sherry matured rum, no doubt. Immediately lots of Corinth raisins, black plums, blackberry, dark cherry and roasted fig. Very fruity indeed. Then we get the oak, some dried coconut, dark chocolate and some black peppercorns. The more you nose this things get meaty with some baked big flat mushrooms, really old worn leather, dry leaves and dusty soil. Faint hint of liquorice and a touch of creosote to balance the sweet notes and the faintest hint of sulphur (spent matches) – normally that’d piss me off in a sherried spirit but it’s only very faint and, to be fair, I am quite sensitive to the smell (apparently it’s some genetic thing; some people smell it, some don’t)…….you may not even notice it. It is in there though, just not enough to throw things off.

Palate: Good heavy mouthfeel. Sweet at first, very fruity with the raisins and dried black forest fruits, then BAM! Gets spicy and dry; ginger in dark chocolate, lots of black pepper, gripping oak, over done French roast coffee beans, raw walnuts and raw liquorice root, even some red chillies in the heat. It’s still carrying fruit though as it goes on with some bitter oranges and a little black grape, but the palate is a lot less fruitier than the nose, certainly.

Finish: Very, very long. Oaky and dry. Lots of tobacco, black coffee, dark chocolate, roasted walnuts and strong black breakfast tea. A little raisin at the end, cherry and the meaty fig, but there isn’t really much in the way of sweetness here either, it’s bone dry and just nicely bitter. Reminds me a lot of the old Glendronach 15 year old Scotch, back before they re-branded it and it contained very old (and incredibly well sherried) whisky in the bottle – and believe me, that’s saying something. It totally feels like a love-child between old Glendronach 15 year old and Foursquare 2005 Cask Strength.

Thoughts? Stunner. One of my favourite Foursquare Exception Cask Selection rums, right up there with the Criterion. This is fruitier on the nose and I do like a little more of a savoury note in my rum, generally speaking, but it is very, very good indeed. Embarrassingly so for other distilleries out there. Richard Seale is taking the piss now, stunning rum after stunning rum. I’m pretty sure he could do a fish cask matured rum or something and it’d still be bloody amazing.

£64.

Sold.

This is worth every penny and then some. Simply one of the top rums of 2019.

Foursquare 2005 Cask Strength (12 year old)

I’ve only gone and done it again. The 2019 Foursquare Exceptional Cask bottles are out (the 2007 Cask Strength and the Empery) and I’ve only just got around to reviewing the last of the 2018 bottles – the 2005 Cask Strength. This is the problem you see, there has been so much rum coming out of Foursquare over the past couple of years I simply can’t keep up; I’ve got a limited budget and even more limited time. Despite the fact that I buy lots of rum, I moderate my alcohol intake so it takes me quite a while to get through my bottles, and unfortunately a some of my Autistic traits are obsession, order and very (very) strict routines – as such I only drink on certain days and certain times, I have no more than around 6 bottles open at once and have to finish one before opening anything new. I also have to have a balance of rums open, so for example I wont have 2 bottles of Foursquare open at the same time…..the result of all of this is that it sometimes takes me bloody ages to get to a newly released bottle. And here we are, in 2019, only just reviewing the Foursquare Exceptional Cask Selection 6 – 2005 Cask Strength.

Anyway, enough waffling, let’s crack on with the review.

What is it? The 6th bottling in the Foursquare Exception Cask Selection series. It’s molasses based rum produced on both Pot stills and twin column stills at the same distillery, Foursquare in St. Philip, Barbados – so a Bajan Single Blended Rum. The distillate from both still types is blended when it’s raw spirit and then put into ex-bourbon casks to age tropically, in this case for 12 years. The rum was distilled in 2005 (hence the name) and bottled in October 2017. This is a year older than the previous Cask Strength from 2004 as that was only 11 years old, so you’re getting an extra year for your money.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at cask strength of 59% abv. Wahoo!

Note: I’ve taken this down to around 55% abv for this review as that is the strength I’ve been drinking it at. It’s good and very drinkable at full strength but a little water and slightly less heat turn it into something incredible.

Sugar? Never. Ever.

Nose: Ah, Foursquare. For all the cask “finishes” they do there’s nothing quite like a bourbon cask matured, full proof Foursquare! Lots of oak, vanilla and coconut at first, burnt brown sugar, butterscotch, dark chocolate Hob-Knobs, tiffin (it’s a biscuity, chocolatey, nutty, fruity tray-bake we have in the UK, and it’s awesome) and some dried banana. As I’d expect there is a savoury side to this too and it’s easy to find some high quality olive oil, liquorice, tar, WD40 and some marine fuel that you smell when standing on a jetty in the sun.

Palate: Full mouth feel, oily. Easier and not as hot as you’d expect. Dry. Starts out savoury with the pot still rum at the fore, with chilli coated mixed olives in oil, salted butter, tar, horseradish and a salt & pepper dark chocolate. Things get nutty mid-palate with spiced cashews, peanuts and pecans. Gingersnaps, some more (very) dark chocolate and a salted caramel are here. A touch of fruit with baked lemons, candied orange and a little toffee’d red apple at the end.

