Yeast in Rum (or S. Pombe Revisited)

Following on from the three part collected article titled “Aeneas Coffey, John Dore and Foursquare”, Richard Seale posted an in depth look at “Yeast in Rum” in a 6 part series on his personal page, with his agreement I have again collated them into one single reference article below.

Yeast in Rum (or S. Pombe Revisited)

Part One – Yeast History

Back in October/November 2019, I created a quite a stir with some comments and a very brief post challenging some of the myths being created around the novel sacred cow that is S. Pombe yeast. At Foursquare we carry out natural fermentations (which contain S. Pombe) and having made some ‘high ester’ rums last year, it seems a good moment to make a further comment giving more details on the work of Jamaican chemists Percival H Greg, Charles Allan and S. F. Ashby.

A Little History:

Yeast cells were among the first microbes seen in early microscopes and some of the earliest observations concluded it was produced by fermentation rather than the agent of fermentation. In 1755, Dr. Johnson is his famous dictionary defined ‘yest’ as ‘the foam spume, or flower of beer in fermentation’. See also his cross reference with the definition of ‘barm’.

Lavoisier (1789) investigated wine fermentation by qualitative methods and could not find a role for yeast in the reaction that produced alcohol. However, by this time scientists believed yeast (or ferment as it was called) played a role in starting the process. Berzelius called this catalysis. German Scientist Theodor Schwann identified yeast as a living organism and call it ‘zukerpilz’ – the sugar fungus (or sugar mushroom). His colleague Franz Meyen that provided the modern latin name in 1838 – saccharomyces cerevisiae – literally ‘beer sugar-fungus’ for the species of yeast in common use today (through the use of thousands of strains of the species). Pasteur also supported the idea that fermentation was a biological process, that is a process by living organisms.

Famed German biologist Justus Von Liebig disagreed with this ‘vitalist’ theory arguing that alcoholic fermentation was a purely chemical process – no living organisms were involved – and this led of one of the most famous disputes in Science. Liebig believed the yeast was kind of nitrogenous organic compound which decomposed the sugar and a product was deposited described as an insoluble ferment. This ferment could be used as ‘ferment’ in another sugar solution. Pasteur would eventually settle the debate through a set of brilliant experiments.

Ultimately neither scientist was entirely correct or entirely wrong. Eduard Buchner obtained pure samples of the fluid inside the yeast cell and discovered that the fluid could ferment a sugar solution despite the fact the yeast cell was obviously dead. He realised that fermentation reactions were a chemical process inside the yeast cell by what we know today as collection of enzymes. So alcoholic fermentation is after all a bio-chemical process. Buchner would publish his work in 1897 for which he would be awarded the Nobel Prize.

Pasteur’s work would extend to improving wine making. He observed that soured wine was caused by the presence of lactic acid. He further observed that sour wine contained not only oval yeast cells but small rod shaped bacteria. While alcoholic fermentation occurred via yeast, lactic acid fermentation occurred via bacteria. Pasteur developed the process of heating the wine to a specific temperature for a short time to kill the bacteria a process we know today as ‘pasteurisation’ which would eventually find widespread use in the beer, milk and juice industries.

Danish mycologist Emile Christian Hansen, working at the Carlsberg Laboratory would take yeast understanding a step further. Pasteur had not fully solved the problem of brewing cloudy and off tasting beer despite pitching bacteria free yeast cultures. Pasteur had seen yeast as homogeneous cells, Hansen was the first to isolate different strains/species of saccharomyces yeasts. He discovered that certain strains were directly responsible for the cloudy beer and so by isolating and selecting particular strains for the brewery the problem of cloudy and sour beer could be solved. So now it was necessary to not only eliminate bacteria from beer fermentation but also so called ‘wild yeasts’.

The work of Liebig, Pasteur and Hansen are important to understanding the work of two giants of the Jamaica Rum industry – the planter and distiller Leonard Wray and the chemist Percival H Greg which we will consider in Part two.

 

Part Two – Wray and Greg

Leonard Wray (family to the more familiar J Wray) published his famous treatise in 1848 and his understanding of fermentation was based on the work of Liebig.

For Wray, the nitrogenous matter that would initiate fermentation was already contained in the raw material and so no yeast (or ferment) needed to be added:

“it is seen that molasses and skimmings each contain sugar, gluten, and water; so that fermentation will occur spontaneously in them without the intervention of any foreign substance, such as yeast”

As Lavoisier had quantitatively demonstrated before him, Wray stated the elements of the yeast (the glutenous or albuminous matter) “take no appreciable part in the transposition of the elements of the sugar ; for in the products resulting from the action, we find no component part of this substance”

For Wray, as Lavoisier, the yeast had no part of the final product, for Wray “the peculiar flavour of rum is generally understood to proceed from the resinous, aromatic gum (or essential oil), contained in the rind of the cane”.

Wray relayed an anecdote which marvelously echoes today:

“It is not more than a few days ago, that I was asked by a person why yeast was not used by our sugar planters as ferment instead of dunder ; intimating in very significant terms, that he considered all the West India distillers a very choice pack of fools. Now, this person says that he has been for a long while manager of one of the largest distilleries in the world. He has written a pamphlet on distillation, with a view to enlighten the minds of all distillers, and no doubt fancies himself possessed of all possible knowledge of the subject. And yet this person, who is a clever man, and no doubt very competent to instruct English distillers, does not know what dunder is, or what is its use in the fermentation of wash.”

Wray in his seminal work put his erudite view in the strongest terms, “no foreign agent — such as yeast — is necessary. Nay, further, that such is extremely undesirable ; as it would change altogether the character of the fermentation” (my emphasis).

Wray’s understanding of fermentation was not precisely correct but in practical terms, he was not wrong. Moreover, he was prescient. Everything needed for fermentation was indeed there, no ‘foreign agent’ was needed but the rise of pitched yeast with isolated, sterile yeast strains would forever change the fundamental character of rum fermentation not just in Jamaica but in every rum producing country. Today, just a handful of rum distilleries operate under Wray’s philosophy, almost all of them in Jamaica, most notably the Hampden and Long Pond Estates in Trelawny.

The first serious challenge to this approach would come from Percival H. Greg. Greg was the first chemist to isolate individual strains of yeast as found in Jamaica distilleries. Greg was strongly influenced by the work of Emile Hansen and travelled to Copenhagen to work at the Carlsberg laboratory under the supervision of Hansen’s colleague, Prof. Alfred Jorgensen. At the Carlsberg Lab, he conducted a series of experiments on molasses and dunder sent over from Jamaica. Greg became convinced of the merits of isolating, selecting and pitching a strain of yeast as was now becoming practice in breweries and distilleries around the world. Writing in ‘The Sugar Cane’ in 1893, Greg advocated:

“Not only must we do away with spontaneous fermentation by using a ‘pitching’ yeast, as brewers term it, i.e. adding some previously prepared yeast to set our vats in fermentation at once, but I strongly recommend the selection and cultivation of a suitable type of yeast in a state of absolute purity”

Greg was not alone in his ideas. Pairault (1903) and Kayser (1913) also suggested that starter culture yeasts for rum production should be selected. Both Pairault (1903) and Kayser (1913) recognized that bacteria were also endemic to rum but in their view they negatively impacted on production efficiency and quality. Fahrasmane (2002) reported that “after 1918, some distillers in the French West Indies who wanted to increase the alcoholic yield decided to put into practice the advice of Pairault and Kayser on pure fermentations. Although the result was an increase in yields, the quality of these products evidently fell because of their increased chemical neutrality”.

The star of the show of the strains tested by Greg in Copenhagen was a fission yeast, aka Schizzosaccharomyces Pombe (S. Pombe) which he dubbed No. 18. It is this earliest work in yeast selection that still resonates today in those who believe this type of yeast to be the holy grail in the search for the best Jamaica rum. Following Pasteur and Hansen, Greg at this time saw bacteria as only a source of potential disaster.

Enter Charles Allan who took entirely the opposite view. We will examine that in Part three.

 

Part Three – Allan and Ashby

In 1903, the Jamaica Board of Agriculture decided to hire a specialist Fermentation chemist as well as to set up a sugar laboratory, a fermentation laboratory and an experimental distillery with a 50 gallon still with a “telescopic head” and detachable retorts. The purpose was to study rum making with a view to improving yields, quality and studying the types of yeast involved. Charles Allan would be given a three year contract for the role under the supervision of legendary ‘Island Chemist’, H H Cousins. In 1905, it was Allan who supervised the implementation of Cousins High Ether Process at a specially built plant at Hampden Estate. A process still in use today.

Allan was able to show that the “flavour” of Jamaican rum was not the result of alcoholic fermentation by yeasts but due to acidic fermentations by bacteria.

“The point I wish to emphasize at present is that the value of rum depends mainly on the secondary products [the congeners] it contains. I will show you by means of experiments in the laboratory that cane juice or molasses fermented by yeasts alone produce but very little of the secondary products. These, therefore, must be formed by other organisms, chiefly bacteria which swarm in the washes of Jamaican distilleries”

Allan contrasted the modern approach of breweries of his era with the approach needed by the Jamaican distiller to make the best rum.

“In the most up-to-date breweries now not only are all bacteria excluded but yeast which has been carefully cultivated from selected seed are only used. The effect of this on the article produced was to alter to an appreciable extent its flavour but it ensured its stability in character and in a short time the newly acquired flavour got to be appreciated. In the case of Jamaica rum however we have an article of a very different nature to deal with. The flavour is of a very pronounced character and is one of its chief assets. The flavour of beer is very delicate and is produced by the yeast itself whereas I am of title opinion that the yeasts contribute but a small amount of the flavour of rum”

Allan’s successor at the Jamaica Government Laboratory was S. F. Ashby. Ashby had also studied yeasts at Copenhagen and was the Bacteriologist at famous Rothamsted Experimental Station in the UK before arriving in Jamaica in November of 1905.

