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Foursquare Threesome (04, 05, 07)

Chances are, if you’ve paid some sort of attention to the rum scene, you will have heard of Richard Seale and Foursquare rum. One cannot talk about Richard without discussing Foursquare.

Richard is a 4th generation Barbadian rum maker. But he is the 1st in his family to distill. Foursquare is one of the few remaining rum distilleries in Barbados. This is according to some documents found in Mt. Gay, is the birthplace Carribean of rum. Earlier forms of sugar cane spirit, like Cachaca (Brazil) and Arrack (Indonesia), already existed long before rum. It is also said to be the last rum distillery to be owned by a Barbadian. “Said to be” because I have been told Saint Nicholas Abbey, a small and fairly new distillery, is also Barbadian owned. But I am not sure. Mt. Gay is owned by Remy Cointreau. W.I.R.D. was recently acquired by Maison Ferrand.

Richard Seale and his calling out the issues of rum in Facebook groups like the Ministry of Rum have gained him a lot of fans. His efforts have also brought more recognition to rum. Weakening the notions that “rum should be cheap and only good as a mixer”. I should point out that Richard is not alone in this endeavor. We are lucky to have people like Matt Pietrek aka The Cocktail Wonk, Velier’s Luca Gargano, Privateer Rum’s Maggie Campbell, Christelle Harris of Hampden Estate and Zan Kong of Worthy Park to help us and him with our rum journey.

Richard shed more light to issues that plagued rum. Issues such as the misconception that rum is sweet because they come from sugar…cane. (Basics of alcohol is ALL alcohol, regardless of raw material, is produced by the yeast fermenting a wash.) This is a misconception a lot of brands have been taking advantage of. They sell sweetened/spiced rum as rum in premium looking packaging to make a quick buck. This should be the equivalent of whisky liqueur in the whisky world, no?

B.S. such as “rum has no rules” has been demystified with the help of The Cocktailwonk. It was pointed out that there are just too many rum producing countries in the world. Each country has their own traditions and laws of producing rum. The EU and the USA, who are considered the benchmark for regulations, do show rum the same respect they show brandy and whisky. The EU has given rum more due recognition, but the US is still an issue. This lead to other issues such as fake age statements. Where certain brands claim the age statements on the bottle are the result of averaging the age of the blend. Or brands that use the oldest rum in the blend as the age statement.

He is also pushing for a more recognized option, the Gargano Classification, to combat rubbish color classification of rum. A lazy classification that only serves the purposes of the big boys. Basically, the color classification does not do justice to the origin of the rum. For example, a white pot distilled Jamaican rum will not taste and smell the same as a white multi-column distilled Puerto Rican rum. A “white” or “silver” rum may have been aged, but charcoal filtered due to ex-Spanish colony practices. A “dark” or a “gold” rum may just be an unaged rum added with e150.

Enough about Richard. Let’s talk about his rum. Foursquare is a Barbadian rum distillery and a brand. Foursquare distillery makes some brands like Foursquare, Doorly’s and The Real McCoy. It gained more attention some time ago after Fred Minnick dubbed Foursquare rum as the Pappy of rum. It is as good as Pappy? I’ll let you decide. I’ll certainly tell you that Foursquare is not as expensive as Pappy. The 2004 was around $50 when it came out 3 years ago. The 2005 was around $60 if I remember correctly. The 2007 just came out so it will be easy to see prices online. They are also easier to find even weeks after release. Each release is at least 10,000 bottles.

On to some geeky details. Richard uses pot and traditional column stills. Which became a Barbadian tradition after the Coffey still was accepted. Another Barbadian tradition, according to him, is Barbadian rum not being sweetened. Barbadian rum bottled in Barbados are not allowed to be sweetened. I will point out that a lot of Barbadian rum are being aged and bottled in other places like the EU. They seem to get away with calling sweetened rum from Barbados as Barbadian rum. But you can’t age and bottle Bourbon in another country and call it Bourbon right? He blends the distillates as he puts them in casks. Most if not all his ex-bourbon casks are from Jack Daniels.

Being a student of history, he likes to show us in his own take how rum might have tasted like before ex-bourbon casks became the standard. FYI Bourbon only became “traditional” after the 1960s when the US Congress recognized Bourbon as a distinctive product of the US. Rum used to be the American spirit until the crown increased taxes on molasses. This eventually lead to the American Revolution and whisky becoming the new American spirit. Ex-wine, ex-fortified wine and ex-brandy casks were the norm for aging rum. The type of wine casks depending on which countries were trading with each other. Though they were not age as long as rum is aged now. Releases like Principia (primarily ex-sherry and ex-bourbon) and Destino (primarily ex-madeira and ex-bourbon) are examples of this.

The stipulation I gave myself for this vertical review was I sampled these 3 over a span of 3 days. 1 rum reviewed per night. I used the 1920’s Professional Whisky Glass to review these 3. I chose these to be in the vertical because they’re all the same proof, all ex-bourbon cask aged, within the same age range and all part of the Exceptional Cask Selection series. Richard did say that each succeeding releases would be “rummier” if they were received well. I’m guessing he means more pot distillate and/or more heavy column distillate in the blends.

