Foursquare 9yo Port Cask Finish (40%, R.L. Seale, Foursquare, Blend No. 162, Exceptional Cask Selection, 2014, Barbados

I had planned to open a bottle of Plantation St. Lucia Rum after I finished both the Plantation Jamaica and Guyana, but after the Doorly’s 12yo I reviewed last, I just had to open a bottle of the Port Cask Finish as well. I just couldn’t help myself, I was so curious, especially after all the rave reviews. The St. Lucia just will have to wait a little longer. Port cask finish? The Rum is 9 years old, of which the “finish” took a whopping 6 years. The start was carried out in a Bourbon cask.

But first we have to get back to 1926. Back then, Reginald Leon Seale started the R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd. A company that is of interest to us since it was trading Rums. Sir David and now his son Richard are the Seale’s that also started distilling their own Rums in 1996 after they bought a defunct sugar factory a year earlier. Simply because it is better to trade Rum you made yourself, than constantly sourcing other Rum’s.

Although Foursquare is a Bajan Rum distillery, molasses are mainly imported from Guyana and the yeast used for fermentation is South-African. Foursquare Rums are blended from a pot still and a two (or three?) column stills. The copper pot still even has a copper column fitted on top, which looks funny for one that is used to Pot Stills with lyne arms on them.

ColoFoursquare Port Cask Finishr: Orange gold. A tiny fraction darker than the Doorly’s 12yo. No red hue.

Nose: Toffee and caramel. Fresh wood, sappy and spicy. A breeze across a dry grass field on a hot and silent summer’s day. Distant fruit (more red this time) and a definite winey note, with slightly burned wine cask notes). On top of the medium sweetness lies a nice acidic red fruit aroma which is different from the 10% Madeira (a sweet fortified white wine) you can find in Doorly’s 12yo. The fruit is redder. The is also a nice nuttiness and dustiness surrounding this Rum, which mixes well with the medium sweetness and (red) fruity acidity. This Rum isn’t about finding lots of aroma’s and complexity. No, this one shines because of its balance. Well constructed, but is a bit middle of the road. It does its best to be liked by everyone. Although the label is pretty anorak, it really is a Rum for everybody, hence the reduction to 40% ABV. Luckily this Rum can handle the reduction, at least on the nose.

Taste: Ahhh here is the greatness. Spicy Indian feel, Cinnamon and exotic wood. This reminds me a bit of an Amrut I reviewed last. It’s still Rum by the way. Even though six of the nine years this was matured, was spent in Port casks, it hasn’t become Port of even Port dominated, but obviously the Port impaired some nice flavours to the Rum. I recognize the nuttiness and the hint of glue from the 12yo (the 12yo has more glue). Wow, amazing balance between the sweet and the dry. It is actually more dry than sweet, influence of the wood of both casks, again a bit virgin oaky, but the wood doesn’t dominate here as it does in the 12yo. Slightly longer finish than the 12yo, but still not very long. The Port starts to really assert itself way into the aftertaste, with the wood of the cask it came in. Nice fruity acidity. Very accessible and extremely drinkable.

This one is younger than the Doorly’s 12yo and therefore less heavy on the wood aroma’s. It seems perfect. Enough to give it character and a backbone, but never dominating the spirit like in the Doorly’s 12yo. Having this, it’s nice to have the woody 12yo open next to it. Personally I don’t have a problem with the wood in the 12yo. It fits the profile Richard went for blending the 12yo.

Highly drinkable, and well made. Not as complex as I expected, but good nevertheless. Again a bottle that will be gone soon I fear. 40%, yeah all right, it will do, but I would prefer a higher ABV. I understand the next Exceptional Cask Selection, The Zinfandel finish is 43% ABV and there will be a Vintage 2004 that will be much higher. I can’t wait. Good stuff especially considering the price. Daily sippers (at 40% ABV), both the Port finish as well as the Doorly’s 12yo, which is a bit more chewy, woody and somewhat sweeter and imho a bit bolder. I did several H2H’s with both and sometimes it’s hard to pick a favorite. Both are equally good. On some days I prefer the 12yo, and on others I like the Port better.