He set about to explore further the contribution of yeast to Jamaica rum. He set up ten experiments with sterile washes seeded with strains of the fabled S. Pombe, selected due to the earlier work of Greg. The results were a disaster.

“The rum could hardly be called by that name, and it showed the same character for all ten yeasts; in no case was any characteristic flavour produced”.

Ashby continued with another series of experiments where acid was added to the otherwise sterile washes seeded again with S. Pombe.

“The conclusion to be drawn from these experiments is that, whereas none of the fission yeast isolated from the estate washes was able to produce flavour on its own account, the top yeast owing to its slower fermentation admitted a greater amount of chemical ether production in a wash originally high in volatile acids. The latter result is in accordance with distillers’ experience as they consider that a wash showing a strong fatty head due to the top fermenting fission yeast yields the best flavoured rum.”

Ashby set up further experiments again with added acids but this time observing the behaviour of each species of yeast (S. Cerevisiae and S. Pombe) with each type of acid (acetic, lactic, butyric) these being the common acids in distillery washes (produced primarily by bacteria).

“The ability of the budding type [S. Cervisiae] to multiply and ferment more rapidly from the outset in the weaker acid liquors, like cane juice washes and fresh skimmings, explains why this is the only kind found in such liquor the acidity of which is generally under 0.5%. In the usual estate washes containing dunder, molasses, acid skimmings, and frequently specially added acid, [this would be known as ‘flavour’ made in a muck pit or trash cistern ] the budding yeast [S. Cerevisiae] is largely suppressed, but the more slowly developing and very acid resistant fission type [S. Pombe] takes possession, and is practically the only form found in washes the acidity of which is 1.0% and over”.

Ashby demonstrated in experimental work that the remarkable qualities of S. Pombe are not in its ability to produce flavour of its own account but its ability to make alcohol in washes that are set up to make the characteristic flavour of high ester Jamaica Rum. Its slow rate of fermentation is also particularly important in allowing these characteristic flavours to be developed rather than rapidly consuming the available nutrients and producing the sterilising alcohol which would retard their development.

After his contact was concluded, Ashby would continue to have an illustrious career, he would also work in Trinidad before culminating his career as the mycologist at the Imperial Mycology Institute located at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

In fact Greg too in his work had also demonstrated that S. Pombe was no panacea – a simple trial of No. 18 in the absence of dunder produced no flavour. In his final paper on Rum aroma published in 1895, Greg concluded:

“If one may be allowed to theorize a little, there seems sufficient grounds for concluding, from the results which I have up to now attained, that though the aroma of rum is in the first instance derived from the soil, that this influence is chiefly potential not actual; that it is latent , dormant , and only brought into existence during the process of manufacture”.

Greg was back to Wray even before the arrival of Allan and Ashby.

So what does yeast contribute? We look at that in Part four.

 

Part Four – Yeast Flavour

Yeast is a bit of sacred cow itself in distilling, not least of all the current fad of S. Pombe. The primary mission in this series of posts is to explain the role of yeast in the context of traditional Jamaica high ester rum, not to diminish its broader importance. The role of yeast in any spirit category is wholly dependent on the culture in which that spirit is made. Yeasts and bacteria are the organisms directly responsible to creating flavour in alcoholic fermentations. Allan summarised well the challenge of striking the balance between the two:

“In making rum the first consideration is to produce alcohol. This can be done by encouraging the development of yeasts but in so doing you are discouraging the growth of bacteria and again if you encourage the development of bacteria you are setting up conditions which are against the interests of the yeasts. You must choose a middle course and it is just here where our greatest difficulty arises.”

Fortunately yeast does not only make alcohol but flavour congeners are produced as by products of yeast metabolism. These include higher alcohols (propanol, amyl alcohol etc), acids (acetic, lactic etc) esters (ethyl acetate), acetaldehyde and diacetyl. Further esters are formed by combining the produced acids with alcohol. Nykanan and Suomalainen (1983) listed 400 flavour metabolites of yeast fermentation. Of course only the volatile ones that pass over into the distilled spirit would be relevant for rum or whisky.

Yeasts are not a typical fungus in that their spores do not migrate by air currents. They are thought to be carried in the stomachs of insects. Recent research in Belgium – Christiaens et al 2014 – showed that fruit flies could use the aromatic odour produced by yeast to find fruit. The yeast helps the fruit fly find the fruit and the fruit fly helps the yeast move around. In short, fruit flies defecate yeast, and yeasts defecate alcohol (and some nice smelling bits).

Yeast autolysis is the degradation (by its own enzymes) of the cell wall and its contents following the death of the yeast cell. Yeast death is not a function of age but of how many times the cell has reproduced. This autolysate or ‘yeast extract’ notwithstanding its foremost importance to making marmite plays an important role in flavour development in fermented wines and spirits. Autolysis is strongly influenced by acidity and ethanol both of which are abundant at the end of fermentation. Several flavour compounds are released during autolysis including fatty acids (which will make esters and aldehydes) and heavy esters (e.g iso amyl caproate), terpenes (thought to be the constituent of what famed Puerto Rican chemist Arroyo called ‘rum oil’) and higher alcohols such as iso amyl alcohol.

Yeast autolysis is a very important part of the champagne method where the where the wine is kept in contact with the yeast autolysate in the bottle. It is also known as the ‘sur-lie’ method for making white burgundy. The autolysate is also a source of nutrients for bacteria. Greg, in one of his caveats for using yeast No. 18 advised it was important that the ‘dead wash’ sit for a couple of days before distillation. Ashby noted that S. Pombe produced far more autolysate than S. Cerevisiae. This is because of the double wall thickness of the fission yeast. This extra biomass is mainly polysaccharides. It does not contribute to flavour in distilled spirits save for providing nutrients to bacteria.

So just how did Jamaicans strike the balance described by Allan. That is for part five.

(pictured – A schematic overview of the main metabolic routes inside the yeast cell contributing to the synthesis of higher alcohols and esters when inserted in the fermenting medium)

 

Part Five – Striking the Balance

The addition of dunder (and its analogs of sour mash in bourbon or backset in whisky) as practised by all rum makers in the West Indies from the 17th century was precisely to set the balance described by Allan. By adding the acidic dunder at the outset, the acidity of the wash was increased to bring it into a zone that was still tolerable for yeast but inhibitory to bacteria. Favouring yeast was paramount because making alcohol is paramount. No point having bacteria produced flavour if they have gobbled up all the sugar and there is little or no alcohol. Many distillers today still adjust acidity in their pitched yeast fermentations by the addition of sulphuric or other acids.

Jamaica (and to a limited extent Barbados) would dimensionalize the molasses/juice/water formula of Wray by the addition of soured juice skimmings and something literally called ‘flavour’. Flavour was produced by a sort of parallel bacterial ferment using cane materials in a ‘trash cistern’ or ‘muck pit’. Each high ester rum making estate developed their own formula and method for ‘flavour’.

It is this use of soured juice and ‘flavour’ that tips the pendulum of aroma development in Jamaica Rum to bacteria over yeast, not that we wish to understate the importance of their symbiotic relationship. The creation and addition of ‘flavour’ in the Jamaican high ester rum making is the cultural equivalent of a bourbon distiller selecting and pitching their own favoured yeast strain. For wine and beer, yeast is king. In Scotch whisky, they do not boil the wort as in beer but rather heat it to 64C for a short time and so some bacteria is inevitably present during fermentation. With the early dominance of pitched yeast, the bacteria, chiefly lactic acid producing bacteria makes its presence felt at the end of fermentation – no role required for S. Pombe. Yeast autolysis would provide the nutrient requirements for the lactic bacteria. Late lactic bacteria is now widely considered to have a positive contribution to the flavour of the whisky (Geddes and Rifkin 1989). So in Scotch whisky, yeast is still king but the pendulum is swung a little in the direction of bacteria.

Today nearly every beer, wine or spirit including much of the rum in Jamaica is now made by pitching selected yeast strains, the practice outlined by Hansen in the late 19th century. The yeasts used are mostly of the saccharomyces type particularly the species saccharomyces cerevisiae for which there are literally thousands of strains. Saccharomyces types have such broad application because it fits the needs of the distiller so well. It is very efficient producing rapid fermentations, dominant (killer strains release a toxin to kill wild yeasts), tolerant of high alcohol content and by species/strain selection it reliably produces the desired flavour.

The yeasts used in whisky industry are mostly S. cerevisiae although various secondary species have been used. Lager yeast is S. pastorianus, ale yeasts include S. cerevisiae and apparently some S.bayanus strains. The wine industry mostly use S. cerevisiae and/or S. bayanus. Some wine makers and craft brewers use non saccharomyces types including Kloeckera, Saccharomycodes, Schizosaccharomyces, Hansenula, Candida, Pichia and Torulopsis. The use of non saccharomyces types is more practical in brewing because they can use a sterile wort. Trying to use non Saccharomyces types in rum is impractical as wild Saccharomyces strains will quickly dominate. Peynaud & Sudrand (1986), Haraldson and Rosen (1984) and Fahrasmane et al (1986) all found that Schizisaccaromyces strains in pure culture produced very few congeners.

In the past, Schizosaccharomyces yeasts were often detected in wines suffering from organoleptic faults through the appearance of sulfidric acid (hydrogen sulphide), acetic acid, acetaldehyde, acetoin and ethyl acetate. Most of these would not necessarily be a fault in rum making. Further research with highly selected strains of S. Pombe showed much better results (for wine) but their attraction for wine making was more related to the ability of this yeast to degrade malic acid rather than any remarkable aromatic profile. It should be noted that Ashby reported the existence of a ‘fruit ether’ yeast of the budding type, that is to say it was not S. Pombe.

