“Madness” arguably encapsulates the world of fine (and I suppose, some not so fine) spirits these days. Heck, it could be applied to nearly everything.
I reckon no other time in history has the word “unprecedented” achieve the mainstream colloquial status that it enjoys today. We’re living in some pretty mad times, aren’t we? Denial doesn’t change facts. So why not embrace this reality… Mad or otherwise?
Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 cult classic, Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombwas prescriptive. When faced with absurdity, we should embrace it.
Rums, as with all other major spirit categories and most alternative asset classes, have rocketed in price and – one can only hope – popularity and broader mass appreciation. Far too often it becomes a battle of the fastest clicks and ungodly release timings (which I am terrible at navigating). Can’t a person just get his rum or whisky fix?
Where are the mere “cork-poppers” (what I affectionately call those buyers whose primary intentions are to consume rather than simply collect and gaze upon bottles) left to hide? Perhaps we should get comfortable with a future of involuntary sobriety, for our wallets can no longer bear the inflation. Now, that’s another word for another time.
Indulge me if you will: I venture to say that this recent spate of popularity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. How dare I? Yes, yes, I understand the shock. It is perfectly to be expected. But let us once again look to Kubrick for some advice on dealing with madness here. After all, we should take some comfort in that we’re neither the first nor the last to find ourselves in mad times.
In the film Dr. Strangelove, the setting was the height of the Cold War, and a delusional General Ripper lets loose an attack on the Soviet Union. Much to everyone’s horror, only General Ripper is able to call off the attack. Immediately, a cabal of Generals get to discussing the implications of this ill-fated course of action.
Ultimately, we find resolution in understanding the nature of MAD or “Mutually Assured Destruction:” that the best hope for non-conflict was for both parties to understand that if one went down, both would surely go down together. Ironically, the certainty of mutual destruction was the thin thread that preserved peace. It is a classic treatise on the value of absurdism.
The silver lining amidst these higher prices and raging popularity of fine spirits is that it attracts attention and incentivises more parties to take part in the act of creating, bottling, and putting out more variety. As good as our daily bangers may be, do we really want to be confined to them? No, variety is surely the spice of life.
If there was nothing to be had economically, few would step into the fray and persistently partake in it. Of course, this dagger is two-sided: on the one hand we get a harvest of much more creative energy manifested in an ever-wider spectrum of expressions. On the other hand, we must also swallow the bitter pill of higher prices, more mouse-clicking competitions, and – from time to time – the unfortunate milking of buyers (I’m looking at you Ardbeg NFT). But, hey: willing buyer, willing seller. I hear it was sold out within 24 hours of release.
Now, I don’t necessarily enjoy the (increasingly frequent) tasteless cash grabs… which by all means consenting adults are free to partake of at their own volition. Moreover, I certainly don’t enjoy higher prices. However, I accept that this is a part of life and a sign of healthy, growing demand (for the most part).
But, I do appreciate enjoy the wider variety of expressions with the occasional respectable bottle that pops up every so often (and increasingly often in the past months). I am merely making the case that this madness isn’t all bad; let’s be an optimist for once! Actually, scratch that; just hold back the temptation to be a prisoner of one’s own self-prescribed pessimism. It’s not all bad. Not everything must be criticised for the sake of it. Be a realist.
Also, MAD isn’t always Mutually Assured Destruction, sometimes it’s also MaD, for Man and Dram.
Man and Dram (MaD) is a new Singaporean independent bottler that’s popped up on my radar. Though I still don’t know who is behind it, nor have I found much online or social media presence (their Instagram account has no posts thus far), encountering a decent dram from a new bottler always restores some faith in the industry and helps us stay sane amid this madness. If you like what you’ve tasted, the bottle’s back label invites you to “join us as we descend into Madness”. Absurdism head-first, I tell you.
MaD’s inaugural bottling features an artwork entitled “Fortitude” (by Asian artist Chris Chai), which I’m told (by a bartender) is inspired by the Strength Tarot Card, an homage to the madness we speak of, I suppose. I certainly am not best placed to visually critique this art. I do, however, know that the Fortitude card loosely signifies power, courage and success… aspirations of any new independent bottler’s inaugural bottling. It contains Richard Seale’s Barbados rum from Foursquare Distillery, of the 2007 vintage, and was aged in ex-Bourbon barrels for 11 years tropically, then bottled in Scotland at 62.9% ABV. A bottle retails for around US$170 in Singapore.
MaD Fortitude 2007 Foursquare Distillery Barbados Rum – Review
Colour: Tawny, pancake syrup.
On the nose: Initially a nice light grassiness of meadows and wild grass accompanied by deep, rich notes of blackcurrant, plum juice, and something of a milk chocolate character with some bits of maraschino cherries right from the can. There’s also some caramel sauce and cinnamon here, as one would come to expect from the Barbadian distillate. The nose is surprisingly gentle, rounded and rich. Forthcoming notes of dark fruits and milk chocolate makes for a very easy nosing despite the high proof.
Aeration unveils more colourful and interesting notes. Heaps of delightful and perfumery Momo (Japanese peach) opens up. Ripe, juicy, height of harvest stuff. I’ve heard it’s called ethylene.
Patience is really key here in summoning the peach’s arrival.
On the palate: Smooth, rounded, almost syrupy in texture carried from the nose to the palate. As it heats up and grows, it remains very articulate and well-bounded; no flavonoids zinging left and right. It somehow reminds me of the textural sensation of maltose candy on the palate.
The classic sarsaparilla notes begin to let loose, with cola fizz gummies, as well as some light herbaceous touches of mint and Tortoise jelly (those in Asia might be more familiar with the name Guilingao or 龟苓膏). The same grassiness on the nose persists on the palate, wafting in and out. There’s also a good dollop of honeyed sweetness here. Meanwhile the heat remains very regulated throughout.
As with the nose, the palate also takes some time to develop ripe fruitiness, but there it is again. Fresh Japanese peaches, alongside ripe Kyoho grapes. There’s also this cordial-like sweetness reminiscent of apple, orange, and strawberry fruit jelly cups from the childhood of many in Southeast Asia; you know, the sort made with fruit concentrate. Confectionary-like but very fresh.
The finish is long. In fact, the heat and alcoholic strength only really begin to fully assert themselves at the end. There are some light touches of baking spices, with cinnamon in particular. It ends off with a slight astringent oaky-ness.
A world gone mad can’t be all bad if we occasionally see decent new bottlers springing up with non-extortionate prices. This is an enjoyable, approachable Barbadian fruit bomb I’ll find myself sipping through the weekend absent-mindedly. It is classically Foursquare with what you’d expect to find in the sarsaparilla, cola fizz, baking spices, it’s even got Richard Seale’s handprint right down to the rounded, well-bounded, creamy texture that is smoother than a baby’s bottom. No additives, of course.
What really takes it a notch above is all that fruit jelly cups: peaches, grapes, apples, strawberries; you want it, you got it. What the heck was that? I’ve heard it said of some of what’s come out of Foursquare, but I certainly can’t pinpoint how it got there – call it Barbadian magic if you will.
Surprisingly tasty this is. To sign off, I’d like to shout out to my man Stanley Kubrick, so say it with me now: embrace the MaDness.