Finish: Loooooooooooong. It’s not finished by the time you take another sip. Dark chocolate, toasty oak, nutmeg, very good Columbian coffee, orange fudge, caramel chews and some bitter raw walnuts. The sweeter side definitely shows here over the savoury. Maybe the faintest hint of liquorice candy, like Allsorts or something, but it’s distant and hard to focus on.

Thoughts? Wow, another absolute cracker. For me this edges the 2004, just. It’s got a bit more savoury in it, which I like. The balance again between the blended rums in this is just astonishing and what I love about this rum is that you can drink it at full proof, or add water to take it down to 40%, or anywhere in between, and you get no loss of flavour at all, just subtle changes. This is easily one of the best rums that came out of 2018 (yes, yes, I’m late I know).

This was around the £50 mark when it came out and has been available for a long time  – seriously, at that price it’s almost rude not to buy a bottle. 100% recommend rum, for anyone.

Rum Sixty Six 12 year old Cask Strength

What is it? Bajan Single Blended rum (pot and column still rum, from molasses, distilled at a single distillery) from the Foursquare distillery in St Philip, Barbados. This rum is one of the brands/rums produced by the Foursquare distillery and uses a recipe that was originally reserved for family members. It is named after the year of Bajan independence in 1966, hence the Sixty Six. The rum, as with most Foursquare blends, is blended after distillation and before cask fill so that the rums have the full maturation period to marry together – in this case for at least 12 years, all of which is done tropically in ex-bourbon casks. This rum is produced in small batches (100-120 casks per batch), and the rum is first matured for around 8-10 years before being sampled, selected and the chosen rums re-racked for the remainder of the maturation period. Now, the bottle does refer to this as “Cask Strength”; I don’t believe that this is truly a cask strength rum in the literal sense, but more in the message of the rum. What I mean is, it is impossible for a rum that is small batch from a 100 or so casks to come out at exactly 59% abv every single time for every single batch – the abv has either been rounded to the nearest full percent abv or (I suspect) is a slightly higher abv that has been diluted a little to take it to 59%, this way they can get the batches done and bottled at the same abv every bottling run. I may be wrong on this, just my opinion.

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at a whopping 59% abv.

Sugar? No way in hell.

*No water has been added for this review, I’ve been drinking it at full whack so that’s how I’m reviewing it*

Nose: Wow. It’s big, and I don’t mean the abv, the smells are intense. Grilled coconut, roasted peanut, pecans and cashews, smoked almonds with that sticky sugar stuff on it. Dark chocolate, vanilla fudge, butterscotch, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger. Big whiffs of old leather jackets, distant pipe tobacco and a salty, brine’y olive note. There is a smell of dried leaves, soil, grease and cut grass – like your hands smell when you’ve been in the garden using an old petrol mower – dirty, mucky, but wonderful. I could smell this all day long.

Palate: Full and coating, even at 59%. Hot, it’s 59% though right! Dangerously drinkable at full proof, and that’s how I’ve been drinking it. It really doesn’t need water at all but if you do add any then it swims like a fish and gets fatter, oilier and lets some of the sweeter notes come out. Basically, this is the same here as the nose, it carries through all those intense flavours well. If anything it’s more fudge’y and has extra butterscotch here, with less nuts. Mid-palate the grease, oil and olive come out with some red chillies that have been dipped in dark chocolate. There’s a lovely taste on the back end of the palate that is a mixture of camphor and the taste I expect boot polish to taste like if you could taste it, if you know what I mean.

Finish: Waaaaaaaaay long. You measure the length of the finish in parsecs, not minutes. Hot, naturally, but not unpleasantly so. Stem ginger, black peppercorns, chillies then nutty, sweet oak, coconut, caramels, maple syrup, vanilla fudge and dark, dark chocolate. There is a tiny bit of salty olive right at the end to remind you it’s also savoury and that camphor note creeps in every now and then.

Thoughts? Holy shit this is good. I’ve always felt that the “core” range of Foursquare rums played second fiddle to “everything else” they do; the Exceptional Cask Selection, Habitation Velier, other Velier collaborations etc, but not this. This is what the core range needed, a rocket up it’s arse. It is indeed exceptional rum, the intensity of flavour that is packed in here is incredible, yet it’s so easy to drink at full strength is scary, and as always with Foursquare, the balance of flavour is harmonious. I simply cannot fault it.

Let me put some perspective around this; it’s at least 12 years old, it’s tropically aged, it’s pure/undoctored rum, it’s 59% abv and it cost me £44. Yes, you read that right, £44! C’mon. I just can’t get my head around this – why would I not buy this rum?! (Rhetorical question by the way).

A rum I’ll have in my cabinet for as long as they keep making it.

 

 

Foursquare 14 year old (2001) – Kill Devil

What is it? Molasses based rum blended from rum produced on a twin column still and a pot still, at the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, making this a Single Blended Rum. As with (pretty much) all Foursquare rums, this rum was blended after distillation but before ageing and therefore the marrying and full maturation has been done in-cask. This rum is a single cask rum that was distilled in August 2001, aged for 14 years (I can’t say if this was tropically or not, as there are no details) and then bottled by Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil range of rums as one of 353 bottles produced.