It has been suggested in some circles that S. Pombe needs to be “reintroduced” into rum making. It is a ridiculous statement, it never left. S. Pombe plays its usual role at Hampden estate as it has done for over 250 years and S. Pombe can be found wherever rum is made. Several early studies identified S. Pombe in molasses and juice in rum distilleries in the Caribbean. More recently Fahrasmane (1988) found S. Pombe prevalent in Haitain distilleries. Bonilla-Salinas et al (1995) found S. Pombe in Mexican distilleries and Green (2015) found significant counts of S. Pombe yeasts in molasses at Bundaberg in Australia. You can find S. Pombe in our fermentations at Foursquare where their role varies depending on the rum to be produced.

The revised interest and circulation of the papers of Greg, Allan, Ashby et al by bloggers, enthusiasts, distillers and writers is absolutely to be applauded. I cant praise these efforts enough. That this 100 year old work still serves as inspiration to younger craft distillers is a joy to observe. My caution is not to take the work in isolation and consider it hand in hand with later work and the practical operations of West Indian Rum today that has built on and added to that knowledge. That such is not readily available via google should not detract from its value. As Wray warned, do not take the West Indian distillers for a ‘pack of fools’.

We do not need to reintroduce S. Pombe to rum, what we need to do is protect the traditional way in which it is used.

We will consider that in part six.

 

Part Six – The Jamaica GI

The core of traditional Jamaica rum making is the art of using simply sugar cane derivatives, spontaneous fermentation and batch distillation. Distillers were able to improve and innovate without ever breaking these fundamental core principles. In 1893, the year Greg published his first paper, 148 Jamaica distilleries operated this way. By 1948 there were just 25. Today just one distillery owner exclusively practices these methods. Pitched yeast and continuous distillation have changed Jamaica Rum (and Barbados Rum) forever as warned by Wray and J C Nolan (special commissioner to the UK for Jamaica rum) respectively. These two horses have bolted. There is no putting them back. But we can stop here and forever protect these methods.

In 2016, the Jamaican distilleries by unanimous agreement restricted the addition of fermentation agents ( those foreign agents of Wray! ) to yeast and only to yeast of the saccharomyces types. There was no restriction on native yeasts and bacteria proceeding in their normal spontaneous and natural way. How could they? Forced Sterilisation? One-third of the shares in a single Jamaica distillery changed hands in 2017 and since then, that pernicious shareholder has sought to discredit the GI as registered – most wickedly by mischaracterising the GI restriction as “narrowing to one genus of yeast we are wiping out hundreds of years of history of rum making”. Willful ignorance or just ignorance, I let my hopefully now better informed readers be the judge.

The distillery has now demanded through their team of lawyers that the Jamaica IP office unilaterally rewrite the GI to their personal specifications despite the protests of the remaining three distillers. One of my Jamaican colleagues, very high in the industry there, called this “insidious re-colonialization, putting his own selfish needs ahead of the industry and in contravention of the spirit of the GI.” I call someone who acquires a minority interest in a Jamaica distillery in 2017 and who then demands the GI be rewritten to their unilateral specification a megalomaniac.

Among the demanded changes, all designed to render the GI nugatory, is a demand to add other fermenting agents including bacteria. So pitched yeast and now pitched bacteria. A kind of rapid, cheaper ersatz Jamaica rum to be made and sold under a cloud of trite, hyperbolic marketing clichés. Pitched yeast and pitched bacteria take us further away from the true terroir of Jamaica Rum.

I suspect part of the motivation to rewrite the GI is the delusion based on the once again trendy advocation of Greg that magical Jamaica Rum will produced by simply pitching S. Pombe. It takes a high level of Dunning-Kruger type stupidity to think you are going to “innovate” Jamaica Rum by simply changing the brand of added yeast. You need to take West Indian distillers for a ‘pack of fools’ to believe this.

I will let Maggie Campbell, artisan distiller, yeast guru and esteemed colleague have the last word:

“It is wise to remember this is the life’s work and lived experience of these GI supporting Jamaican producers, they are not unwise or foolish, rather they are guardians of their culture and community. No one needs to benevolently jump in and fight to save Jamaican rum from itself, they are protecting it just fine themselves and the GI laws are set up to do just that”.
“If you do not want to participate in the community standards and cultural practices then you do not also get to demand instant access to leverage that community’s and culture’s hard won reputation for excellence.”

 

Again, huge thanks to Richard for allowing me to collate and reproduce the information here

© Steven James, Rum Diaries Blog and Richard Seale. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James, Richard Seale and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Aeneas Coffey, John Dore and Foursquare

Richard Seale recently posted a very informative and interesting series of articles surrounding Continuous and Batch Distillation on his personal page, with his agreement I have collated them into one single reference article below.

Aeneas Coffey, John Dore and Foursquare

Part One – The Continuous Still

Aeneas Coffey was not the first to invent the continuous still, nor was it the first continuous still to be used in Scotch Whisky however between 1834 and the 1876, seventeen newly installed Coffey stills would be making whisky in Scotland. It proved the foundation for the development of blended scotch whisky (developed around 1860), arguably the most successful spirit category of them all. How did it all happen? What follows is really only a brief overview of a history that is both very complex and very profound.

The late 18th century through the mid 19th century saw remarkable developments in spirit distillation. A drive to increase proof, efficiency and throughput underpinned these developments. We are focusing on the British, Irish and European developments as this directly impacted the West Indies but the American story is also very complex and worth your time.

Early stills by Adam (1801), Pistorius (1817) and Corty (1818) and several others too numerous to detail were essentially modifications of the simple batch (pot) still to add fractionation to simple distillation. In London at the Belmont Distillery in Vauxhall Jean-Jaques Saint Marc patented a batch (pot) still with a rectifying head in 1824. While used by Saint Marc for potato spirit, this concept would be a forerunner of the carter-head and the ‘Lomond’ still at Loch Lomond distillery. A notable step (see the post script) but still in the realm of discontinuous (ie batch) distillation.

The first genuine continuous still was patented by Jean-Baptiste Cellier-Blumenthal in 1813. In 1828 Robert Stein, a member of the Stein-Haig distilling family would also patent a continuous still and this would be the first licensed continuous still used in Scotland at Cameronbridge in 1830. Coffey would first patent his continuous still in 1830 and it bore remarkable similarity to the Cellier-Blumenthal still.

Aeneas Coffey had been an Irish Inspector of Excise until his retirement in 1824. During his work as an excise officer he invented the Spirit Safe an early insight to his genius. Purportedly of French birth he may have had contact with the work of Cellier-Blumenthal. It was also thought he was familiar with another early continuous still of Cork distiller Anthony Perrier patented in 1822 as well as the continuous still of Robert Stein. Coffey’s Father, Andrew Coffey was the engineer in charge of the waterworks for the Dublin Corporation and reputed to be quite ingenious. He may have also had an influence on Coffey’s engineering skills. Coffey’s first still was at Dock Distillery in Dublin and licensed in 1832. This distillery was not successful and the business was soon changed to one of still manufacture. The first Coffey still in Scotland was at Grange in 1834.

Coffey proved not to be successful in Ireland. Kerr (1946) humorously reflected:

“between good advertising and the effeminate palates of the English, which were not robust enough to appreciate really good whisky like the Irish, this type of whisky [blended] captured the English market and still holds it to an undeserved extent”.

The reasons were likely more nuanced. The early Coffey stills used iron pipes which gave the whisky an unpleasant flavour no doubt contributing to the early failure. Ireland did not license small distillers and legal Irish whisky was dominated by large stills. We suspect this would have played a role in making Coffey’s continuous still less attractive by comparison. Big pot stills would have good throughput if not the fuel efficiency of the continuous still. Ironically, it was Coffey in his role as Excise Office who suppressed the small illicit distillers. In 1810, he was left for dead having been attacked with a bayonet during the ‘poitin wars’. A reward for the capture of his attackers was unsuccessful, excise officers then as now were less than popular.

In 1835, the firm Aeneas Coffey and Sons was established in Bromley in the UK. His failure in Ireland contrasted by early success in Scotland (Inverkeithing and Bonnington had soon followed Grange) and potential sales of his still to rectifiers and gin distillers probably prompted the move. In 1840, Aeneas Coffey Jr established the first patent distillery in London at Lewisham which ended in rather unfortunate circumstances. The Secretary arranged for a large release of spirits from bond and presented the cheque for excise duty at a Directors meeting which did not contain the payee’s name. The secretary filled in his own name, cashed the cheque and was never seen again. The distillery went bankrupt and the Coffeys once again continued on as still makers.

The success of the Coffey still was really due to the evolution of the original design which had been little more than an improved Cellier-Blumenthal still. By 1840, the Coffey still would have copper piping, copper plates (trays) perforated with bubble caps and the still was split into two columns – analyzer (or stripping) column and the rectifying column. This separation of stripping and rectifying would be the foundation of nearly every spirit still in operation today. The use of perforated copper plates (trays) would be a marked improvement on the Stein continuous still which did not have contacting plates and the wash needed to be misted to ensure good liquid / vapour mixing. Even the Haig family would install a Coffey still.

The Cellier-Blumenthal still would also be improved by French Engineer and Dutch Sugar Trader Armand Savalle and by French Pharmacist Louis-Charles Derosne. Savalle and Cellier-Blumenthal were collaborators. Cellier-Blumenthal would sell his patent to Derosne who improved it and filed his own patent while Savalle continued to work independently. Savalle stills can be found today in Demerara and the French Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

While some un-malted grains had been used by highland single malt distillers the advent of the continuous still precipitated the split where highland batch stills were solely single malt with the cheaper un-malted grains going to the lowland continuous Coffey stills. This more economic and more available ‘grain whisky’ in the hands of entrepreneurs like John Dewar, James Chivas and William Teacher was the foundation of the enormous success that Scotch Whisky is today. Some luck played a role as well. In 1863, there was the phylloxera in France which had affected most of Europe by 1879. Blended Scotch filled the void for the well to do English created by shortages of claret and brandy.