Points: 83

Doorly’s 12yo (40%, R.L. Seale, Foursquare, 2016, Barbados)

I am incredibly keen on reviewing this particular Rum. Why you might ask? It’s only a 12yo Rum from Barbados, nothing fancy, nothing super-ultra-premium and one that is very inexpensive to boot. How can that be? Wouldn’t you rather review an ancient Velier bottling then? Sure, but this one has a story to it. I write about Whiskies for quite some time now, and essentially kept my Rum-adventures to myself. I always liked Rum, but a few years back I really started to love the stuff, especially when I “got” Rhum Agricole and found out that the Rum spectrum is very wide and shows lots of variation.

A long time ago, when I got interested in Whisky I started to surf the interweb looking for information. Back then not a lot of it was around, and there were hardly any books as well. Whisky blogging was just about starting. More recently, when I started to look for information about Rum, I came across some very good Rum bloggers. There are more which I read on a near-daily basis, but for my story here, I have to mention two or three in particular. First I read this review by thefatrumpirate and this one on Inu A Kena.Although I have heard of Foursquare I wasn’t aware of the Port finish Rum. Both reviewers are very happy with the bottling, so my interest was “aroused”.

Next, I started looking for an official un-finished Foursquare bottling to compare it with, and came across this post and especially this post from Lance. “Weak, pussilanimous wuss of a rum. It’s so low key that its piano seems to lack keys altogether” So the Port finished product seems to be stellar and the un-finished XO seems a bit less than perfect. Nevertheless, my interest was now even aroused some more. Being warned, because a smart person learns from the experiences of others, I skipped the XO. Recently I found out there is this newly released 12yo as well. Back in business so to speak. I bought the Port finish as well as this new 12yo, so let’s see first if this 12yo is something Lance should buy.

Doorly's 12yoColor: Copper gold.

Nose: First of all, this smells great right from the start. Modern and tight. Woody, some clear glue and spicy. Typical Bajan Rum, with hints of orange and fresh fruits in the morning market. Definitely also the wooden crates fruit is shipped in. Fresh virgin wood, not necessarily oak at this point. An expected, deep caramel and medium sugar syrupy sweetness. Yes you can smell sweetness, or maybe I should say, smells associated with sweetness. The smell is fruity, but on top of the syrupy part is another fruity smell. It’s the red berry acidity I didn’t like that much in some Abuelo offerings, but that quickly dissipates. Warm sawdust, definitely oak now and a small hint of gunpowder and honey, which is great. The wood aroma is growing stronger with time, which does wonders for the nose. Hints of an unlit Havana Cigar, a combination of Bolívar (spice) and Hoyo de Monterrey (cream). It smells fresh and even slightly winey, which is no surprise since 10% of this Rum was matured in ex-Madeira casks, the other 90% in ex-Bourbon casks. I believe Foursquare uses a lot of casks from Jack Daniels, which would make it ex-Tennessee Whiskey casks rather than ex-Bourbon casks. Whichever cask were used, both are made with American oak, giving off a vanilla aroma.

Taste: On entry a bit thin, but the aroma’s take over quickly. Hints of glue (from the nose) and almonds. It starts out with the woody flavours from the nose. Good balance, it matches the nose perfectly. Tiny hint of soap now, but nothing to worry about. Toffee is next, although the wood is still the dominant factor. Not too sweet. The back-label states 12 years of maturation in American white oak. If not all, then at least part must have been virgin white oak. If not, it may have been ex-Bourbon casks, which must have been very active then. It has so much fresh oak flavour. Chewy toffee is next, even though the Rum is quite thin. The finish is medium at best (probably due to the reduction to 40%), but the aftertaste does have some staying power. Sure not the most complex Bajan Rum around, but I’m not disappointed. The 10% Madeira work wonders without taking center stage. I would say well blended, this one. It’s a friendly nice Rum I’ll probably finish more sooner than later. Good for every (sipping) occasion and that is what you want a nice little OB to do.

It has been ages since I opened a bottle with a screw cap. It only happens when I open an old bottle of Whisky from Gordon & MacPhail and such. It’s all cork now. Screw caps were once a sign of cheapness, for me it’s not. I like the screw cap. It’s retro. They work well, although screw caps on miniature bottles are a lot worse. Corks can dry out, crumble or have holes and other weak spots. So no beef with the screw cap, unless it rotates for ever. “Screw cap” is even nicer to pronounce than cork, and it looks better on T-shirts. Just say it several times at loud, just not if you’re reading this at work and want to keep the respect of your co-workers. “Je suis screw cap”

Lance, it is safe (from “Marathon Man”) and Richard, well done!

