Foursquare 2 year old (2013) – Habitation Velier

What is it? Pure single rum from Barbados, distilled at the Foursquare distillery on a double retort pot still in 2013, aged for 2 years in ex-cognac casks, and bottled in 2015. This rum is 100% tropically aged and that 2 years has produced an Angel’s Share of over 15%, so a loss of around 7-8% a year! To put this in context, European aged spirits tend to loose around 2% a year to the Angels, so this is interacting and oxidising at around 4 times as quickly as something you’d get maturing in the UK. 2 years doesn’t sound a lot but with the rapid maturation taken into account this is equivalent to a European aged spirit of around 8 years old. Those 2 years have also been in ex-cognac casks which means it’s tight grained French oak, this is much more intense than ex-bourbon American oak and will add a lot of flavour to the rum.

Unchillfiltered, not coloured and bottled at 64% abv. Rock on.

Sugar? No. Zero additives to this.

I’ve dropped this down to around 57% or so, it’s way to hot and spirity at 64%, I need my nose and I like my throat.

Nose: Oh my, lovely. Certainly Foursquare at first, no doubt about that. As we begin it’s kinda what I’d expect with vanilla pod, spiced caramel sauce, those toffee pennies from a tin of Quality Street (mixed chocolates that you get in the UK at Christmas) and a little orange cake. Once my nasal hairs have got used to the heat (even at 57%!) there is more depth to this; it’s pretty fat, oily and phenolic with olives, raw licorice, raw coffee beans, raw walnuts, engine oil, grease…whatever, it smells dirty in a good way, like I’ve just come in from the garage. The phenolic and sweet smells blend to give an almost Umami effect which lights up your nostrils. This is a big rum and I could smell it all day long.

Palate: Perfect weight, oily but not viscous. Hot delivery, even diluted down – let’s be honest, it’s only 2 years old and has been in French Oak. Chilli infused caramel, pepper infused toffee, that vanilla pod again and then, as with the nose, BAM! Phenolic, meaty, oily, salty, brine, tapenade paste, candle wax, licorice, maybe a little tar or rubber – can’t quite put my finger on it. That salt-sweet Umami efftect again that just ignites your taste buds. Finally, just as things move towards the finish there is a little raisin and some dark chocolate creeping in.

Finish: Long, very long and hot. I was expecting a shorter finish given the age. The raisin and dark chocolate continue but it’s joined by licorice again, some cranberry, salty lime lift and a drizzle of thick honey over toast. The dark chocolate returns and it tails off with a coffee bean or 2.

Thoughts? A big, big rum. For a young rum it’s got massive flavour and incredible complexity right through from nose to the end of the finish. Ok, it isn’t very well balanced, which is something that Foursquare always is when it’s blended out, but geez come on, it’s a 2 year old French oak matured pot still rum at 64% – it was never designed to be balanced! What it was designed to do was show you what Foursquare pot still is like and celebrate that. With that considered it works perfectly.

£85….2 year old, that’s a lot. Would I buy this again? 100%. Age is a good marker of market value for spirits, generally, but there are other things to consider and this is about flavour in the bottle and it’s worth every penny.

*Buyer beware; this is not a rum for novices or the faint hearted*

 

Foursquare Criterion

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.

 

 

Barbados 16 year old (2000) – WhiskyBroker

What is it? Well there’s some stuff about this that we are certain about, but there is also some stuff that we’re not. Let’s start with the certainties; This is molasses based rum from the West Indies Rum Distillery (WIRD) in Barbados, filled into casks in June 2000 and bottled on 9th February 2017 after 16 full years of maturation by independent bottler Whisky Broker. I have no idea how much of this was tropical or European. It’s a single cask (barrel number 18) and the distillation method was via a pot still. My bottle is number 43 from 245. Sounds good right? It gets better – now to the stuff we’re not certain about;

The cask was marked BBR (BRS), here is where the real fun starts. BBR means Black Rock and is the other name for WIRD (it’s located in Black Rock), it is rumoured to be home of the legendary Rockley Still, and the marking on the cask of BRS means that this rum is a Rockley Still. Now, there are debates still raging about the existence of the Rockley Still, did it exist and did it ever produce rum? Are rums labelled as “Rockley Still” actually from the Rockley Still or are they done in the style of Rockley Still? Is the “style” and the “still” actually the same thing and just become merged in folklore? The answer is that no-one really knows. You can read a bit more about Rockley Still here, over at TheRumDiaries – clicky click

Not Chill Filtered, natural colour and bottled at full proof of 57.6% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Disclaimer: Before we go any further. Whether this is a Rockley Still or a Rockley “style” is pretty much irrelevant, they taste the same, and that’s that point you need to stop and take a minute. This is not your normal rum. Forget what you think of rum and forget what you think of Bajans, this is unlike anything you’ve had before (unless you’ve had a Rockley of course).