The influence of raw materiel on the acceptance and adoption of the continuous still should not be underestimated. We see the same in rum. Demerara was the first to develop vacuum pan sugar – the famed Demerara sugar – but the corollary of that is vacuum pan molasses lower in value to muscovado molasses and Demerara was the first of the anglophone producers to adopt the continuous still. In Martinique, early restructuring of the sugar industry into central factories (and thereby pan sugar) in the mid 19th century is the pre-cursor to the city based (Saint Pierre) production of Rhum Industrial with pan molasses.
In Barbados the rum industry collapses after 1870, due to taxation and economic malaise. By the 1890s, the only estates still making rum are using lower value pan molasses as the famous ‘Barbados Molasses’ (made either as the prime product of the estate or secondary to muscovado sugar) is too valuable to be converted into Barbados rum (which is only sold locally at this time). Barbados would see its first continuous still using pan molasses in 1893 to fill the void as muscovado estates went out of rum production. By the 1920s centralisation of sugar factories (producing pan molasses) would be well underway and two more continuous stills would follow – one at Mount Gay and another in Bridgetown.

For Jamaica by contrast, rum was the primary product for many estates as it was more valuable than Jamaica Sugar. Rum in Jamaica was made from cane juice (Appleton) or ‘first boil’ molasses. Jamaica would not adopt the continuous still until the 1960s.

Notwithstanding the success of still sales to Scotland, the business of still making slowed by the late 1860s and in 1872, Philip Coffey, son of Aeneas would transfer the business to his long time foreman John Dore. Aeneas’s grandson, Aeneas H Coffey would act as consultant to John Dore for many years. By 1887, business would revive and Barnard’s – ‘The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom’ – published that year reported Coffey Stills in all major Scotch Whisky distilleries.

John Dore & Co Ltd would continue as successors to Aeneas Coffey, still operating from Bromley and supply Coffey Stills to the West Indies including to Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, St Vincent, St Lucia and Grenada. Coffey stills and their derivative designs would be also be sold by Scottish still makers such as Blairs and McMillans including to rum distillers in the West Indies. Following the general demise of British manufacturing, Blairs would cease operation in 1977 and John Dore would cease operating in the early 1990s although the trade mark was sold and has been used subsequently on stills built by other copper works. McMillans continues operations till this day although now it exclusively builds pot stills.

Post Script:
The addition of rectification in 1824 to a batch (pot) still before the development of the continuous (column) is notable. In fact as early as 1813, Florentine Baglioni added a column section to a batch still for grappa. Unfortunately, it did not work well with the ‘vinnacia’.

Today terms such as ‘hybrid still’ are a source of confusion. There is no such thing as a hybrid still. The dichotomy is not pot still v column still but batch still v continuous still. All still designs fall into one of the latter two categories. The addition of fractionation or enhanced rectification to a batch still is still a batch still. The simple batch still relies solely on the lyne arm for rectification. Enhancing this effect does not change the fundamental nature of the still.

A batch still will produce a changing output over time (colloquially the heads, then hearts, then tails) from a single charge (batch) that itself changes as it is distilled. A continuous still produces an unchanged output that varies by position (not by time) on an unchanging charge that is fed continuously. Heads, hearts, tails are drawn off simultaneously from different positions. This is the fundamental distinction between the two processes which also explains why the two can never make the identical spirit.

Early column shaped stills (e.g. the columnar Pistorius still) should not be confused with a column or continuous still, it was a batch still and the Savalle or Cellier Blumental stills are not fitted with “a pot still” just because they had a pot shaped base/kettle – there were in fact continuous (or column) stills.

Part Two – The Batch Still

The myriad of still patents developed between the late 18th and mid 19th century is extraordinary and the few mentioned in part one does not do it remotely justice. This work, applied to simple batch distillation led to the development of the continuous still and the distillation world never looked back.

Curiously, the extensive developments on batch distillation had little impact on the batch (pot) stills of Scotland, Ireland and Cognac and they continue to employ simple batch distillation, either double or triple to make whisky and cognac today. To see advanced batch distillation in the 19th and 20th century, one must travel to the West Indies and observe rum distillation.

It is often claimed that the double retort still used in West Indies is an “Adam’s still”. No explanation is ever offered as to why the English colonies would have purchased a French still (of which only three were made) at the height of the Napoleonic wars (let alone been able to import it). As mentioned in part one, Edouard Adam (1801) made an improvement to the simple still. He did so by adding fractionation to the batch still via a series of egg shaped vessels. Adam’s work was based on the work of Professor Laurent Solimani and the two would go on to jointly patent further improvements. There is no denying the similarly in principle to a pot still with multiple retorts but how the West Indies came to use the double retort is rather more nuanced and much more likely from a parallel bit of work of Joseph Corty.

In 1818, Joseph Corty developed a double “compound” still with the second still containing external cooling (similar to that of Pistorius). DT Shears & Sons of Bristol would acquire this design and these double stills proved to be of “such repute” that Shears would supply “numbers of them for the colonies, but particularly Demerara” – Wray (1848). Double stills of varying designs could also found in the West Indies, some notable examples include one at the Londonderry Estate in Dominica (built at the copper works in Barbados) and of course the one at Port Mourant still in operation today. These double stills are the forerunner of the pot/double retort in common use today in Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, St Lucia, Grenada among others. Early retort stills carried external cooling heads, no doubt the influence of the original Corty Still.

Leonard Wray (family to the perhaps better known J Wray) in his seminal work – The Practical Sugar Planter (1848) – wrote:

“But of all the arrangements, I have never known any to surpass the common still and double retorts”

This was no idle boast, Wray had extensive experience including of the Stills of Cellier-Blumenthal, Laugier (another type of double still) and Coffey.

At this time double stills, single retort stills and double retort stills were all in use and each of these types were supplied by Shears of Bristol. Improvements would continue – attached is a single retort of Blairs, produced around the turn of the century with the open cooling head replaced by a modern condenser. Rectification heads would be added to retort stills in Barbados and Guyana but notably not Jamaica. You can find a rectification head on the Port Mourant double still in Guyana.

While there is little evolution in the simple batch (pot) stills of Scotland, Ireland or Cognac on the scale of that in the West Indies, there are some common improvements that have been adopted.
In 1802, Charles Wyatt patented the application of steam “tubes” to distillation instead of direct fired stills which avoids the burning the wash on the bottom of the still. Today almost all stills in Scotland are steam heated but even here the West Indians were the more progressive. The steam used in the Coffey stills was thought to destroy the esters and it would not be until 1887 before Glenfiddich installed a still with steam coils. Famed Jamaican chemist HH Cousins carried out research in Jamaica on the use of steam and found it superior. This resulted in a quicker widespread adoption in Jamaica of the steam coil over Scotland. The Americans would also be quicker to adopt steam distillation over direct fire. Famously today cognac must be distilled by direct fire.

“I am convinced from the results obtained at Shrewsbury estate in Westmoreland, that all home trade rums could with advantage be distilled in stills heated by a steam coil. Burnt rum should then be unknown. The fetish of the ‘direct fire’ that still lingers in the minds of Scotch whiskey distillers has no basis at all where Jamaica rum is concerned, since any excessive firing results in a most serious injury to the spirit produced”

H H Cousins, West Indian Bulletin, 1907

The earliest stills cooled the vapour by passing it through a simple worm (or coil). Originally this was solely atmospheric cooling but in 1771, German Chemist Wiegel invented the worm tub where the worm is placed in a tub into which cold water is continuously pumped. In 1825, William Grimble invented the shell and tube condenser which replaced the worm tub for cooling the distilled vapour. Barnard’s encyclopedic work on Scottish distilleries in 1887 shows they were widely in use by then. Today just a small minority of Scottish distillers use a worm tub and most rum producers in Anglophone Caribbean use shell and tube condensers. The shell and tube condenser proved superior because it cools the vapour markedly more slowly and this in turn has a significant impact on the copper’s catalytic effect in removing undesirable sulphur compounds from the spirit. As vigorous molasses fermentations tend to produce more sulphury components over other washes, the popularity and rapid adoption of the shell and tube condenser in rum is of little surprise.

Visiting the region you can see the culmination of this history with double retort stills (some with rectification heads) dominating the rum producers of the Anglophone Caribbean.

Part Three – Foursquare

The myriad of still designs from past is overwhelming. Nostalgia makes us believe there is something better that has been lost to time whereas the reality is that much of what was discarded was inferior to how we distill today. Innovations that did not deliver did not last. Evolutions that worked became the norm. Different spirit cultures evolved though the different routes that worked for them and the progressive rum distillation techniques may not have delivered for Scotch what they delivered for Rum.

By examining this brief overview of the evolution of distillation, everyone can better grasp what we do at Foursquare and why.

Our twin column continuous still is based on that design principle of separation of the analyser and the rectifier first developed by Coffey in the 1830s. Likewise it produces a spirit that complements rather than competes with the spirit produced by our batch still. However, unlike the classic Coffey still the still operates under vacuum pressure. Instead of our wash boiling at a little over 100°C, our wash boils at just about 80°C with the consequent marked improvement in spirit quality. The high suspended solid content of a molasses wash make this technological advance all the more rewarding.

Our two batch stills are the classic pot/double retort design as used throughout the West Indies from Grenada to Jamaica. A design developed in the first half of the 19th century, “unsurpassed” in the words of Wray. Our retorts feature cooling heads, a feature first developed by Pistorius (1817) and Corty(1818) and popular in the West Indies in the stills built by Shears. It was Simon Dore, great grandson of John Dore who suggested to us that we revive the use of cooling heads on retorts.

