Updated: Jun 7
Foursquare 2006 is an iconic bottling that started the collaboration between the Barbados Distillery and Velier. It created quite the buzz in 2016. Many more black bottle Foursquare releases have hit the market since, with most of them being incredible sales successes. The rum landscape has changed quite a bit compared to 2016 and many of these releases have become collectors items, to the joy of some and the frustration of others. Assuming this trend will continue, they will only be purchasable by a tiny part of an already small part of the rum community in the near future. The average Joe, like me, will have to concentrate on getting the regular Foursquare ECS series, which is definitely no punishment.
At first glance this seems like a bad development for many rum consumers, who won’t be able to afford these FS/Velier releases anymore, especially not at secondary market prices. But, it’s great for the distillery, as it brings a lot of money in, which can be used to expand production and to purchase more barrels for example. The result of that will be more delicious releases for everyone to buy and drink. I know us humans always want that thing we can’t get…..but hey….it is what it is…..just enjoy the other myriad of options.
Perhaps because 2006 was the first, it has an iconic status for most people, including for me. It’s my all time favourite Foursquare rum, alongside Triptych. When I heard that only part of that rum parcel was bottled and the rest remained in casks for further ageing, I got rather excited! I bugged Richard Seale about it quite a lot. I’d ask about the status of 2006 (it wasn’t named Sassafras yet). The answer I’d get was usually something like:”It’s ageing”. Factual and to the point! :)
Here in Ontario Canada, the Sassafras tree is a rather rare occurrence. But it is well known as a very fragrant tree that’s been good for many culinary uses. The roots of Sassafras were one of the original ingredients in root beer. There is Sassafras root tea and it’s used commonly in the Louisiana Creole kitchen. Why would Foursquare 2006 "part 2" be called Sassafras? I asked Richard:”it’s a name for an aromatic flower, I thought it fit well”. After nosing the rum I wrote down “very aromatic”, which I did before I knew why it’s called Sassafras, so I have to agree on that one.
Sassafras isn’t just 2006 aged for an additional 4 years. It’s a blend of rums that have been in casks of different sizes and ages. It’s been aged for 3 years in ex-bourbon barrels and 11 years in ex cognac casks for a total of 14 years. Bottled at 61%.
Naturally, I couldn't refuse the opportunity to do a comparison tasting between 2006 and its older sibling. I did that in multiple rounds, three to be exact, on different days, to minimize the palate influence one rum has on the other. First round was blind, the other two weren’t.
Wood, coconut, wine, leather, vanilla, burnt oak, tobacco, red fruit, light caramel, hint of earthiness and grapes. Not as expressive on the nose as rum 2 but excellent nevertheless. This should be bottled as perfume: Eau de Richard.
Wine, oak, red fruit, pencil shavings & saw dust, strong sweet raspberry, hint of tobacco, leather, grapes, hint of grass and roses. It’s very aromatic. More wood on the nose than rum 1.
Rum 2 wins the nosing round by a hair.
Wood spice, tobacco, sweetness in the front that turns into a slightly bitter dark chocolate note, coconut, oak, light leather, raisins. Finish is spicy and peppery, long and flavourful with some sweetness. It’s not as dry as rum 2.
Oak, coconut, strong tobacco, chocolate, mint, raisins, nuts. It’s got a tremendously long, powerful finish. It’s very dry. Lots of wood spice that is intertwined with sweetness, which keeps any sign of bitterness away. That’s an accomplishment to me.
Rum 1: Foursquare 2006
Rum 2: Foursquare Sassafras
Sassafras is like 2006 on steroids and I typically like rum on steroids. It’s a very intense flavour sensation. With rums of this age I always worry about it being too woody and turning bitter, but that’s never the case here. This could be down to using older barrels. Whatever method was used, it’s definitely showing masterful ageing and blending skills.
In comparison to 2006 I find Sassafras to be more intense, more complex, more aromatic and more oaky. That should be sufficient for an easy win. But…..it isn’t for me. 2006 has a certain elegance to it that I adore. It’s like a ballet dancer while Sassafras is dancing the tango. Or it could simply be the mythical status of 2006 that’s influencing me. Either way, they are both magnificent pieces of rum art.
Foursquare 2006 – 94
Foursquare Sassafras – 92
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