Foursquare 2004 Exceptional Cask Selection Mark 3 – review

A Single Blended Rum, matured in ex-bourbon, released September 2015 and bottled at 11 years of age and 59% strength. Available from the Whisky Exchange for £59.95.

On the nose: A welcome and mixed greeting of orange peels, mocha, marzipan, vanilla, honey, gummy bears, coconut husk.

In the mouth: hints of pimento dram, hints of coconut, a confection of orange flavors from orange jelly, to orange peel and orange pulp, hints of chocolate and coffee

Score: 7/10

Foursquare 2005 Exceptional Cask Selection Mark 6 – review

A Single Blended Rum, matured in ex-bourbon, released in October 2017 at 12 years old and bottled at 59% strength.

On the nose: very forward scents of baking spices, tobacco and marzipan but followed by quick and alternating notes honey & vanilla then turpentine & varnish. Followed grapes pulp, grape skin and hints of lemon and lime.

In the mouth: baking spices again but stronger on cloves and burnt orange peel, honey, vanilla, grape pulp, grape skin and dry caramel.Followed by tinges of almond jelly and marzipan.

Score: 7/10

Foursquare 2007 Exceptional Cask Selection Mark 10 – review

A single Blended Rum, matured in ex-bourbon, for 12 years and bottled at 59% strength. This is available from Master of Malt for £56.95.

On the nose: rubber gloves, varnish, vanilla, grapes, coconut, hints of mocha, honey, hints of coconut oil, oranges, toasted coconut shavings

In the mouth: hints of marzipan, kyoho grapes, almond jelly, vanilla, grass jelly, peppery, diluted pimento dram, dry caramel, some sort of burnt orange syrup, coconut, orange jelly, hints of tobacco

Score: 8/10

Conclusions

The 04 is the lightest and most delicate in every aspect. Every note I got just came up and vanished like that. It was as if every note I could get was taking turns pirouetting in front of me. It also opened up the quickest. When I 1st tried this 2 years ago, I told myself if I were having this blind, I wouldn’t have guessed this was bottled at 59% abv. It is still true today. Other people who have tried this also said the same. A very welcoming dram.

The 05 is the in-between among these 3. The scents were very balanced and well layered. While having a very balanced palate. You get a better sense of the 59% abv but it’s also still complex and elegant unlike most high proof spirits I’ve had. In the mouth, it still does not feel like its abv. It felt more like watching 2 hip hop groups doing a dance off. The layering is mellow and paced very well.

The 07 is the most robust out of the 3. This is more honest with presenting itself. It really gets in your face on the nose and palate. The oak flavors are also stronger in this. I’ve read that this blend has more pot distillate in it. Safe to say also the rum used for this were also aged in newer casks. Barrel proof bourbon fans will love this. This made me think of metalheads just head banging and going wild. Very intense yet still controlled.

Richard was not kidding when he said each succeeding release would be “rummier”. Overall, I say the best-in-nose award goes to the 2005. I got the most variety of flavors in the 2005. The best-in-palate award goes to the 2007. A higher pot context added with more wood flavors really balanced out this blend. I’d recommend any of these to any experienced whisky drinker looking for a kick and trying to get into rum. Foursquare rum is the sweet spot in between the funky Jamaican rum and the light and boring Latin American rum. My only complaint is they all lacked in the finish.. If the flavors lasted longer after I swallowed, I’d have scored them each 1 point more.

There are commission links within this article but as you can see, they don’t affect our judgement.

CategoriesSpirits
John
John

John is a cocktail and spirits enthusiast born and raised in Manila. His interest started with single malts in 2012, before he moved into rum and mezcal in search of malterntaitves – and a passion for travel then helped build his drinks collection.

  1. Avatar
    Chris Sharpe says:

    What is the deal with the orange flavor(s)? I’ve had Pyrat rum and in that rum, orange seemed to be the most forward flavor. I didn’t enjoy that at all.
    So even though I am hearing/reading that the creators of this rum are trying to remain true or establish some “standards” for rum, the review of each of these mentioning “orange” is a turn-off for me. I’m not likely to purchase any of these based on the review here and also the proof %. Why is the proof at almost 120? A beverage with that much alcohol is too “hot” for me to enjoy it when consuming it neat.

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi Chris,
      I’m guessing the orange notes are from the cask? It’s not unusual for my to get orange notes from a bourbon.
      Pyrat is a sweetened rum though. The orange notes you are getting may be from the added sugar or whatever additives they put in. Some say Pyrat should be called a rum liqueur.
      Yes, Richard Seale is a champion for unsweetened Barbadian rum which is their tradition.
      Rum in the early days were shipped undiluted to carry as much rum as possible. They’ll just be diluted when they get to their destination. I take it you’re not a cask strength guy?

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