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Holmes Cay Foursquare 2009 Premier Cru & 10 Cane 2012

I’m impressed by Holmes Cay. There, I said it. I read somewhere that articles should start with a strong statement to get people interested. Mission accomplished I’d say. Problem is, it can only go downhill from here. I digress. I’m impressed by Holmes Cay because of the amount of different rums they have released over the past few years and the way they go about it. Both owners Eric Kaye and Maura Gedid are very tenacious, which you need to be in a challenging US market. They’ve cleverly embraced the rum enthusiast community. Not just in the States, but also in Europe. Next to that, Eric travels a lot to visit distilleries all over the world, forging relationships and looking for opportunities to buy unique rums, even trying to bottle at source. That sets Holmes Cay apart from the ever growing crowd of independent bottlers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying casks from Scheer and Main Rum of course, which Holmes Cay does as well. But, you could say that’s the easy way. By visiting distilleries all over, Eric and Maura are adding a layer of complexity to this process, which is a massive investment in money and time. One that I think will pay off in the long run.  

 

A while ago, Eric sent me a couple of samples. Two rums that aren’t really comparable at all, but I’m going to compare them anyway. Some people have asked me why I do these comparisons, instead of focusing on one particular release. Well, at first I figured it would be a good way of filling a page with text. I’m not that chatty, which seems to disappoint some from time to time when they finally meet me in person (sorry, I’m not the loud influencer type) :), so writing about multiple rums is a solution to that problem. I considered doing short form reviews, but I think only one person is very successful with this and that’s Serge at Whiskyfun. I also realized this style didn’t suit me, as I wanted to write a little more in depth. Besides that, I was looking to do something a bit different than what was already out there in the rum blogger world. This was in 2018/2019. At that time nobody seemed to be doing comparisons on a consistent basis. There are other people doing the same as me now, but that was not the case then. Anyhow, before I lose you, as things have gone downhill quickly, let’s get back to Holmes Cay.

 

The two rums I’m looking at are Trinidad 2012, an eleven year old expression from 10 Cane Distillery, and Barbados 2009 Premier Cru, which is a 14 year rum that was distilled at Foursquare Distillery.

 

10 Cane Distillery is an interesting story. The distillery was a project of Moët Hennessy, who actually built a distillery in Trinidad with the goal to produce a premium light rum. They used French pot stills and were distilling cane juice (although I have read some could be juice and molasses blends), which they aged for about a year in ex-cognac casks. Distillation started in 2005 and ended around 2013, when the distillery was closed. It was a financial failure. The remaining rum stock and production moved to Foursquare in Barbados. The brand was done in 2015.

 

I asked Holmes Cay owner Eric Kaye if he had a story to tell about both rums.


“Ten Cane I discovered on my trip to Liverpool (Main Rum Company). I found these barrels sitting in the lower levels of the basement, and they had a couple of different years. The 2012, one of the last years of Trinidad production was incredible. I asked to buy everything they had. They said no, but agreed to sell me 18 barrels. My plan is to release two barrels each year to see how this rum tastes at 10, 11, 12 etc years until it's all gone. I was amazed how, what was a lightly aged cane juice cocktail mixer rum, became an incredibly complex and balanced cask strength beast. Can't wait to revisit next year for the 2012 version.”

 

“As for the Premier Cru, a conversation with one of our retailer partners in Arizona touched on the fact that he didn't think anyone had done a Bordeaux cask Foursquare yet. I checked with Richard Seale, and he said: "Don't work with wine casks. Unless you really know what you're doing, you can contaminate the rum and ruin a great barrel of rum." Idiot I was, I ignored his advice and found a premier cru first growth Bordeaux cask from one of the "big 5" (Château Mouton Rothschild). I flew the freshly dumped barrel from France over to New York, to fill as quickly as possible, lest the barrel go bad. Fortified wine barrels are much easier to work with due to their higher alcohol content. After a year in the barrel, I brought a sample down to Barbados. Richard said: "not bad, but needs another year in the barrel". Relieved that I didn't destroy his amazing rum with a bad barrel, I left it in. After two full years, Richard tried again and said: "pretty good, but I'd still keep it in the barrel for another couple of years." Not having the 40,000 barrel warehouse like some folks, I didn't have the luxury, and released it with 2 full years of aging in the Bordeaux cask. I too think it came out "pretty good".”

 



The Cast


Holmes Cay Trinidad 2012 has spent four years in the tropics (has to be a combination of Trinidad and Barbados in this case) and was then sold to Main Rum Company in the UK. The rum was transferred to an ex-rum cask and remained in the UK for 5 years. Holmes Cay bought and transported the barrel to New York where it was aged for another 2 years. Total of 11 years, bottled at cask strength of 59%.

 

Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Premier Cru spent 12 years in ex-bourbon barrel. Eight at Foursquare in Barbados, four in the UK at Main Rum Company. Holmes Cay bought and transported the barrel to New York where it was aged for another 2 years in a Bordeaux cask from Château Mouton Rothschild. Bottled at 55%. 

 

Nosing


Holmes Cay Trinidad 2012

Very herbal, flowery….like walking into a flower shop, oak, sausages?, brown sugar, citrus, raspberry, cucumber, oak, it’s tart, earthy and has a light sour note. The sugar cane juice aromas come out after letting it stand for a while. 

 

Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Premier Cru

Vanilla, coconut, oak, light red wine, strong raisins, light peach, crayon, pine. There is a lot of the typical Foursquare nose in there.

 

Tasting

 

Holmes Cay Trinidad 2012

Menthol and eucalyptus are quite strong. I find it quite winey (Cognac?), oak, cane juice, herbs, pepper, citrus, pencil shavings. Nice medium length finish. Feels a little younger than it actually is.

 

Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Premier Cru

Good amount of oak spice, vanilla, red wine, raisins, plum, strong coconut. Finish is solid with a slight bitter note at the end. It’s got good body, thick and sweet.

 

Conclusion


Before tasting it, I had by doubts about the Barbados 2009 Premier Cru. The reason for that is the Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Port Cask, which has the same rum at its base. I was not a fan of that one at all, which you can read here. I felt there wasn’t enough of the Foursquare character left in that rum, thanks to the second maturation. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Premier Cru though. An excellent rum. The wine cask influence is very nicely integrated, adding a layer of complexity instead of changing the profile intensely. It’s a powerful rum that’s thick and sweet. The best Holmes Cay Foursquare so far in my opinion.

 

I had fun with the Trinidad 2012. As usual, I did a couple of tasting sessions on different days with both rums. Sometimes I do more than two. Interestingly, I wasn’t overly impressed by the 10 Cane when I first tasted it. It was the opposite during the second session however. It presented itself as a very nice, heavy, herbal sugar cane juice rum. The cane juice, herbs, menthol and oak work very well together. The level of oak is perfect for me, which makes me wonder if the ones that will be released in the coming years won’t be too oaky. Only one way to find out!


These two are hard to compare of course. Completely different beasts. Overall I enjoyed the flavour profile of the Barbados more than the Trinidad and it drinks a little easier. However, the latter does throw curveballs, where you never really know what you are going to find, which makes it fascinating somewhat. Booth good rums. If I had to choose one, I’d take the Premier Cru.


Scores


Holmes Cay Trinidad 2012 10 Cane – 84

Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Premier Cru Foursquare – 91


Click here for info on the scoring method.

Click here for the complete list of reviews.

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