Nose: Iodine, honey and lemon throat lozenges, smoked lemons, chargrilled pineapple, BBQ banana, smouldering leaves deep within a forest in Autumn and the best cigars you can buy. Touches of menthol and eucalyptus. Ok, who poured some Laphroaig into my glass! Ah, interesting now, under that medicinal smoke there are some real Bajan notes of butterscotch, toffee, spicy oak, clove, ginger and black pepper. Right back to the seaweed and burning leaves again. Oh, now we’re back to the butterscotch and back to the lemons. Suddenly some flamed Seville orange zest pops up. This nose is incredible, absolutely incredible – I’ve been nosing this for about 20mins and I’ve still not got it all down.

Palate: Heavy, oily mouth feel – perfect weight, and that’s at full proof too. Everything the nose gave but dialled up to 11; straight away it’s the throat lozenges with that honey and lemon, old fashioned pear drop sweets, menthol and eucalyptus – think of a dentists. Then you’re hit by the seaweed, iodine, some anise, the breath of the first contact between steak and BBQ. Cutting it are the savoury fruits, so your lemons, bananas, pineapple and orange – they’ve all been smoked or charred and are far from sweet. Things start to get spicy mid-late palate with the cask playing; cloves, lots of fresh ginger root, horseradish and a big sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. During the whole palate there is the weight of that most amazing cigar just hovering over your tongue and it stays right into the finish.

Finish: Long, not endless, but still long. Phenolic, peated, smoky. Loads of cigar smoke, burning leaves, sappy broken twigs, beeswax, seaweed, swimming pools and iodine. The fruits are pretty much all gone now, they just couldn’t stand up to the phenols and the spices. The spices really hold on with the ginger and black pepper keeping a grip right to the end, helped out by a handful of red chillies. By this time I’ve already gone back in for the next mouthful and we begin again.

Thoughts? This is not a rum, I don’t know what it is – maybe some type of meta-spirit. You give this to someone and tell them it’s a single cask, ex-bourbon matured Laphroaig or a Lagavulin (Single Malt whisky) and they wouldn’t even question you. Total time I’ve spent with this dram has been an hour and I still can’t get to the bottom of it, there is so much complexity, so many layers and flavours from all different areas that I doubt I’ll have figured it out by the time I get to the end of the bottle. Not only is this the best rum I’ve had so far this year, I think it may be the best rum I’ve had on my journey so far. I’ve said in the past I don’t give scores, but if I did this one would be getting a 10 – screw your “can’t give a perfect score because there may be something better out there” – right now, in this moment, with my glass of this, you can keep the rest of them. I just wish I had bottle number 1 through to 245 to keep me going for the next 10 years.

Oh price? Who cares, I’d pay what it cost, but for the purpose of fairness it was £54……just goes to show what you can get for your money. Whisky Broker, take a bow – with the Diamond, and the Belize so far reviewed these guys are really putting out some stunners.

Rum Sixty Six Family Reserve

What is it? Bajan rum, distilled, matured and bottled at the Foursquare distillery using molasses via a combination of column (Coffey) and pot stills. No details on the blend ratio is provided, as I suspect it changes with each batch based on taste profile. This is small batch rum, usually made up of around 112 casks per batch, which are 100% white American oak ex-bourbon casks (mainly from Jack Daniels). The rum is a minimum of 12 years old, all of which is tropically done; the casks are aged for around 8 years in the first maturation phase, where the spirit used is at 65% abv*. Once the first phase is done, casks are selected based on merit and potential, the spirit brought down to near bottling strength and casks refilled and matured for a further 4 years – this reduction in abv slows cask interaction and is a nice trick to stop tropically aged spirits from becoming wood soup.

Coloured, filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

 

*this is around the same abv that Scotch is filled at and 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).

 

Sugar? Nope. No additives at all.

