Spirited Union – Spice & Sea Salt Botanical Rum (41%, A55001, Barbados/The Netherlands)

More than with any other type of distilled spirit, Rum aficionados (have to/feel the need to) protect their tipple. Whisky, for example, is highly regulated, so there is no need for the Whisky aficionado to protect their spirit, and there isn’t a lot of adulteration going on, to boot. Quite the contrary actually, regulation prevents too much openness about the Whisky in the bottle, preventing distillers like Bruichladdich and blenders like John Glaser (Compass Box) to print all the available information on the label. Aficionados like it (we want to know as much as possible), regulations prevent it. For instance, only the last cask is mentioned in detail on the label, but if the whisky was previously matured in a different casks, details of that cask aren’t allowed on the label. Blenders aren’t allowed to print on the label how exactly their blend came to be. Blenders like Compass Box, do publish that information on their website as do distillers, like Bruichladdich, to name but a few.

Rum aficionado’s are very clear about how they prefer their Rum. Pure and unadulterated. No additions of any kind and certainly not of the sugary kind. If possible non or not much reduction. Preferably aged on location, although continental ageing is accepted. So when word comes out, somebody is releasing a popcorn infused/flavoured Rum, well, you’d better hide in your bomb proof cellar for a while, until that travesty blows over and Barry has killed the culprit who had this infamous idea. Sure, pure Rum is the best Rum, and I like them dry and untouched as well.

I myself do draw the line when people essentially produce a sweet liqueur and call it a Rum, examples like Don Papa (you don’t want to know what was added to that and in which quantities!) and The “Rums” of A.H. Riise, again to name but a few. I reviewed this Christmas Edition of A.H. Riise a while back and I did like the taste of Christmas it gave off, hence the score, but in hindsight I don’t feel it is a Rum at all. Its a tasty Liqueur, with Rum used as a base spirit. So as a Rum the score, if reviewed today, should be much, much lower, but I’ll let it stand as a testament to the ignorance of the consumer, me, myself and I, in this case. Since we don’t have a class of Sugared Rums or Rum Liqueur, it may be considered a Spiced Rum, a class of Rum reserved for Rums where anything has been added to it. Un-pure. Yes, Rum is lacking regulation, and some producers obviously will do anything to sell as much Rum as possible. The market for Rum as a mixer is much, much larger, than the market for Rum as a sipper, although the latter is on the rise, as are the prices for sipable Rums. So consumer beware!

So the Rum police doesn’t like people messing with their Rum and here is me reviewing a Rum that has been altered, messed with, and I’ll leave it up to you, the Rum detective from the Rum Homicide department, to decide if this particular case is acceptable or not. As is the type of Botanical Rum. In the Netherlands, I imagine, Ruben Madero got an idea when sipping his traditional Gin & Tonic. Hmmm, he must have thought, Botanicals, interesting, what if I made a Gin, that uses Rum in stead of a clear grain spirit as a base. No, even better, what if I would make a Rum with botanicals! Yes! The industrious guy he is, he started a distillery and started experimenting (Ruben hates sweetened Rums as well). Probably not in that order. Fast forward a bit, since this introduction is already a wee bit too long. Here is Ruben’s first baby available to the public. The Spice and Sea Salt Botanical Rum. I don’t know if it is a secret, but when walking around the distillery, I saw some industrial size containers on site with 5yo Rum from Foursquare (Column and Pot Still). And I have to say, fans of Foursquare are amongst the most fanatical Rum police there is. Foursquare is a wonderful Bajan Rum, so of course there is this hands-off-our-Rum movement. But please read on, not all changes to Rum are done with the wrong idea? Ruben started to make various infusions and distillates of herbs and spices and fruits and so on, I saw many of those in his distillery. Which botanicals did eventually end up in this Botanical Rum? (lets just call it that, since there is this lack of regulation and this type of Rum doesn’t exist officially). First of all:

* Organic Añana Sea Salt (Spain)
* Madagascan Vanilla
* Cloves
* Guatemalan Cardamom
* Peruvian Cacao

No time to waste than to taste this Botanical Rum now. Ruben isn’t really presenting this Rum as a sipper, but to assess this Rum, I will be sipping it to review it. I also had a chance to try this Rum, at the distillery, in their proposed mix with ice and ginger beer, and…well I do have to admit I was shameless enough to ask for another one.

Color: Light Gold, almost White Wine

Nose: Light Rum, sweetish and leafy. A green smell. I already know this has sea salt added, so I don’t know if I’m truly objective, but I do notice an aroma associated with salt. Ginger, nutty, foremost almonds and citrussy notes (it’s the cardamom speaking), young Rum, not really full of vanilla, toffee or caramel notes. If you smell hard, some spicy green notes come forward. Based on the nose alone, and considering this has salt added, which you can’t smell, the other botanicals are present, blended in with taste. They add to the taste of the young Rum, but neither of those botanicals overpower the nose. Actually still recognizable as a Foursquare Rum. A wee bit of parrafin, diluted cola and sea spray are present as well. Give it more time in the glass the appetizing cola note stays and mixes in with a new floral note. Even longer and some ripe and sugared red fruits come forward. The Foursquare base is now even more recognizable. The cloves, by the way, are foremost noticeable in the empty glass afterwards…

Taste: The entry is salty and unique to the world of Rum. The somewhat slower sweet taste follows right after that. In a way also a bit thin, 41% ABV is very close to 40% ABV. Sugared black tea. Salty lips and a mouth full of pretty nice nutty Foursquare notes, with a tiny acidic citrussy top note. Medium sweetness, sugar water and a black tea note. A light bitter note (from spices, not wood), cloves and vanilla, yet, apart from the salt, nothing of the botanicals or additions overpower. I have to admit, the tweaks are done sparsely and with taste, leaving enough room for Foursquare to leave it’s mark as well. Sure the salt is prominent, and a key player, but for me it works well. Cacao in the rather short finish (with light botanicals and young Rum, this was to be expected). The cacao stays around for the (short) aftertaste. The base-Rum is young and still hasn’t got a lot (if any) wood notes impaired to it. The aftertaste may be shortish, but the salty lips are here to stay for a while. Well balanced.

Interesting Botanical Rum. Works for me as a sipper, especially as a starter in a flight of Rums. Equally good with (smoked) ginger beer. Quite by accident after tasting this Spice and Sea Salt Rum I poured a high ABV Pour Mourant into the unrinsed glass, and the salt from this Rum that stayed behind on the inside of the glass, tasted very nice with the Demerara as well, even with only this trace amount of salt.

Points: 77

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