Points: 83

Dos Maderas PX 5+5 (40%, Spain)

Well after the fairly unusual rant of the last post lets leave the Whisky (business) behind and focus on some Rum. My other favorite distillate. A wonderful complement to the Whisky world. Oh yeah! This time around we” have a look at a Spanish Rum, although the Rums themselves come from Barbados and Guyana, places we know make excellent Rum, so if you can’t make top-notch Rum yourself, buy the best you can.

Dos Maderas is the Rum brand of Spanish Sherry producers Williams & Humbert. Williams & Humbert have a long history already, which, if you’re interested can be found all over the ol’ interweb. Remember, Google is your friend. Alexander Williams and Arthur Humbert started their wine-business in 1877. By 1972 the company was sold, and since then two times more. Current owners are the Medina’s who worked at the bodega and wanted it for themselves.

As I mentioned above, Williams and Humbert buy their Rums from Barbados and Guyana. Both Rums are approximately 5 years old. In Spain they are aged further for three years in cask that previously held a Palo Cortado Sherry. Part of this is bottled as the 5+3 expression. Another part is then further aged for another two years in casks that previously held PX Sherry, thus giving us the PX a.k.a. the 5+5. By the way both Sherries mentioned above, aged for twenty years in these casks, so these casks should impar a lot of aroma. Let’s see…

Dos Madeiras PX 5+5Color: Dark copper brown.

Nose: Smells extremely sweet. But also the liquid makes you believe that, since it is very syrupy. Hints of burnt sugar and definitely some Pédro Ximenez. Besides the depth this Sherry gives, it also impairs a fruity acidic note. Hints of paper and cardboard in the back and even some raisins. Not a lot of development and overall quite simple. Its like the sugar content this must have stopped its evolution and hides any possible form of complexity. Given the fact this contains 5 year old Rum from Barbados ánd Guyana, both highly aromatic Rums, the PX finish is a bit overpowering. That’s not bad, but its more about the PX, than it is about Rum. Altogether nice, but in a flavoured kind of way.

Taste: It starts with Rum, where the nose was more PX. Burnt sugar and Demerara qualities. Heaps of sweetness. It’s a light Demerara style which leaves room for the Bajan Rum as well. However, the PX takes the driver’s seat rather quickly and puts both Rum’s in the back to come along for the ride. Toffee, sugar and caramel, partly burned. Luckily there are some hints of vanilla and green olive (towards the finish). Hardly any wood. Finish is PX again. Aftertaste is PX as well.

I havent tried the 5+3 expression yet, and thus I don’t know if that one has some finesse to it. In this 5+5, the PX overpowers everything. I do like my PX’s, so I kind of like this, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with Rum. Maybe a shorter finish in the PX casks would have been better, and then they should be brave enough to call this 5+4 or even 5+3 1/2. But who am I to say so. Still good stuff though.

Points: 80

Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection (43%, Barbados)

Now I’m getting sunburned, so I’m digging out the last Bajan Rum from the sand, for now, and find some shade. Last but not least, and a short trip of Bajan Rums wouldn’t be complete without an offering from the oldest distillery around: Mount Gay. And this is not the distillery’s entry-level Rum, mind you. Mount Gay Distillery had plenty of time to build up a nice stock of aged Rums. For this “1703” blend, casks were used that have been aged from 10, up to 30 years. So I’m expecting something different.

The history of Mount Gay starts with a man called John Sober (what’s in a name). John was fortunate inheriting a distillery on the Island of Barbados but didn’t know what to do with it. John asked for some help and got it from his friend John Gay (what’s in a name). John Gay died in 1801 and John Sober renamed the distillery in John Gay’s honor. John Gay managed the distillery well and perfected the distilling process thus producing a fine Rum, and making John Sober a lot of money in the process. Actually Gay was John’s middle name, his name was actually Alleyne, but there already was a Mount Alleyne on Barbados (what are the odds), so Mount Gay it became.

Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection (43%, OB, Barbados)Color: Orange Brown.