Apprenticed to John Dore were the Carter brothers who developed the Carter-Head, an evolution of the rectification heads found on Shear’s double still and Saint Marc Still of 1824. Loch Lomond operates similar rectification heads today. At Foursquare, we have our own evolution of the Carter-Head on both of our stills. We have incorporated in these heads the use of ‘nano copper’ surfaces. This was developed by the CREA Research Centre (University of Siena) in collaboration with Green Engineering. The practical effect of these copper surfaces is to improve the catalytic effect of the copper. In this way, the thermodynamic process is unchanged but the chemical effect is improved. That is to say, one nano copper tray has the catalytic effect of six trays but the rectification power of a single tray.

Our older batch still has steam coils but our new batch still features a twin system of steam coil and bain-marie. A bain-marie is a steam or water jacketed still developed in the 16th century but mainly used by alchemists. Today, several craft distillers use small stills heated via a bain-marie. The twin system provides the most consistent and even way of heating a batch still. A smoky flavour is a natural component of a peated whisky but a smoky flavour in rum is just bad distillation.

We also use the shell and tube condenser on our batch stills for its superiority over the older worm tube vapour cooling system. Sulphury, metallic, “petrolly” rums are not our style.
As a homage to all that that has been learned and incorporated from the past, the man door on our new batch (pot) still is from an actual cast as used by John Dore & Co Ltd.

There is another innovation on our latest batch still, probably the most ambitious of all. But we will wait till its proved in the field before revealing.

Big thanks to Richard for agreeing to allow me to collate this information….Stay tuned for the Six Part collected article “Yeast In Rum (or S. Pombe Revisited)”

© Steven James, Rum Diaries Blog and Richard Seale. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James, Richard Seale and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Foursquare Plenipotenziario – Single Blended Rum

So….unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ll know about the recent release of the Velier distributed Foursquare Plenipotenziario…You will also know all about Foursquare Rum distillery but if not, click on the link here for a round up of all things Foursquare on the site before we quickly get into things.

Now that you’re back, lets move on.

I first encountered Foursquare Plenipotenziario the day before Boutique Rumfest in London in October 2019. It was during the Foursquare Dinner at the Oxo Tower, on same evening that I also encountered Sagacity. As a group we immediately knew that something was different about this one as even though we were drinking copious amounts of Foursquare ECS 2007, which itself is a big and bold proposition, Plenipotenziario felt a little meatier and carried a little more heft. We all awaited its arrival over the coming months and sadly given that we’re in the throws of a global pandemic, release was delayed for a short while given the shut down. But it arrived in early April.

So let have a look at it.

Foursquare Plenipotenziario – Single Blended Rum – 60% abv – 0 g/l additives

So….firstly the name….Plenipotenziario. The word is from the latin plenus which means “full”, and potens which means “powerful” and it would refer to a person that has “full powers”. So it continues the now traditional naming convention for the Velier distributed offerings which started with Triptych in 2017.

Distilled in 2007 and bottled in October 2019, we know that we’re getting a Single Blended Rum, which is a blend of batch and traditional continuous distillation from one distillery. As is always the case these are blended in the barrel. The Rum has seen 12 years maturation in ex-bourbon barrels in the tropical climate of Barbados. We also get another little snippet on the front label….Heavy & Light. Much was made of this online with people concluding that it merely meant pot and column, but the rear label expands upon this. The Rum is a blend of output from the Foursquare Pot still and also of light and heavy distillates from the Foursquare traditional Coffey still. We had heard that Richard has heavier column distillate but not too much of it, so as I had not seen anyone approach the subject and being curious as I am (though lacking much understanding), I questioned Richard about these heavy column still distillates and how he obtained them.

I asked whether, as we seem to understand from places like Caroni, this heavy distillate was a result of lower rectification and as there isn’t too much of it, whether it required significant changes to the way that the Coffey still was operated. Thankfully, and as he usually does, Richard was forthcoming with an answer. The heavier distillate was obtained via lower rectification without heads / tails cuts but as the still is not set up for this, it lacked efficiency and was not as well controlled. Modifications have since been made to the column still to add flexibility and to allow control of this flexibility, and although they won’t be producing the same distillate they have more range from the column still now. All of this was inspired by the earlier steps that created the heavier column rum within Plenipotenziario.

So there we have it. A Single Blended Rum containing a marque from the column still that is rarely seen, matured in ex-bourbon barrels for 12 years in a tropical climate and retailing for 139 euros.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A little punchy straight from the pour….well we are dealing with 60% here. There’s also a note that doesn’t feel Foursquare like, something that is perhaps a little tar like and definitely more rough n ready and lacking the poise that we’re used to off the bat. A good ten minutes in the glass and it begins to give a little though. Plenty of up front woody notes as is expected with Foursquare releases. Dry pencil shavings initially melding into cedar cigar tube liners. This then clearly morphs into a wetter, more musty oak with a hint of tobacco leaf and wet cardboard. Quite spice led too with cumin seed, grainy pumpkin seed bread, freshly grated nutmeg, black pepper. There is also an underlying astringent, varnish and lacquer aspect to the nose…..perhaps a little furniture polish. There is a waxy, almost beeswax Clynelish aroma too. Working through the layers sees familiar key Foursquare notes such as vanilla, milk chocolate, raisins, light coconut and mixed citrus peel. A hint of molasses and banana bread shows up. There’s a brightness to that astringent note that conjures up sharp blackcurrants, stewed stone fruits, and dried tart cranberries. A definite cherry stone aroma with a jammy quality and an almond like perfumed note point firmly at the ex bourbon barrels in a big way. Honey and warm orange peel pop up. It really has calmed down and become a layered experience the more time that it has been given in the glass.

Mouth: It’s a big one. Very oily, very demanding…..it’s screams at you if you’re not paying attention. Plenty of wet oak straight away and although not cuttingly dry it definitely doesn’t shy away from stealing a little moisture as when the liquid slides across your tongue it leaves a wake of drying oak behind it…..but also a hint of sweetness. That astringency is also there. Spicy but not overly so…black pepper, a hint of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Lots of tobacco sweetness leads into the mid palate which definitely sweetens up a little. Good quality dark chocolate with hazelnuts, walnuts and cranberry pieces. Raisins and candied mixed citrus peels…..you’d also swear that it was almost ‘gritty’ like Spanish fig cake. Dark stewed plums and apples with syrupy juice. Again all of the expected notes are there with vanilla custard plus a more savoury vanilla….warm coconut sweet bread, desiccated coconut and the merest hint of peach vapours but all of these float on that layer of cherry and almond bourbon barrel influence that is the vessel carrying the entire experience. Little pockets of honey and salty liquorice pop up every now and then as the very long finish continues the good work that has come before it and the oily nature of the rum really doesn’t want to let go. Addition of coffee at the death of the finish with slightly bitter sherry and chocolate clinging onto cedar wood and nuts.

In Conclusion: So there we have it…..a 12 year old tropically aged ex-bourbon barrel Single Blended Rum…..and it’s another cracker…..not quite my favourite of their output but with a bar set this high, we have to be picky. Blends rely on skill and knowledge to continually create new and different expressions whilst also keeping core ranges consistent. This ex-bourbon release is a big, brooding and woody affair steeped in the familiar Foursquare vibe but offering a new extension to the familiar with the use of the heavier column distillate. It’s a massively enjoyable ride where layers reveal themselves on the nose and palate and they keep developing whilst retaining complete coherence during the transition. It’s unlike other ex-bourbon releases such as 2004, 2005 and 2007. It’s also unlike the recently released Nobiliary…though they feel connected…this will be reviewed soon. With such a wealth of barrel types now at Foursquare plus the installation of their new cane crusher and distillations using cane juice, there’s plenty more to come.

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Berry’s St Lucia Rum Aged 14 Years

I’ve previously looked at a couple of Berry Bros. bottlings that have been for other people, a couple of Hampdens and a Caroni….and they all hit the mark, but this will be the first of their own releases that I have looked at.

Berry Bros & Rudd are a Wine and Spirits Merchant based in London, Britain’s oldest, and they have traded from the same premises at 3 St. James Street, London since 1698. They have also branched out with offices in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. They have a Wine School and an exclusive fine wine and dining venue in London’s St James’s.

St Lucia you will be familiar with having seen plenty of reviews and articles on this site. They have numerous marques from four stills available and they are not afraid to use them.

The traditional Coffey two column (continuous) still at St Lucia Distillers was commissioned in 1985

John Dore 1 batch still has a 1500 litre capacity and was commissioned in 1998

John Dore 2 batch still has a 6000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2004

Vendome  batch still has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003

Vendome Pot Still centre, John Dore II behind, John Dore I left

Berry’s St Lucia Aged 14 Years – 46% abv – 0 g/l additives

There have been a couple of bottlings of this Rum released, I know of an 11 year and this 14 year. From the information that I have been able to uncover, the contents of this bottle were from a 2000 distillation with bottling and release in 2014. The high likelihood is that this has seen little to no tropical maturation with most if not all of its time being spent in a cooler climate. Bottled at 46%, with unknown quantities, I do know that until the past 18-24 months this bottle was available relatively easily. This is in fact my second open bottle of this Rum. Taking a guess at the stills, with a 2000 distillation it would put only two stills in play, the Coffey traditional column and John Dore I….but without further information, we’ll have to use our nose and palate to decide if its single still or a blend.

Tasting Notes

Nose: As has become the norm now, St Lucia distillers output definitely has some key indicators coming from their stills. The aroma from the glass is confirming my assumption of the stills used. A little sweetness, vanilla and acidity initially and a lightness to the nose that brings quite prominent, almost cooling menthol notes. A whiff of wet mint to accompany a growing medicinal quality, not quite Vendome-esque……more subdued but still light sticking plasters notes, a hint of oil and the aroma of a new air filter being installed on my old diesel Peugeot 306. A little fruit fights through with overripe and fermenting pineapple,  but still carrying a cool feel to it, like the aroma of the pineapple mint growing in our garden. It becomes a bit brine led too with some light salty green olive notes, lemon oils and a little savoury edge before the lightest hint of cedar and warming peppercorn ease in. Not a huge amount of wood on the nose but it is there playing second fiddle to the rest of the olfactory display. On the nose, for me this is a blend of both aforementioned stills.