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, almonds and quite a lot of coconut; very big bourbon influence. Charred oak, burnt fruit toast (or teacake), smoke….or maybe the smoking of distant tobacco, old sun-baked leather. There is a little WD40 and black boot polish which makes it a big grubby (that’s good by the way!). Faintest suggestion of flowers, maybe an English hedgerow in summer.

Palate: Thick, coating and quite a sweet delivery actually. Rinse and repeat of the nose; vanilla, caramel, coconut and a bit of honey creeping in. After the delivery and initial taste it dries up fast and gets quite oaky, charred and spicy with ginger, cloves and nutmeg.

Finish: Mid to long and spiced. It gets very dry and quite hot on the finish. The mouth remains coated from the palate and the spice is cut by an intriguing smoked maple syrup like sweetness (can you smoke maple syrup?). There is a little oil or tar that I found on the nose too as it ends, just keeping it interesting.

Thoughts? To me, I find this “better” than Doorly’s 12 year old but not as “good” as the Exceptional Cask bottles that have been put out. It’s got a lovely mouth-feel, it’s not all sweet as the savoury notes balance it out well. Now this is the problem I have, and keep having with Foursquare core bottles; They put out incredible bottles in their Exceptional Cask range, these are not far from the same price as the core bottles but are vastly superior rums. Why would I buy a core bottling when I can grab a Port, or Zinfandel cask for the same price, or even a full proof 2004 for £5 more?! The rum is there, just put it in bottles please.

……saying that, the Exceptional Casks are limited run bottles, so if they all went then I’d buy this again for what I paid, which is anywhere between £35 and £40. I find it above average, but not at the level of greatness. I’d say a very good rum for someone who is into their bourbon.

 

 

Doorly’s 12 year old

20160421_093746What is it? Rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, molasses based. The rum in this bottling in a blend of both column still and pot still rum that have been aged for at least 12 years in tropical conditions, leading to a higher rate of evaporation and increased spirit/wood interaction, so it’s likely compared to a European aged product of around 18-24 years old. I’ve been looking for information on cask make-up on this and the only information I can find that I really trust is from Wes over at TheFatRumPirate, where it states the rum contains 90% ex-bourbon matured rum and 10% ex-Madeira matured rum, which are subsequently blended for a marrying period before bottling. Wes  speaks to the distilleries about their products, so I’ll trust what he says on this one.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv

Sugar? Absolutely not. Foursquare don’t add anything to their rum other than colouring (with the exception of their Spiced rum).

Nose: Initially lots of cut oak, maybe a bit too heavy on wood at the start. Polished wooden tables, caramel, toffee, vanilla and dried coconut. Under the oaky onslaught there are some gentle cooking spices, with clove and a little bit of cinnamon, some smoky cigar leaves and a distant touch of tar. It’s a very dry nose. The longer you nose this the more you notice, as tucked away there is a really light lift of mango, a little pineapple and the faintest hint of banana.

Palate: Medium, verging on thick mouth feel, coating and oily. Bone dry delivery. Massive oak attack, tannic and quite sharp. Vanillas, coconut again from the casks and that fruity mango as well as some dried papaya and dried banana chips. Very, very bitter dark chocolate (90% cocoa stuff) and toffee pennies from a tin of Quality Street. Oak pops back up again, just in case you forgot it was there. The alcohol is pretty assertive for 40% but it’s not overbearing or burning – it’s just very clearly there.

Finish: Pretty long for a low abv actually. Ah, respite from the oak here, more “sweet” cask notes with the vanilla, coconut, and butterscotch rather than toffee. The smoky tobacco can make itself heard here as well as a lovely bitter orange rind note, rums-soaked banana pieces and a touch of sultana. Dark chocolate (70% this time, not as bitter) and some dried tropical fruits as it’s fades away.

Thoughts? I do like this rum, and it’s a clear example of “pure rum”, but I want to like it more than I do. It’s really good rum, but I’ve been consistently getting far too much oak each time I drink this and it find it too intrusive on the balance. I’m not getting much else other than ex-bourbon cask influence and I’d really like to get more of the Madeira casks; other bottlings of Foursquare I’ve had (the Port and Zinfandel cask ones) have been outstanding and this 12 year old can’t keep up with those I’m afraid. I still think it’s a great buy for the price (£35ish) and a must for anyone into their Bajan rum. I’ve not got around to opening my 8 year old Doorly’s yet and I’m hoping that it will allow more flavours to come out because of the shorter maturation period…..we’ll see.