I’m taking it easy for this one as we go back to Barbados to talk about more Foursquare (FS) Rum and the Corn ‘n’ Oil cocktail; that said, I think it’s time we explore another brand from the FS Distillery. There’s currently just too much focus on their Exceptional Cask Selections (ECS) and their various independent bottlings.
The FS 2004 Mark III of the ECS series was what a lot of the US-based rum geeks were raving about when I got into rum three or four years ago. It’s become largely accepted as the distillery/brand’s game-changer, which propelled it to its current status. Alas, the ECS releases are all limited. There may seem a lot, but that’s because there are about 20,000+ bottles per release. As a result, if you want to get acquainted with FS Distillery products on a more regular basis, then you should try the Doorly’s range and RL Seale 10s.
From what I can recall, I’ve only tried the XO of the Doorly’s range. I can’t say much about it, but it’s an old Barbadian brand that used to be owned by a Martin Doorly, a blender who founded the brand in the 1920s. I’ve heard Richard Seale mention that rum shared this blending similarity to Scotch before distilleries started selling their own products under their own brands, just like the Scotch single malt distilleries mostly sold to blenders until Glenfiddich started selling pure malt whisky on their own during the 1960s. The brand was acquired by RL Seale in the nineties and continues to be under them until now. It’s easily recognizable by its macaws on the labels.
Finally, we get to the RL Seale 10. I had no idea this existed until I happened upon the bottles in Japan a couple of years ago. Apparently, this used to be NAS, but was given a 10 year age statement some time ago. There are also two versions which are 43% and 46%, AKA export proof. I’ve heard that only the 43% version is available in the US, while the ABV was increased to 46% for the UK.
This flagship rum of FS was aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks. According to Richard Seale, it showcases a classic Barbadian rum profile. Based on an article in the Rum Diaries Blog, RL Seale stands for Reginald Leon Seale, Richard Seale’s great grandfather. While he founded the RL Seale company in the 1920s, the Seales were only blenders at that time. They began distilling when they acquired and re-opened the Foursquare Distillery in 1996.
So what’s a Corn ‘n’ Oil? I’m aware that the name isn’t very enticing, but I assure you that it’s a simple but delicious drink. Its current accepted recipe/form is a mix of aged rum (ideally aged Barbadian rum), falernum and Angostura bitters. To me, this is the rum equivalent of an Old Fashioned, which is a mix of rye or bourbon, sugar and bitters. Corn ‘n’ Oil’s history has always been murky, and there are a lot of different recipes on the internet. Luckily, thanks to some notes and this online session between UK Foursquare Brand Ambassador Peter Holland and Richard Seale, the history is a bit clearer now.
I used the term “current accepted form” because according to a recipe book from 1911, which is the earliest records Richard has found, it was originally made with equal parts brandy and falernum. By 1914, though, Barbadians lost access to brandy, so they replaced it with rum. Richard chalks up the use of bitters to the natural evolution of a drink. A dash or two of bitters improves everything, after all.
The history of the cocktail’s name is also unclear. The most common tale out in the wild is the “oil” part comes from the use of blackstrap rum, but more learned rum cocktail aficionados say this is false, as blackstrap rum wasn’t made in Barbados. Richard says that the name most likely comes from Deuteronomy 11:13,14 of the King James version of the Bible. In it, God basically says if you follow his commandments “thou mayest gather in thy corn and thy wine and thine oil.”
In case you aren’t familiar with falernum, it’s a rum-based liqueur that was originally made in Barbados. Aside from rum, there are spices in this such as cloves, limes and almonds; thus, Richard says you don’t really need lime juice in the cocktail, as falernum should already have it. You can find home-made recipes such as Falernum #9, which use ginger and/or allspice. The ginger reference is said to come from Don Beach, I think, who mentioned falernum as having a faint ginger taste. Allspice doesn’t really make sense since it’s more of a Jamaican ingredient. There is only one Barbadian falernum brand left, and that’s the John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum, also currently made by RL Seale. If you want an authentic version, go for the Velvet Falernum.