Mouth: A solid yet not oily mouthfeel……lighter than expected though, maybe the pot to column ratio is dialed down. The initial sweetness of vanilla, toffee and light icing sugar coated fermenting tropical fruit soon gives way to a growing savoury character. Quite creosote like with plenty of black olives, preserved lemons and a large dose of liquorice. The mid palate becomes a little spicier with a hint of fresh fragrant green chili, cloves and ginger. There’s an almost herbal quality too easing its way past the light woody notes. The finish, which is of a decent length is quite spicy bringing back the ginger, chili and wet wood with the merest hint of plasters and liquorice. Sweetness pops back for a fleeting moment before the return of the cooling menthol and eucalyptus leaves you with a touch of cigar box and right at the death, pineapple cube sweets.

In conclusion: I thought it good to get this review out given the large quantity of 50/50 John Dore I and Traditional column blends that seem to be hitting the market at the same abv, tropically matured but coming with less time in the barrel. This is bottle number two of this Rum that has just disappeared, with one remaining in the rum store…that one was picked up for me by Wes at Rumfest a few years ago, incidentally he reviews this rum over in his website thefatrumpirate. The two bottles, both the 14 yr, have given me plenty of easy drinking with moderate levels of complexity and high levels of enjoyment. The rum displays almost as well as some of its entirely tropically matured cousins but lacks the intensity of a little more time in the sun. That said however, if you do see a bottle, be sure to pick it up as a lot of enjoyment sits within its sleek, tall silhouette.

4 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rum Exchange Barbados (Foursquare) 2009

We see ourselves with another Rum Exchange bottling. I recently looked at their Belize offering which you can find here……but again, a little about Rum Exchange. Rum Exchange is Facebook Group that was created by Andreas Isopp to provide a platform for bottle and samples trading, but much more than that, it is also a company that was set up to facilitate the introduction and selling of Rums that not considered ‘mass market’. They take complete control of the import, trade and distribution of these brands and products. They provide a link between producers, retailers and consumers. I first covered their Rum Exchange Jamaica Trelawny back in August, which was release #001 for them. This Rum Exchange Barbados 2009 from Foursquare Distillery is release #005 for them. I’d delve into a little information about Foursquare but a quick search in the box at the head of the page will uncover all that you need to know. So we’ll go straight into it.

Rum Exchange Barbados (Foursquare) 2009 – 59% abv – Single Blended Rum – 0 g/l additives


Distilled in February 2009 at Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados this Rum Exchange Barbados (Foursquare) 2009 Single Blended Rum, a blend of batch and continuous distillates matured together in ex bourbon saw a full 9 years maturation at the distillery in a tropical climate prior to shipping over to Europe where it saw a further 2 years continental maturation. It has been bottled at 59% and there is no sweetening added and no colouring either. But what is it like and does it offer anything different to what we’ve seen before?

Tasting Notes

Nose: Needs a decent amount of time in the glass as it displays in quite a muted way initially with alcohol vapours being quite forward, heavy oak and not much else to start with. Time and a little warmth bring a more rounded approach to what is still quite heavy oak with a touch of wood shavings, burnt paper edges and something new to me in a Foursquare offering…..a touch of sandalwood. It also brings a little cedar wood cigar tube insert too. It then falls back in line and slips straight into the usual suspects that we’d expect with milky, freshly cut and also desiccated coconut sitting alongside milk chocolate and vanilla. Mixed dried tropical fruit and raisins. There’s also a lightly oaked white wine note sitting on top of the aromas. Mildly nutty and spicy at the back end, it still harbours quite a bit of alcohol on the nose. With water and time (probably taking it down to around 55% abv) the initial blast of alcohol is calmed somewhat and this lays the blanketing oak down a little and this in turn opens up the sweetness with some marshmallow and Madeira cake. The oak remains but it is far more pleasurable, almost floral and enveloping rather than heated as the approach displayed initially.

Mouth: Quite heated initially but that soon gives way. Wood wood wood. Not as big on the palate as I was expecting from a mouthfeel point of view. Heavily drying and carrying some banana milkshake….surprisingly and a first for me in a Foursquare. Grain whisky candyfloss sweetness brings a touch of honeycomb and milk chocolate…..Crunchie Bars. Coconut is present and accounted for as are raisins and a hint of dried peach. Vanilla buttercream on a homemade sponge cake. A strong bite of pepper on the mid palate brings more barrel influence and allows the spice to dominate with jeera, ginger and pepper sitting on top of a warming wet wood. The finish, which is of a decent length ushers in the banana and coconut which leads into very drying and spicy oak and all of the heat that it brings. Pencil shavings and cocoa powder lead into those raisin notes and peach vapours on the back end. With water its very much a more relaxed version of the full abv glass of Rum but with a more profound peach influence running through the mouthful from start to finish.

In conclusion: It offers something very familiar and akin to a lot of other releases…..but then the banana and sandalwood usher in new experiences to the familiar. They lift it into slightly new territory for a Foursquare bottling and this is to be welcomed. I find that the abv, or at least how the distillate is dealing with the abv doesn’t help it initially but time (and maybe a drop or two of water) is your friend. It can become a little bitter on the finish with water added but there’s a simple solution to that…..keep drinking. All in all, its good juice and to be honest its a bit of a steal at less than 80 Euros. It almost feels like a higher abv Foursquare 1998….just saying.

Again, not quite a 4.5 for me but its pretty darn close. 

4 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Foursquare Sagacity – Single Blended Rum

Back again with another Rum from one of my favourite places….Barbados. This is Foursquare Rum Distillery Exceptional Cask Selection Mark XI……or Sagacity as it is known. Now of late and as is a theme with these releases, you should ALL have a basic grasp of Latin (according to Alan Partridge anyway) and realise that Sagacity means “acuteness of mental discernment (discerning) and of sound judgement”…..which you all clearly are as you’re here, and you’re reading about this Rum. A quick click here will take you to a few bits and bobs that I’ve written about the distillery.

We first tried Sagacity over the UK Rumfest weekend in October and for some of us lucky enough to attend the Foursquare Dinner, it sat on the same table as Plenipotenziario and 2007. We were then fortunate enough to get to try it again at the distillery in Barbados in late November…..it was still pleasant and approachable juice…..and that it seems is exactly the point. Premise was never my favourite Foursquare ECS release, and it never will be….but what it offered was something approachable and comfortable for those new to Foursquare. The spiritual successor to Premise is Sagacity. Released at a slightly higher abv, but not cask strength, without colour and chill filtration, this Rum is meant to offer the same levels of approach-ability and value as Premise did but with something more to keep the more fanatic Foursquare fans happy. Does it succeed?

Foursquare Sagacity – 48% abv – Single Blended Rum – 0 g/l of additives

As mentioned above, this Rum is bottled at 48%, is without chill filtration, without colour and is obviously without sweetening or flavouring. It is a full 12 years old and its constituent parts are a 12 year old ex-Bourbon barrel Single Blended Rum and a 12 year old ex-Madeira barrel Single Blended Rum. On the surface this is the same kind of thing as Doorly’s 12 except that Doorly’s 12 is chill filtered and has colour given that it is / was released at 40% abv and is part of the continuing Doorly’s range….though a recent upping to 43% has occurred as it has / will with Doorly’s XO. I’ve also read that Doorly’s 12 has a 10% / 90% ratio of ex-Madeira and ex-Bourbon. I tried asking with regards to the make up of this blend……but a distiller needs to keep at least some secrets eh.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A slight astringency and the merest hint of acetone gives way to a blanket of robust oak that casts a solid foundation to the experience. The nose is redolent with ripe, juicy hedgerow fruit. Blackcurrants, red-currants, blackberries and maybe a hint of sour gooseberry. Definitely a touch of stewed prunes and their sticky juice. Plenty has been borrowed from the barrels over the course of its 12 years too. Vanilla. Plenty of coconut chips. Dark chocolate. Walnuts. A nip of white pepper, cumin and some damp oak shavings. At the back end there is a return to the fruity notes with dried cranberries. It’s a very well balanced and well behaved yet it brings with it a surprising depth.

Mouth: A second of sweetness brings a real zing the your tongue on initial sip. This ushers in the heat and spice. Talking of heat….there’s slightly more fire than expected but it’s a welcome facet and brings some fresh ginger juice, the floral bite of pink peppercorns and elevates the drying qualities of the oak. It also has a nice oily quality bringing a very impressive mouthfeel. The mid palate becomes a little sweeter and takes a turn for the “jammy”. Blackcurrants sit alongside mixed red berries and dried prunes. A hint of citrus….maybe flamed orange peel. Soft and chewy oak ushers in the lengthy finish that seems to grow in complexity. Coconut, vanilla and warm dark chocolate sit over big, wet and spicy oak. This leads into black pepper, more oak and the sweet and sour interplay of chocolate and dried cranberries.

In conclusion: The constant and consistent thing here is the balance between the fruit and oak influence…..and it’s that balance that allows the more complex elements to shine through yet also allows it to be so approachable. It’s just so enjoyable. It all seems pretty effortless for Foursquare on the surface but I suppose that if you have a full understanding of what you’re doing, have the ability to plan ahead and know that you won’t be making any unnatural tweaks at the end of the process then you just become very good at what you do…..producing high quality Rums. As the goal of this rum was to be approachable for newcomers yet offer something more complex for the well seasoned whilst staying affordable, then I’d consider that with Sagacity, its mission accomplished.