Natural colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No way.

Nose: Oh, now, hang on. Very interesting indeed! Not what I was expecting at all; quite a savoury and phenolic Foursquare we have here with boot polish, smoked almonds, printer toner, warm paper straight of out said laser printer, beeswax and black olives. Under this there is that lovely Foursquare oaky toffee, smoked coconut, figs and vanilla custard. A tiny green banana and a touch of clementine (of all things) show up. Hmmm, am I sure that this is blended? There is a lot of pot still in this bad boy that’s for sure.

Palate: Perfect mouth feel, oily and juicy. Mirrors the nose and starts off with extra virgin olive oil, a licked stamp, marzipan and candle wax. Then comes the spicy oak, but the sweet notes are dirty sweet, if that makes sense; tobacco toffee, salted vanilla cream, spiced coconut oil, it’s almost got this Umami taste to it. The back of the palate has that little green banana, but it’s ripened a little more and there is that lovely lift of clementine zing and orange caramel at the end.

Finish: Long, glorious, salty, sweet, phenolic, chewy – all things that don’t go together but put them together and they sing – like sweet and salted popcorn or a smoked citrus fruit. There are drying tannins and a bizarre Earl Grey/Lapsang Souchong love-child of a tea. Again right at the end there is this lemon’y, orange’y caramel fudge note that is beautiful. I’ve struggled to cover off all the flavours of the palate and finish here, there is simply too much going on for my brain to comprehend. It’s exactly like Umami, you can’t explain to someone what it is or what it tastes like, but you taste it and you know.

Thoughts? Crickey, now this shows how damn good Foursquare rums really are. Take a single cask from anywhere else, get a mix of cask, oily savoury and sweet flavours, and have it all blend harmoniously – go on, I dare you, find me one. This is a single cask. How the hell are all these flavours in here and blending so well. Most distilleries would struggle to produce something like this from a massive blend of casks and here we are with 1 single cask of Foursquare. The ability of Richard Seale to produce rums like this, blend the rums before they go into the wood, and get a result like this is astonishing. The guy is a wizard.

I’m putting my head above the parapet here, but this is one of my favourite Foursquare rums, it beats a lot of the official bottlings for me, and that says something. Now, it’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes and it’s not the “classic” Foursquare you’d expect, but as a rum is brilliant.

£55?!? That’s all that this cost me? Take all my money, please, just take it.

Foursquare Dominus

Time for the Foursquare Dominus review!

What is it? Single Blended rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, so pot and column still rum that has been produced from molasses and distilled at one distillery, then blended. This bottle is release number 7 from the Exception Cask Selection, and as with the previous Foursquare Exception Cask Selection bottles, this rum is blended after distillation and before ageing so that the entire blend is aged together – the pot and column still rums are not aged separately and blended at the end. In terms of maturation, this rum spent 3 years maturing in ex-bourbon casks before being moved over to ex-Cognac casks for a further 7 years, giving a total of 10 years maturation; all of which was done tropically, so around 20 or so years European equivalent, and was bottled in January 2018 as part of a limited run of 6000 bottles in Europe.

Not chill filtered, but coloured, and bottled at 56% abv.

Nose: Lots of oak at the start, cinnamon, clove and ginger. The usual Bajan honeycomb, vanilla and thin golden syrup come along, a touch of orange oil, spiced caramel and some red chillies. There are some deeper phenolic notes under this with WD40, engine oil, olives and a little brine, but the oak dominates over all.

Palate: Perfect weight, oily full mouth but not cloying. Hot and spicy at first with peppercorns, chillies and clove. Some spiced toffee, caramel sauce, vanilla pod and chilli infused milk chocolate mid-palate. The oily, briney note carries through here, a little tar, some candle wax and rubber gloves. Still spicy, right to the finish.

Finish: Very long. Hot and spicy. More chocolate here as the spices die off, a little liquorice candy (Pontefract cakes), black unsweetened coffee, honey on burnt toast and a little raisin note at the end. The spices never really leave though, the buzz stays on your tongue right to the very end and gets slightly bitter.

Thoughts? Another cracking rum form Foursquare. This is better, in my opinion, than the Premise but not as good as the Criterion. The thing with Cognac casks is that they are made from Limousin oak, and the thing with Limousin oak is that it’s bloody spicy, tight grained and can really dominate spirits. It gets blended out in Cognac as they use Eau De Vie from lots of different years and massive batches, but here it has a full 7 tropical years to muscle the rum about and it’s frankly too much really. The Habitation Velier 2013 was maturated in ex-Cognac but that was only for 2 tropical years and that was perfect, whereas this has seen too much time. It’s too spicy and as a result the rum looses the usually perfect balance that Foursquare brings……

….still, it’s a really, really good rum by anyone’s standards and it was a bargain for the £55 it cost. Yes. I certainly would buy it again.