There are a lot of certainties in life. I’m in the Netherlands when writing this and it’s raining almost every day. Soon it will be Christmas and we’ll welcome a fresh new year right after. Another certainty is the continuous flow of Foursquare ECS releases. As a rum enthusiast, it fills me with joy every time I can get my hands on one of these limited expressions. It’s certainly much better than the daily rain over here, even though the rain is free and the rum isn’t. Now if it rained Foursquare ECS rum, it wouldn’t be so bad.
The latest in the series is Covenant. An 18 year ex bourbon cask rum that’s bottled at 58%. I’m somewhat sensitive to oak, which always makes me wary of very long aged rums. I used to think 8 to 12 years was about the sweet spot for me. But when you explore more and more styles from different distilleries and regions, you realize you can’t really pinpoint it like that. So many factors are at play that result in a woody spirit or not. The barrels, climate and skill of the blender are three important ones. I’ve had overoaked 1 year old rums and 20 year olds that weren’t oaky at all. However, if someone would put all rums in an oak level chart, I’d bet very old rums would be dominating the top 10, which makes sense.
When it comes to Foursquare rums, the same experience applies for me. Some 14 year olds were too oaky, while 16 year old Shibboleth wasn’t at all. This made me choose Shibboleth to compare with Covenant. Two very old Barbados rums, both pot and column blends, both ex bourbon cask maturation and both distilled in 2005, which seems to have been an epic distillation year at Foursquare distillery.
I used the semi blind format for the tasting. I knew which rums, not in what order.
Oak, vanilla, coconut, black pepper, leather, tobacco, saw dust, cinnamon.
Crayon, oak, vanilla, chocolate, coconut, burnt wood, it’s nutty, light citrus, feels like walking into a leather shop. The oak is more pronounced than with rum 1.
Noses have a very similar profile. Both are delicious ones that I could nose for a very long time.
Cinnamon, oak spice, sweet tobacco, nutmeg, light caramel. Menthol and chocolate on the fairly long finish with a hint of bitterness. It’s a bit thin.
Woohoooo wood spice! Hold on to your horses though…..it’s like the wood spice is carrying bags of sweetness. Coconut, chocolate, menthol, vanilla, nutmeg. Massive burst of black pepper. The finish is very spicy and long. It lingers for quite a while and doesn’t turn bitter, which is an achievement in my eyes. My mouth feels like the inside of a bone dry barrel though. This rum sucks all the moisture out of my mouth.
Rum 2 wins this by quite a distance.
Rum 1: Foursquare Shibboleth
Rum 2: Foursquare Covenant
I don’t know what kind of magic tricks Richard Seale and his team apply to get to certain results. The 16 year old, 56%, Shibboleth not being very oaky has to have happened through some ancient spell. With Covenant it is completely different. There is a ton of oak in the profile, which usually bothers me, but doesn’t in this case. It’s balanced out with a tremendous amount of natural sweetness. I don’t find it turns bitter either. It’s a a big and bold kind of rum, which I love.
Shibboleth has never been my favourite Foursquare ECS. Sure, it’s tasty and easy drinking, but it's thinner and doesn’t have the x factor that some of the others have. On the other hand, Covenant joins an ever growing group of wonderful ECS releases. One that’s perhaps a little overwhelming for a starting rum drinker, but that should make most rum enthusiasts very happy. AKA, another job well done!
To answer the question in the title of this article: How old is too old? Well, in this case, 18 years is clearly not too old.
Foursquare Shibboleth – 76
Foursquare Covenant – 90
Click here for info on the scoring method.
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