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Barbados Distillers Unite in Push for a GI

No fence sitting here…..Readers of this site will be more than aware of our standpoint on the topic of a GI for Barbados and the GI already in place in Jamaica. We see them both as critical in protecting the reputation, provenance and quality of the Rums being produced there and economically they ensure that the majority of the value is is earned in the country of origin. We have articles written on the subject of the alleged ‘threat to diversity’ here and the Barbados GI proposals here. An article was published in The Spirits Business yesterday highlighting the counterpoint made by three of the four distilleries (FS/MG/SNA) on the island in agreement with the GI to the earlier article from the one distillery (WIRD) or more probably the owner of the distillery, that is not in favour of the GI and its lack of allowance for up to 20 g/l of additions among other things. To roll over on this one would be a tragedy. No innovation is being stifled, no hands are being tied….everyone can use whatever yeast strains they like……ferment for a day or a month with seawater, dishwater or pond water…..mature in any wood…..use any method of distillation that they desire…..they just can’t call it Barbados Rum when it is not produced in compliance with the GI.

Anyhow, my ramblings are over with and perhaps the strongest statement is the simplest….

*Press Release*

20 January 2020 – Mount Gay, Foursquare and Saint Nicholas Abbey have jointly agreed on a Geographical Indication for Barbados Rum as prepared by the Barbados Industrial Development Corporation (BIDC) in consultation with its legal counsel. The three distillers are the largest bottlers of Barbados Rum and together hold over 90% of the island’s aged reserves.

A Geographical Indication means that a product’s “given quality, reputation or other characteristic…is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.” Under EU spirits regulations, “a name shall only be protected” if the production steps which give it this quality and reputation “take place in the relevant Geographic area.”

Under the GI, Barbados Rum will be required to be matured in Barbados as the climate of maturation has a defining impact on the nature of a spirit.
“The value of rum increases as it matures. We cannot afford the loss of forex earnings by letting this production step happen outside of Barbados” – Larry Warren, proprietor, Saint Nicholas Abbey.

The Barbados GI gives ample room for innovation. There are no restrictions on the type of stills used, long and short fermentation techniques are allowed, and either fresh juice, syrup or molasses may be used. Any yeast may be used, but non saccharomyces strains must be native.
“At Foursquare we have gained a reputation for innovation. I am happy to say the Barbados GI places no restrictions on our rum making methods.” – Richard Seale, proprietor, Foursquare Distillery.

Unlike nearby volcanic Islands, Barbados is an Island of coral limestone with underground aquifers. Barbados is famous for the quality of its water and the GI retains a requirement for the use of Barbados water to make Barbados Rum.
“Till this day, Mount Gay uses the same water sourced from our centuries’ old well to make our Rum” – Raphael Grisoni, Managing Director, Mount Gay Rum.

To protect the quality and reputation of Barbados Rum, maturation must be in new oak or in refill casks from a list of recognised wine and spirit denominations. Age statements must refer to the youngest spirit. Vats are not acceptable for age statements. To protect the integrity of Barbados Rum, the addition of sugar syrup and flavourings is prohibited; however, caramel colour under strict guidelines, will be allowed for consistency.
The fourth major distillery in Barbados – West Indies Rum Distillery – is primarily a bulk producer of non aged rum acquired by Maison Ferrand in 2017. Ferrand has appealed directly to the political leadership of Barbados to overturn the work of the BIDC and has demanded to mature Barbados Rum outside of Barbados in wooden vats and to sweeten Barbados Rum with added sugar syrup. The former request would violate the EU’s requirement for production steps to take place within the protected geographic area.

*End*

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Foursquare Hunte’s 10 Year Old Reserve Rum

This is not a rum that you’ll find readily available….I’ll get that out of the way immediately. It is only available for sale at Hunte’s Gardens in Barbados. So, if you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in Barbados…..and you really would be fortunate as the island is beautiful….you should definitely take a visit…not only for the Rum but for the gardens themselves. As for Foursquare, you absolutely should visit the distillery too. I have, about 4 times over two visits to the island and if you’d like to read more then a quick entry into the search box would turn up plenty of results.

Located in Saint Joseph Parish which is on the east side of the island and about halfway up, Hunte’s Gardens is like heaven on earth. Based on the working side of the old Castle Grant Plantation which used to process sugarcane, as you walk through the gate you’ll cross over the old sugarcane weighbridge before hearing the classical music which permeates the gardens and sets the tone perfectly. Formed in the remains of a sinkhole created by a cave collapse in the limestone the gardens stretch into the distance below you and the trees stretch far up above your head.

You’ll walk down steps into numerous small private gardens each with a ridiculous amount of plants, flowers, water features and stone statues of varying sizes. Tropical fern and flower lined brick pathways welcoming you with small stone pineapples meander up and down, sometimes to dead end secluded areas and sometimes linking to more open spaces where the palm trees stretch up towards the sun.

At the end of your walk around the gardens you’ll walk up towards Anthony Hunte’s house, passing a few surreal rooms that appear to be frozen in time.

An engaging character, Anthony will tell you about the gardens and you’ll be amazed at just how few people were responsible for its creation. It is here that you’ll find the Rum to purchase by the bottle or the glass……and purchase it you should.

Foursquare Hunte’s 10 Year Old Reserve Rum – 43% abv – Single Blended Rum

So here we have it, a blend of both batch and continuous distillation on Foursquare Distillery’s Pot and Coffey Column stills  matured for a minimum of 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels prior to bottling at 43%. We’d assume that it’s been chill filtered and it has caramel for colour uniformity. This on the surface of things looks to be a very similar proposition to R.L Seale’s 10….but how similar will be revealed as I’ll be sitting with a glass of the 46% export proof for comparison.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Immediately that familiar Foursquare Barbadian nose hits you. Vanilla. Caramel. Warm buttery shortcrust pastry. Plenty of nuttiness and light peppery barrel spice. Coconut is definitely present as is quite an obvious cocoa powder. The oak brings a warming woody backbone to the nose and this encourages the coconut and chocolate to become more influential casting aside the nutty quality in favour of a slightly sweeter approach with Marshmallow and a little orange-y citrus note. Mild coffee notes round things out.

Mouth: The initial entry is quite dry and spice led. This is backed up with short lived heat. Coconut water and coconut milk are the first impressions with just a hint of freshly cut peach. Big on the cocoa with just a hint of almond. Buttery pastry and vanilla custard. The coconut milk and chocolate lead into the warming spicy mid palate with its drying quality and heightened oak bringing vanilla, pepper and ginger. Very warming, very comforting. A hint of raisin and molasses leads into the medium length warm silky woody finish that brings back coconut chips coated in chocolate. Sugared almonds. Classic freshly cut peach is joined by peach vapours at the back end. The coconut water rises up and washes over your tongue right at the death. Well balanced and clear in its delivery.

In conclusion: Priced very well at $70BDS ($35 USD) which at the time was about £25, this Foursquare Hunte’s 10 Year Reserve Rum offers a classic experience of Barbadian rum, and in particular Foursquare Rum with its real poise and balance. Rum’s to compare would be the 43% and 46% R.L Seale’s 10. Both of these are 10 years old with full tropical maturation. Both are single blended rums. Both are priced around £35-£40 and I have no doubt that is where this rum would be positioned were it to make it here. In fact I had a glass of the 46% with me for comparison. Where the R.L Seale’s sits on a little more heat and is more nutty in its profile with dialed down cocoa, this Hunte’s 10 Year Reserve is all about the chocolate and coconut. My preference probably sits with the export strength R.L Seale’s 10 at this point due to the nutty quality and its slightly higher abv but lets be honest…. what’s not to like? Quality Rum at a steal of a price that you can only obtain by visiting the beautiful island of Barbados and walking around a tropical garden. Sounds like heaven. I think that we’ve more than established at this point that Foursquare Rum Distillery just don’t make bad rum….and if you obtain distillery matured and bottled products you absolutely cannot go wrong.

4 / 5

As a side note, I’ve also seen a photograph of an amended label design….but the Rum hasn’t changed….You know that the completest in me will be visiting in November to grab the updated label.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Foursquare Empery – Single Blended Rum

The Foursquare Rum Distillery Bottling Facility

Firstly, I know that readers of this page have previously indulged me by reading my previous articles about Foursquare Rum Distillery……but for anyone new to the site, I have covered releases from Foursquare Rum Distillery quite extensively on these pages and you can either put your own search in the “search box” or click here to read a little more about them. A little earlier this year we were fortunate enough (but our wallets were not) to be blessed with a flurry of releases from Foursquare Rum Distillery. The new Exceptional Cask Selection marques IX and X, Empery and 2007 were joined by the surprise Private Cask Selection Whisky Exchange exclusive which was Hereditas. Our wallets were also even further depleted by the Velier distributed Foursquare Patrimonio. A further surprise was that three out of those four releases were ex-Oloroso Sherry & ex-bourbon barrel matured. The BIGGEST surprise however was that each of the three releases was 14 years old and each had seen a mix of 14 years in ex bourbon and 10 years maturation in ex-bourbon barrels before a further 4 years maturation in ex-Oloroso sherry barrels. Surely Foursquare had just released the same Rum under three separate names with differing labels? Why even bother to do this? Well, this series of releases in a lesson in blend ratios, cask management and the effects of barrels with differing histories. Refresh yourselves with a look at my reviews of Hereditas and Patrimonio linked above and then come back to read further about Empery. Empery has also been written about by my friends over at thefatrumpirate and Rum Revelations and both are worth a look….obviously after you’ve read the review below.

