Foursquare Plenipotenziario vs Holmes Cay Barbados 2005 vs The Duchess Barbados vs Foursquare 2005
Plenipotenziario, every time I write that name I triple check if I got the spelling correct. When I first saw it, I thought it’s either extremely clever, or someone accidentally fell into a leaking barrel of Foursquare rum and after being rescued and resuscitated, the first word she mumbled was “Plenipotenziario”! Google the meaning of the word and make up your own mind, clever or barrel drown.
Foursquare has recently brought several 14 year sherry cask releases to market. With Plenipotenziario, Richard Seale wants to show what can be done by using ex bourbon barrels only. It’s aged for 12 years in Barbados, distilled in 2007 and bottled in 2019 at 60%.
The first time I was introduced to it was at UK Rumfest in London. There was a Foursquare dinner on Thursday night with Richard Seale, several important rum people and myself in attendance. While having a great 3 course dinner, we went through various Foursquare expressions, including Doorly’s 14 and FS 2007. These are great, but one could feel the anticipation in the air of everyone wanting to try Plenipotenziario. Richard was stern with us though, it was to be tasted last. When we finally did, everyone was quite impressed by it.
What I remember from my first impression was the power of the rum on nose and palate. Comparable to a pungent Hampden or Caroni. Not in flavour profile but in how much it slaps you in the face. I like that. Since we all went to Laki Kane afterwards, I can’t say much more about my first impression as things became a bit hazy. Luckily I was able to obtain a sample, so I could properly taste it at home.
As usual, I don’t want to make a rum feel lonely, so I tried it next to some formidable cousins and a Foursquare brother. All of them aged in ex bourbon casks. I did this blind, or as some might say….semi blind. I knew the rums, but not in which order.
First cousin is Holmes Cay. American rum enthusiast Eric Kaye decided to take a risk and spend a lot of money buying a barrel of Foursquare rum and bringing it to market. As rum consumers we should be thankful to people like Eric as they provide us with a larger selection of top quality rums to choose from. This one was distilled in 2005, bottled in 2019 at 64.3%. It was aged for 11 years in Barbados and a further 3 years in the UK, for a total of 14 years.
Second cousin is the 13 year The Duchess Barbados. Bottled at 59% for the Dutch Whisky & Rum aan Zee festival in 2018. This one was aged for 3 years in Barbados and 10 years in Europe.
Finally, the brother. Foursquare 2005. I already reviewed it here, but figured it would be a natural in this lineup. Distilled in 2005, bottled in 2017 at 59%. Fully matured in Barbados for 12 years.
After a first round of nosing all 4, this one was the lightest to me. Hints of oak, coconut, candle wax, butter and vanilla. Nice nose, without the power of some of the others.
Bolder and rounder than rum 1. I smell newspaper and strong tobacco. I feel like a kid again, with my mom at the tobacco and newspaper shop. This is accompanied by oak, vanilla, coconut, spice and very light turpentine. It’s got a nice sweetness to it.
I find this one a little flat compared to the rest. It’s nutty with toffee, oak and vanilla. It won’t win the nosing round.
Here’s a clear example of a rum that needs to sit a little. I didn’t find it overly impressive at the first nosing round, but that changed a lot after some time in the glass. It’s got a very nice and strong tobacco scent. By now it’s probably obvious I like this. It’s quite peppery with oak, milk chocolate, nutmeg, candle wax, dried fruit and a touch of brine.
The winner of the nosing round is rum 2, closely followed by rum 4. Rum 1 is a good third, rum 3 is a bit behind.
It’s quite intense, I like it. I’m getting coconut, oak spice, toffee and some tobacco. It’s sweet in the front but a hint of bitterness shows up in the back of the mouth.
This seems more powerful than the others, perhaps the highest abv? Oak, tobacco, chocolate and vanilla. It’s intense with a very long finish. This rum is coating my entire mouth, which I love.
Better than the nose suggested. Chocolate, vanilla and some raisins. It’s quite a light and easy to drink rum. Doesn’t feel like 50%+ abv. Long finish.
Yum sweet tobacco, nuts, chocolate, oak, dried fruit and vanilla. It’s quite the spicy affair. The finish is long and on the sweet side.
Very hard to pick a winner between 2 and 4. Both of them are so pungent and awesome. At this point I'm very curious what's what. Rum 1 is third again, loving the intensity. Rum 3 did better than expected and is close.
Rum 1: Holmes Cay
Rum 2: Foursquare 2005
Rum 3: The Duchess Barbados
Rum 4: Foursquare Plenipotenziario
One of the things I like about Foursquare rums is that they have such a clear signature but are still different at the same time. In this case, for an amateur like me, trying to dissect these 4 bourbon cask aged rums isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s hard to put your finger on the exact differences, compared to an easier situation where there is a different cask or distillery involved.
At the same time, doing this blind was very interesting. Beforehand I thought I’d pick out Plenipotenziario instantly because of it’s punch. This might have been a bit ambitious, knowing that I only had about 2 sips of it in my entire life. I wasn’t able to. This is nice in a way, as it meant my notes really were blind and non biased.
The two outstanding ones for me ended up being the distillery releases. Foursquare 2005 and Plenipotenziario. They both add a layer of complexity and punch over the other two. Holmes Cay is a close third, followed by the Duchess. The thing is, it kind of sounds like the Duchess is an average rum. It really isn’t. Such is the strength of Foursquare rum. In comparison to the other three, it’s falling a bit short in complexity and strength, but it’s still an excellent rum I’ll gladly sip.
I hope to be able to buy a bottle of Plenipotenziario at some point as I’d love to properly compare it to 2007 and 2006. When I first sipped it in London I described it as “2007 on steroids”. Sitting at home, comparing bottle to bottle will be the ultimate test to see if that’s actually true. It looks like it will be sold at a lower price than Patrimonio, which makes sense. At 6000 bottles there should be an opportunity for most people to buy one.
Holmes Cay is only for sale in the US. It's one of the best independent Foursquare releases I've tried and worthy of a purchase. It's not cheap, but at 14 years and a stellar 64.3%, that was never expected.
Holmes Cay Barbados 2005 – 85
Foursquare 2005 – 89
Duchess Barbados 2005 – 80
Foursquare Plenipotenziario – 91
Click here for info on the scoring method.