The Duchess is an independent bottler from Holland. The company was founded in 2014 and the first rum was bottled in 2017. Nils van Rijn is the man in charge. He has an interesting three question rule when it comes to buying casks:
1. Is it tasty?
2. Is it so tasty that I’d like to buy a 2nd bottle?
3. Would I buy a 3rd bottle to gift to a friend?
If the answer to all three questions is “yes” and the price is right, he’ll buy the cask. What Nils and The Duchess are standing for is a high level of transparency, no additives, single cask only and bottling at cask strength. That sounds like magic to me!
The first and only Duchess rum I’ve reviewed was the Foursquare 2005, 13 year old. It wasn’t as impressive as the distillery bottlings it was up against, but I did enjoy it a lot. I’ve used it as a comparison for this review. Fast forward to Christmas 2019. I was in Holland and visited Richard Blesgraaf and his family for an amazing Christmas dinner. As a nice surprise he had an unlabeled bottle of The Duchess Foursquare 18 year. We sipped some and he gave me a sample to take home with. I did have to promise I wouldn’t write anything about it until it was officially released. Which is now….
When it comes to the specifications of this rum there was a little confusion about the length of the tropical ageing component of the 18. Initially it was mentioned it only had been in Barbados for a couple of months. I doubted this very much. After asking the “authorities” it was confirmed it’s been aged in the tropics for 8 years and in Europe for 10 years.
Distillery: Foursquare, Barbados
Age: 18 Years, distilled in 2001. 8 Years in Barbados & 10 years in Europe
Other: Total of 205 bottles
First thing running up my nose is acetone followed by wood, quite a lot of wood. It’s got tons of spices, coconut, marzipan, vanilla and pencil shavings. Compared to the 13 it’s more pungent and pronounced. It pulls you in, you really want to start drinking this right away. The 13 brings less of this kind of excitement.
Tobacco!!! Yum! There is a sweetness on the tip of my tongue, followed by a lot of inensity. It really coats your entire mouth with ruminess. Exactly what I’m looking for. I’m finding spicy wood, leather and dark chocolate. This is delicious. The long finish is intense and close to the top of my wood acceptance level.
The 13 year is a pleasant and easy going rum, however I prefer the more complex and heavier 18…..by a mile. Comparing these two, I do wonder what the 18’s cask would have been like at 16 years old. A tad less wood would have made it even better for my liking. Despite that, I love this rum.
To me this is a Foursquare master piece that can go toe to toe with some of the best distillery bottlings and is a great example why European ageing shouldn’t be dismissed as one of the tools to create delicious rum.
I just bought a bottle. So should you, as there are only 205 out there. Keep ‘m coming Nils!
The Duchess Foursquare 2001 18 Year – 90
Click here for info on the scoring method.
Click here for the complete list of reviews.
Click here for an interview with Nils van Rijn at The Fat Rum Pirate.