Bonded Warehouse No. 2 at Foursquare Rum Distillery

Foursquare Empery – 56% abv – Single Blended Rum

Bottled in December 2018, Foursquare Empery Single Blended rum is composed of two elements. A Single Blended Rum matured exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels for a period of 14 years and a Single Blended Rum matured for 10 years in ex-Bourbon barrels before transferring to first fill ex-Oloroso Sherry barrels for a further period of 4 years. These components are then blended and rested prior to being bottled at 56% abv. No colour. No chill filtration. No nonsense.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Straight away the Rum announces itself with plenty of wood on the nose. Big, bold, damp old wood. It’s a nose that immediately hints towards plenty of complexity to come. It doesn’t shun the familiar either as this is clearly Barbados in character, just bringing a little more to the table. Fruit is definitely present and accounted for….raisins and sharp dark berry compote hint to the time in oloroso barrels but less so than Hereditas which is a “Sherry-bomb”. The oak binds itself to a little chocolate and walnut…perhaps reminiscent of old school walnut whips (before they became smaller and when they contained more marshmallow)….Vanilla is certainly present as is some barrel spice, crystallised ginger and warm orange peel but they sit behind a growing black cherry note bringing with it the chocolate sponge of a Black Forest gateau. A little beeswax sits on the back end with the continued warmth of the fruity perfumed oak. It is such an approachable glass of Rum that opens up very well in a very short space of time.

Mouth: Warming, slightly spicy and with minimal heat and fuss…this again is a big mouthful of action with plenty of grip. Less fruit than the nose led me to believe initially but it comes. Time brings a little sweetness and a tart black currant jam. Raisins and molasses. Sherried notes are there but the wood is more dominant bringing dark chocolate. The mid palate is all about the depth of oak. Woody, very drying and bringing a fair bit of spice such as black pepper and fiery ginger…..maybe even some leather and tobacco notes. Toasted coconut. Along with this comes a little bitterness from the oak but it’s not out of place. The long warming finish brings quite a lot of wet wood, spice and ginger heat before the berries, bitter molasses and raisins come through. A little sweetness begins to return at the back end. It’s very rich and velvety…Cadbury’s Bournville chocolate with fruit and nuts…..a hint of coconut. The barrel and the fruit are quite well balanced here and it’s complexity and enjoyment relies upon this balance….it can tip towards a little arid at times but it never falls off that cliff.

In conclusion: On the nose I genuinely believe that Empery is my favourite of the Oloroso trio that includes Hereditas and Patrimonio. If Patrimonio is defined by wood and Hereditas is defined by the Sherry notes, Empery is a perfect blend of both. On the palate it also seems to be the more balanced of the three and it feels a little lighter in blend make up, perhaps less pot still, I don’t know. It definitely drinks the easiest of the three as the bottle count will show. I’m two in on Empery and one in on Hereditas and Patrimonio.

What this series of three releases have shown us is that whilst on the surface things may be the same….maturation time, cask type, batch and continuous blend….in reality the ratios of batch and continuous, the prior history of the barrels and 2% difference in abv can produce such varying end results. It’s perhaps a lesson in looking deeper and further than the label alone. I genuinely thought that I wasn’t a sherry guy and didn’t need a cupboard full of the “same” rum…..how wrong I was. If Hereditas is the sherry bomb, and Patrimonio is the oily, barrel driven Rum that plays the long rewarding game then that makes Empery the quick out of the blocks crowd pleasing structure that spans the two camps. Approachable yet complex and rewarding. It’s also the least expensive of the three. Patrimonio just shades it….but only just.

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Foursquare Patrimonio – Single Blended Rum

Its been a hell of a few months financially…..and not in a positive way. Everything seemingly dropped at once….the new Exceptional Cask Selections, Doorly’s 14, the surprise of Hereditas, Worthy Park 12 and the new Habitation Velier releases. Sometimes thats just how it happens…..but we can’t forget the release of Patrimonio….even though it felt like it was on the boat for a hell of a long time. One of three partially ex-Sherry matured Foursquare releases that appeared in quick succession. I hadn’t considered myself a person needed that many ex-Sherry Rums in my collection but I duly picked them all up. Hereditas (linked in the opening sentence) was the second bottle that I opened after Empery. I really enjoyed Hereditas as you will see from my review, but at the time of writing this I am probably enjoying Empery more given the bottle fill levels. They are both different beasts, which is where this trio of releases becomes interesting. From the same origins, and the same upbringing, in the same climate, we see such differing results……maybe I did need ‘that many’ ex-Sherry Rums after all. Foursquare have made good use of ex-Oloroso barrels in some of their previous and ongoing releases. Doorly’s XO sees a secondary maturation of at least a year in them, Premise sees its three years in ex-bourbon complimented by an additional 7 years in ex-Oloroso and now we have the three new additions. Often seen as a relatively ‘new’ thing to do,  Foursquare Rum Distillery are at the forefront of the successful use of fortified wine barrels. These things are viewed by some as breaking away from the ‘norm’ of ex-bourbon barrel maturation, but in actual fact its the other way around. Deliveries of Port, Madeira and Sherry would’ve been made to Barbados, and to avoid shipping empty barrels, unaged Rum would’ve been sent back in them. It makes sense to use what is available. I was fortunate enough to attend the ‘Rum Tasting of the Century’ last year and I was able to try the 1780 dated Harewood House Rum. Now that Rum was definitely young, and it definitely displayed the effects of fortified wine barrel maturation. I allude to this in my write up of the event. Ex-bourbon makes sense now given the ease of transportation plus the rules of engagement for Bourbon stating that the barrels can be used once. Anyhow, enough waffling. Lets get down to the serious business of trying Patrimonio.

Foursquare Patrimonio – 58% abv – Single Blended Rum 

Patrimonio, as you will see above, means ‘Heritage’. Perhaps referring to the heritage of Barbados Rum in both the use of Batch and Continuous distillations to create the Rum and also the use of Sherry Barrels.

Distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2019, Foursquare Patrimonio Single Blended rum is composed of two elements. A Single Blended Rum matured exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels for a period of 14 years and a Single Blended Rum matured for 10 years in ex-Bourbon barrels before transferring to first fill ex-Oloroso Sherry barrels for a further period of 4 years. These components are then blended and rested prior to being bottled at 58% abv. No colour. No chill filtration. No nonsense. 6000 bottles were produced so hopefully more people get to experience the Rum. I first got the smallest taster of Patrimonio right at the end of the 2018 UK Rumfest on the Sunday. I was walking out of the room and happened to pass Richard who duly poured me a small drop. I had been tasting Rums all day at that point and all that I recall muttering was “Wow thats soft. Sherry? What abv? Late 40’s?”. Was my extremely ‘fatigued’ palate anywhere close?

Tasting Notes

Nose: A little astringent in the nose when first poured. I’ve found that Patrimonio needs more time to acclimatise and reveal itself that Empery or Hereditas….even though there is only 2% abv between them. It also presents itself as an oilier proposition. Plenty of wood up front and a hint of smoke. Deep dark and brooding damp oak. It’s not overly dominant though, merely announcing itself at the start of the journey. Familiarity muscles in with the classic Foursquare notes of vanilla and a hint of butterscotch. Time brings a touch of fruit and nut milk chocolate. Warm Crema Catalana with a crispy caramelised brown sugar topping. The nose on this rum is continually developing over time, it’s more an experience than an easy and immediate pour. There is also a hell of a lot developing from the barrels on the nose here with plenty of coconut and black pepper spice. Stewed stone fruit. Mixed raisins and peel. Glazed fruit cake with toasted almonds. It remains an attention holding rum with developing tobacco notes, more wet wood and an almost candied boiled fruit sweet note as it sits in the glass.

Mouth: Very big and very oily mouthfeel. A little heat from its 58% but nowhere near the level one would expect from a 58% spirit. In actual fact is pretty soft in its approach. It’s also a chewy rum and one that drinks far more instantly than the nose suggested….but the time spent nosing definitely affords the rum space to stretch its legs and develop. A beautiful sweetness washes over your palate bringing with it baked apples with a mincemeat filling. Solid and moist Christmas fruit cake. Candied citrus peel. There is a developing Demerara sugar note too. The mid palate is dominated by a growing and increasingly more forceful wet oak that excerpts an almost arid dryness on your palate. Less spice notes from the barrel, though they are there. The deep sherried notes appear and cast a little pleasing bitterness that is fully aligned with the robust oak. Tart fruits….cranberries and fresh raspberries, maybe a hint of gooseberry. Ripe Victoria Plums. The continual drive from the wood brings forth the vanilla, coconut and cocoa notes found on the nose. Pan de Higo from the crazy Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona. Continual glass visits bring a little growing bitterness from the fruit and barrel influence but that is expertly balanced by the ubiquitous sweetness of vanilla, coconut and cocoa. The finish is long and entirely consistent with the palate which is quite wonderful. The addition of a more prominent assertion of the tobacco notes during the final exchanges is joined by powdered liquorice root and a whiff of burnt splints.

Balance seems to be critical with Sherry Cask Rums and is very well displayed with the trio of recent releases. They are an example of how from very similar origins of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso, three connected but differing experiences can be created. The sherry casks, whilst all are first fill, have differing backgrounds. But how do these differing experiences come about? Temperatures can vary in the beautiful partially open sided Ageing warehouses at Foursquare. Maybe this causes more exchanges through the barrel in certain locations, maybe differing pot/ column ratios were used, this release definitely feels a little oilier and heavier. I don’t know. What I do know is that through 2006, Triptych, Principia, both Destino releases, I have been suitably impressed by the quality and experience found within these bottles. Triptych with its faultless blend of three differing oaks, Principia with its 6 years in ex-Oloroso, Destino with its 2 years in ex-Madeira all offered so much. Then we have the one that set the benchmark for all subsequent bottlings so high…..Foursquare 2006 with its 3 years in ex-Bourbon and 7 years in ex-Cognac. Patrimonio for me, is the one that can rival the experience of the legend that is 2006. A faultless display of rum making utilising traditional techniques and perfectly employing the heritage associated with historical maturation of Rum in Barbados. All of this is being done in a fully compliant manner with the proposed Barbados Rum GI which some are calling stifling and a barrier to innovation…..Amazing eh…..

5 / 5 +

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.