Nose: Not your obvious sweet-from-the-start nose. No, this has already a lot of wood, but also elegance and presence. Definitely some old (woody) Rums have found their way into this “1703”. Wood, lots of orange peels, honey and wax. Wood comes in many guises and that’s not bad for the composition of this nose. Sawdust and spices. Vanilla as well (American Oak). Old roasted coffee beans and walnut skins, but also some creamy sugared yellow fruits, although they are well hidden. One thing is for sure, this Rum is all about wood, and lots of it. It works in the nose, but I’m already getting a little bit nervous, how will this work out when you sip it?

Taste: Luckily not as woody as the nose suggested, but the first thing that enters my mind is its relative lightness. It tastes diluted, as if I was nosing a cask strength sample and now am tasting a 40% ABV retail version. The entry of fresh, fruity (orange again) and sweetish Rum is short-lived, because the wood kicks in rather quickly. The old Rums that are in this blend play their part and give it a backbone of various wood aroma’s. The wood in the taste however seems to “reduced a bit” and that in itself is quite an accomplishment. The wood gives the medium length finish a walnut skin bitter edge, but in no way does it ruin it. It’s the vanilla from the finish that seems to linger on…

Quite a daring expression of Mount Gay, definitely for aficionado’s who are not afraid to “drink out-of-the-box”. For some more normal Rum drinkers this has too old stuff in it, bringing lots of wood. Don’t worry this very sentence contains the last reference to “wood” in this review. Considering the public this was, probably, made for, I find this a bit to weak. This Rum might have been better with a higher strength. I know 43% is more than the usual 40%, but I feel this Rum needed even more alcohol to do it justice, 46% at least maybe even 50% ABV. It would have aided the body and lengthened the finish a bit.

Points: 85

Plantation Grande Reserve 5yo (40%, Barbados)

Lying on a Bajan beach suits me, albeit only in my mind that is. That’s enough reason for me to stay on the beach for a while longer and dig up some more Bajan Rums from the sand. Today we’ll take a look at another independent bottling. This time Plantation, the Rum brand of Cognac Ferrand from France obviously. Italy’s Fabio Rossi (Rum Nation), who actually comes from Wines and Whisky, found a passion for Rum. Now the same goes for Cognac Ferrand as well. They also found a passion for Rum. The people of Cognac Ferrand buy aged Rum’s from several Caribbean distillers, ship them to France and finish them for a couple of months in Cognac casks before bottling. This 5yo Grande Reserve is no different, it gets the same treatment as the others, except this blend of Bajan Rum’s has aged less than other Plantation expressions.

Grande Reserve 5yo (40%, Plantation, Barbados)Color: Gold.

Nose: Quite closed at first and light. Fresh and fruity. Later more sweet and waxy, with hints of vanilla, yet still light and fresh. Vegetable and leafy, combined with a flowery breath of fresh air. Very friendly. Minute hints of mocha coffee, toffee and cow dung (you must think I’m mad by now). Orange flavored powdered candy. The orange note for me is to weak and to synthetic for it to be real orange. Remember this is quite light and none of the aroma’s really stand out. It’s a very introvert Rum. Let it breathe some more and yes some soft orange peel shines through.

Taste: Again quite light, weak black tea with sugar. This has enough character though. Slightly burnt sugar. Fern and a proper sweetness, although the burnt cask note hides part of its sweetness. It’s quite alright. Sometimes this reminds me a lot of Cognac. For me this is a young rum, which hasn’t picked up a lot of sweetness yet and other typical Rummy aroma’s and has quite some Cognac influence, more than other Plantation bottlings, like the Old Reserves. Medium to short finish with notes of runny caramel with a slightly burnt edge which stays well into the aftertaste. Very likable though.

A young Rum with obvious young Rum traits. Lacks a bit of depth like many of its older brothers and sisters have. Its playful and nice. Likeable and cute, with a nice dark ridge of burnt sugar and cask toast. So it’s not all lovely and cute but also has a bit of Chucky to it. So in the end this is a well made although, young and undemanding and underdeveloped Rum. I still say you should get it because it costs next to nothing and is very well made.