On to the comparison between the 43% and 46% versions, as well as a Corn ‘n’ Oil made with the 46%. I found a bottle of the 43% version in Japan for about $40, but you can find it for much cheaper in America’s Total Wine for $26. The 46% cost me about $50 in Japan as well. You can find this in The Whisky Exchange for £43.95, or via Master of Malt for £39.55.
My specs for the Corn ‘n’ Oil are: 2 oz. of RL Seale 10, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters and ¼ oz of Velvet Falernum.
I only used the export proof version to make the Corn ‘n’ Oil. The black bottle didn’t permit me to see that I didn’t have enough to make a cocktail with the 43% version.
RL Seale’s 10 year old – review
Bottled at 43% strength/
On the nose: A bit hot, but I get faint scents of peppers, strawberries and marzipan, plus some tannins with citrus peel, vanilla and orange zest. There’s another layer of mixed tropical fruits mixed with something sweet that makes me think of condensed milk. Then I get dry coconut sugar syrup, cinnamon, pepper and melons.
In the mouth: Initial taste of strawberry and marzipan, just like on the nose, but not as hot. There’s that tropical fruit salad again, but no condensed milk taste. Instead, it’s mixed with tastes of pepper, vanilla, cinnamon, coconut sugar syrup, toffee and butterscotch. I get bits of cloves at the end. Then there’s that toffee, butterscotch and marzipan taste again.
RL Seale’s 10 year old – review
Bottled at 46% strength
On the nose: I find the ethanol in this is as hot as the 43%, but there are more scents upfront. There’s a mix of old wooden furniture, leather, heavier strawberries, some orange peel and weaker marzipan. These persist on the nose as if it’s a shroud. The tropical fruit salad is gone. I get stronger scents of melons and apples. After those are bits of coconut sugar syrup, muscovado syrup, vanilla and cinnamon. I still get the leather, wooden furniture and marzipan at the end.
In the mouth: Instant and bold tastes of strawberries, melons, marzipans and something like condensed milk. I get undertones of cinnamon, vanilla, honey, coconut sugar syrup, toffee, muscovado syrup, orange peel, leather and butterscotch. Just imagine a fruit salad with a bit of condensed milk evenly mixed in it, then add the other things I tasted in it. Wonderful.
As expected, the three points apart in the ABV’s produced some noticeable differences. The 43% version is more delicate, but isn’t as lasting. The delivery of flavors are more balanced, and the fruity flavors are more pronounced.
The 46% version, on the other hand, gives off more of the dark and confectionary flavors. The flavors are more lasting, and more complex as well.
I would have given the 43% a version a 5/10 if I used the $40 price point at which I bought it, but that would make it unfair; it’s my fault for not buying it in the US. There are no caveats for the score I gave the 46%. The price I bought it at is similar to the TWE price. This rum just delivers. I think this rum can be allowed to be a bit more expensive considering the Caribbean gets more angel’s share. There’s also not as much fully Caribbean rum in the ten or twelve-year range with an honest age statement.
Hopefully, this convinces readers to try the regular Foursquare rums. Their products really are a proper introductory rum for whisky drinkers. In a blind tasting, the flavors coming from this rum can be mistaken for a Speyside or Highland Scotch. I know because I did a blind tasting where the 43% was included alongside some single malt Scotch. There’s no funk. It’s not as heavy as Guyanese or Jamaican rum. There’s a really good balance between cask and distillate influence.
Corn ‘n’ Oil Cocktail – review
I get the Angostura, marzipan, vanilla and tropical fruits of the rum upfront. There’s still the marzipan in the middle, but more faint than in the beginning. It’s accompanied by the falernum and dark floors like muscovado syrup and vanilla. At the end are more of the bitters flavors.
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