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Foursquare Nobiliary Compared With Criterion & 2007

Nobiliary is the new kid on the Foursquare block. Although that is a dangerous remark to make and already partially untrue. It’s going fast with their releases, so the actual new kid on the block is Foursquare 2008. However, with the limited access we have in Canada, it can take a while before I get my hands on a bottle.


The first time I remember hearing about people tasting Nobiliary was at Miami Rum Congress. Some enthusiasts with palates I trust and respect, like Steve Leukanech, were impressed. Since then the waterfall of raving reviews has seemingly been flowing non stop.


It’s another addition to the quickly growing group of 14 year old members of the Foursquare family, which already consists of Empery, Doorly’s 14, Real McCoy 14, Patrimonio, Destino and Hereditas. From those, only Patrimonio has been among the top spots for me, but I feel they never received as much praise early on in the online rum communities as Nobiliary has. With that in mind I couldn’t wait to test Nobiliary against one of my big loves, Foursquare 2007.


To make it an even more interesting comparison, I figured it couldn’t hurt to add a younger release from a few years back. Criterion. Apart from it being younger, it’s also partly matured in Madeira cask, while 2007 and Nobiliary are aged in bourbon cask only. Criterion is a hot commodity now. Only 4000 bottles were released, so they are hard to find and expensive. Richard Seale, owner/distiller/master blender/wizard of Foursquare Distillery, mentioned it was a limited batch of rum he had.


As per usual, this is a blind tasting. I know which rums, but not the order. I did two tasting sessions, two weeks apart.



The Cast


Foursquare 2007

Distilled: 2007

Age: 12 years

Abv: 59%

Cask: Ex-bourbon

Bottles: 27000

Foursquare Criterion

Distilled: 2007

Age: 10 years

Abv: 56%

Cask: 3 years in ex-bourbon, 7 years in ex-madeira

Bottles: 4000

Foursquare Nobiliary

Distilled: 2005

Age: 14 years

Abv: 62%

Cask: Ex-bourbon

Bottles: 12000

Nose


Rum 1

Baking spices, coconut, wine, oak, white pepper, raspberry, leather and great tobacco. Love it.

Rum 2

Started out a bit flat but then opened up with toffee, vanilla, charred wood (campfire! Love it!), nutmeg, coconut, walnuts and a hint of tobacco.

Rum 3

Heavy oak and chocolate. It’s rather sweet with coconut, wine and leather. It feels big and fat. Great nose.

Hard to pick a winner between 1 and 3! One seems a bit more complex but 3 feels big and bold.

Taste


Rum 1

First impression is heavy on alcohol and wood. Quite bitter in the first round, much sweeter in the second. It’s mouth coating, which I like very much. There is dark chocolate, pepper, raisins, tobacco and baking spices. Definitely brings memories of grandma’s cake. The finish is long and has some bitterness to it.

Rum 2

Wood, vanilla, milk chocolate, nutmeg leather and sawdust. There is some bitterness but it’s countered by a lot of sweetness. It’s spicy and my tongue is on fire. The finish is stellar, the sweetness and bitter spice are dancing on my tongue together. Overall it’s leaning towards being sweet and luscious. Wow.

Rum 3

This one is soft and gentle with chocolate, wine, sweet oak, coconut and wood spice. It has a grape like dark fruitiness to it. It’s very balanced, nothing is overpowering. The finish is long and wonderful with some beautiful leather and tobacco notes. This is very good.

Reveal


Rum 1: Foursquare Nobiliary

Rum 2: Foursquare 2007

Rum 3: Foursquare Criterion

Conclusion


This was an enjoyable and very interesting one to do. Three very good rums with a clear signature, while still being considerably different. All three high abv, so when I came close to the end of the first session my mouth was on fire. Great sign to call it a day.


The reveal confused me a little, as the one I liked the least was the one everyone was raving about the most. I doubted myself so much that I decided to do a second session 2 weeks later. Same rums, blind lineup. To my amazement, but also satisfaction, I picked the exact same top 3.


I’ve been drinking Nobiliary for a while now and have finished about half a bottle. I find it an incredibly pleasant rum, it pulls you in and hooks you very quickly. It drinks well below its abv and it somewhat feels like it’s had a second maturation in a different cask (although it hasn't). I found myself pouring a second and a third glass very easily, which is something I typically don’t do. I prefer to sip a variety of rums on an evening.


If Nobiliary was the only Foursquare ECS rum, I’d be very content drinking it on a regular basis. However, it isn’t the only ECS. There is 2007. I love 2007. It is not as good on the nose, but it adds a bit more punch (less polished?) and it doesn’t have the bitter note that Nobiliary has on the palate. There is a better balance between bitter and sweet in 2007 for me. If anything, 2007 even leans towards the sweet side. I don’t find Nobiliary as bitter as Empery however.


Criterion rivaled Nobiliary on the nose. It immediately felt big, fat and flavourful. BFF! I’d love this to be my BFF, but I’m on my last bottle. Where it was close on the nose, on the palate it was clearly ahead of Nobiliary. The Madeira notes are well integrated. It’s complex in flavour and nothing really dominates. And….no Nobiliary bitterness. So far it seems I’m more fond of the 9-12 year Foursquare rums than the 14 year varieties. Longer ageing isn’t always better. This is likely different for people who prefer more oaky spirits. It’s clear that I’m sensitive to the bitterness that I presume is coming from the wood. If you don’t have that same sensitivity, I can see why you’d put this near the top of the Foursquare ranking.


To me, Nobiliary is a great rum that I would buy multiple bottles of if it was available here. However, if I had the choice, 2007 and Criterion would be well ahead on my shopping list.

Scores


Foursquare Nobiliary – 88

Foursquare 2007 – 92

Foursquare Criterion – 93


Click here for info on the scoring method.


Click here for the complete list of reviews.

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