Points: 83

Rum Nation Barbados 10yo 2001/2011 (40%, Single Domaine Rum, Barbados)

After the peated Benriach and the chilly foreplay to winter, lets head back to a nicer climate and head towards Barbados. Although Scotland is a beautiful county, I’d rather be in Barbados right now. Edinburgh, not even 10° C. Barbados more than 30° C. What would you do? Remember my review of the Cockspur 12? Well the Barbados Rum I’m about to taste, actually comes from the same place. Both Cockspur 12 (not 12 years old though) and this Bajan Rum come from the same distillery: The West Indies Rum Distillery. You always hear about, location, location, location don’t you? Well, this distillery is located right at the beach, just like some of the best Scottish distilleries, with the one distinct difference I already mentioned above. I just image lying my tired bones on the beach, enjoying the sun, and then bubble up de gap to the distillery for some “refreshments” safe! This Rum was bottled by Italian bottler Fabio Rossi under his Rum Nation brand he founded in 1999. We maltheads already know Fabio as the man behind indy Whisky bottler Wilson & Morgan.

Barbados Rum 10yo 2001-2011 (40%, Rum Nation, Barbados)Color: Orange gold, amber.

Nose: Wonderfully complex smell. Oak and vanilla, short whiff of acetone with fresh air and clean alcohol. Most definitely not too to sweet. This is quite a breath of fresh air after all those sweet and sweeter Rums. Sure toffee and caramel, but this time with spicy wood, slightly burnt wood and without the sugary type of sweetness, although it does smell a bit like brown sugar. Hints of dark chocolate, bacon and even a pinch of cherry liqueur, salt and cola. It almost smells like an overly toffeed Bourbon, and I have to say the fresh and nutty smell of oak is just about right in this one. Maybe this is a Whisky drinker’s Rum. Well done!

Taste: Yes, this is no dud, in fact this is very good! Wonderful entry of sweet almonds and again wonderful oak. Long and warm caramel. The nuttiness, oak and caramel are aided by hints of licorice and orange rubber (lab rats will recognize it), to form the body of this Rum. It’s warming without ever being heavy. Great balance and quite a nice finish, with hardly any bitterness to it. Wonderful vegetal aftertaste too. It’s chewy and you just want another caramel from the bag, and another, and another. I love it and I will be sorry when it’s gone.

Well, dear readers, for me this is a hidden gem. I already thought Cockspur was nice, but this also is really something. Exceptional balance, all flavours are well-integrated and match up quite nicely. I even prefer this one over the Cockspur 12. Get it as long as its available. Today Rum Nation still bottles a 10yo Bajan Rum, but they have changed the bottle into a dumpy one. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I am sure it will be just as good as this one.

Points: 85

Cockspur 12 (40%, Circa 2008, Barbados)

Well, that didn’t do the trick. For some strange reason or another, I picked a white Rum for sipping purposes, when white Rums are usually made for mixing. However I heard Plantation make a very good white Rum, I just had to have a go at it. Quite nice, but as I said before, it didn’t do the trick for me, and I still need a sip of a good Rum. This time I’ll try a brown one, and my eye fell on this Cockspur 12, a handcrafted Bajan Rum. Cockspur 12 is made from both column still and pot still Rums. Careful readers have seen that the 12 in the title is not really an age statement. The 12, means that the Rum is blended as to seem to be 12 years old. In fact the Rums in this blend can be even 17 years old but also as young as 4 years old. Although this is Bajan Rum, the bottle itself comes from Scotland with an UK distributor, so I’m guessing this Rum came as bulk to europe, where it also was bottled.

Cockspur 12Color: Copper gold or dark amber.

Nose: Well this is something else. This does smells of age. Wood, but also fresh. Sweet yes, but with nice touches of fruity acidity. Nice. Elegant polished wood, reminding me of some good Bourbons. Give the glass a whirl to release some more aroma’s from it and the deep brooding slightly tarry notes allow you to smell this is actually a Rum. Fatty and sweet milk chocolate of reasonable quality. Give it some time and you still believe this to be an older kind of Bourbon. Honey and wood and warm freshly roasted nuts and peanuts.

Taste: Well definitely no Bourbon now. In part it may well have been. but the syrupy quality most definitely isn’t. Toffee, wood and caramel. Thank god for the wood in this one. It gives it character and gives the sweetness a run for its money. Not an overly sweet rum this is, but think away the wood it probably would. Vanilla and a creamy note. Pudding.

Very easily drinkable. This really lies very close to Bourbon, albeit a sweet one. So a mashbill with lots of corn. It definitely smells of an (older) Bourbon, but the taste is Rum. Still some traits of Bourbon, but definitely a Rum. Taste wise quite a simple Rum, but one with great balance and great drinkability. Personally I think this could have done with some more oomph. 43 or 46% would have been nice. Recommended.

Points: 83