What can still be said about Foursquare Rum Distillery? They’ve put themselves on the map big time in the last five to ten years. Every person who has more than a casual interest in rum knows this jewel from Barbados. Very influential on and off the pitch with their rum and through their owner and master distiller Richard Seale, who has been very vocal on and offline. His direct communication style not always appreciated by everyone, but it’s remarkable that someone in his position is willing to spend as much time as he does sharing his rum knowledge with the community. Why does he do it? The skeptics say he does this purely with business in mind. These same people usually classify themselves as “open minded” or “not biased”. On the other hand, the glass half full types mostly seem to understand the business perspective, but will also tend to recognize that his passion for rum, pride for his beautiful country of Barbados and his love for teaching have something to do with it. Whatever the reason, a lot of people have benefited from him sharing his wealth of rum knowledge.
In the past couple of years, a lot has been about the Barbados GI application. For those who don’t know anything about it, I’ve written about it here, here and here. For us rum enthusiasts, most information about this process and its challenges has been coming from Richard Seale. This has prompted some to label the Barbados GI a war between him and Plantation’s Alexandre Gabriel. Which is a rather simplistic way of looking at a complex initiative that involves multiple stakeholders and that could prove to be very important for the future of Barbados rum. This was in the back of my mind when I walked into St Nicholas Abbey’s owner Larry Warren at UK Rumfest last month. I asked him about the GI. He was a bit cagey at first, since he doesn’t know me, until he understood how I’m looking at this process. He opened up a bit and chatted about it for quite a while. What was very obvious in that conversation was his strong passion and drive behind making this a success. Which is no different from Richard Seale’s or Mount Gay’s message. Larry simply isn’t using social media to share that with anyone. Why would he? To serve the curious nature of the rum enthusiast? Some enthusiasts think they are important. However, in reality, all of us enthusiasts are in a tiny bubble, a tiny drop in the rum ocean. We don’t matter much in the Barbados GI process. Public opinion in Barbados is a lot more important for example. A Facebook post on Ministry of Rum won’t make a difference.
Let’s get back to Foursquare rum, specifically their Exceptional Cask Selection. Every release in this series creates a certain amount of buzz. They are all different, it’s like a creative playground for a master blender. The vintages (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) almost feel like a separate series within the Exceptional Cask Selection, because of their consistency. They are consistently good and affordable and there is quite a lot of consistency in the flavour profile. It’s almost like a regular sku, but with a little room for surprises. As the affordable cask strength option that is fairly easy to find, I think it’s the star of the ECS series.
At UK rumfest I was lucky enough to taste 2010, which is the 21st ECS release. I thought it would be interesting to compare it to 2009. I did this in three sessions, where the first one was blind.
Foursquare 2009 – 12 years – ex bourbon cask – 60%
Foursquare 2010 – 12 years – ex bourbon cask – 60%
Oak, menthol, coconut, brown sugar, it’s nutty, nutmeg, light candle wax. Sweet and round.
Sweet oak, coconut, chocolate, candle wax, light minerals, tobacco. It’s a bit softer and sweeter than rum 1.
Slight preference for rum 1 on the nose.
Oak, tobacco, coconut, vanilla, brown sugar. Oak is fairly strong but not dominating. Finish is medium long. Overall it’s a bit softer and sweeter than rum 2.
More spicy than rum 1, peppery, coating my mouth. Vanilla, sweet oak, coconut, brown sugar, tobacco. It’s more intense than Foursquare 2005 (I figured I’d throw that one in as well). The finish is medium long with a lot of wood spice and is slightly more pronounced than rum 1.
Rum 1 – Foursquare 2009
Rum 2 – Foursquare 2010
Before the conclusion I want to add Foursquare 2008 to the equation, which is another 12 year rum at 60%. Overall, 2008 is slightly rounder, sweeter, more expressive and less bitter than the other two. It has a bit more complexity and the finish is solid. Great rum!
At some point I was thinking it’s a little crazy to compare these rums, as they are so similar. However, it did give me a feeling of privilege, to be able to sit down with rums of this quality and debate with myself which one is better and why. I’m not just talking about Foursquare, there is so much great rum available at the moment. It’s a good rum time to be alive, that’s for sure.
My favourite in the blind session was 2009, but I picked 2010 in session two and three. They are so close to each other. Which one of the two you prefer depends on your personal preference. My guess is that you’ll probably like both. Sweet and soft: 2009. Spicy power: 2010. My choice: 2008. I can’t wait for 2011.
Foursquare 2009 – 88
Foursquare 2010 – 88
Foursquare 2008 – 92
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