Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2003

This could be the first Bristol bottling that I have featured on the site which is quite amazing given my love of the their 1986 Rockley Still release. Anyhow, Bristol Classic Rum is a company headed up by Managing Director John Barrett and they are based in, you guessed it…..Bristol. John Barrett says that Bristol Classic Rum:

“Seek out small quantities, sometimes only single barrels from a single distillery, or a single estate or even a single still to show rum in its true un-blended form. Aging at the Distillery, or here in the United Kingdom is so important to the rums development, this combined with careful bottling and a minimum of filtration allows the characteristics of each individual rum to show. Enjoy with your favourite mixer, in exciting cocktails, or at its best just over ice!”

They have been responsible for some very good and quite landmark releases over the years, their 1990 Port Mourant and the aforementioned 1986 Rockley Still to name but two. This one however hails from one of my favourite places, Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados….not Four Square as the label states….an unfortunate issue that plagues quite a few independent bottlers.

Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2003 – 43% abv – Single Blended Rum

Distilled at Foursquare Distillery in 2003 and bottled in 2012, this Rum would likely be the result of a minimum maturation period in Barbados, probably 3 years, with the remainder at the Bristol Spirits facility in the more temperate UK climate. It is a single blended rum, a blend of both batch and continuous distillates from the Foursquare Distillery. It saw 9 years maturation in the standard american oak ex-bourbon barrels. Bottled at what seems to be the ‘island abv’ of 43%. No bottle quantity information is available but I would assume that it is a blend of multiple casks from the same year.

Tasting Notes

 

Nose: Very astringent from the get go. Really bright fruitiness. Pear drops. Superglue. Varnish. This opening then delivers a mass of tropical fruit by the basket. Bananas. Ripe mango. Star fruit. Guava. I’m going to say that the initial opening in this one would have you convinced that it was a light fruity Jamaican, it has a touch of the continentally aged Long Pond fruitiness. Maybe this 2003 is quite pot still laden in the blend? It certainly feels like the blend is solid and composed of very very good distillates. The oak influence does not show itself, instead there is a biscuity aroma. Hob-Nob biscuits coated in milk chocolate. Time brings buttery puff pastry and creme patissiere. The oak continues to be a no-show on the nose of this one and instead there is a return of the beautiful underlying sweetness that brings overripe bananas and a hint of peach. Crisp apples. Toasted marshmallow and a touch of candyfloss.

Mouth: Beautifully sweet entry. The fruit carries through on the palate from the nose.  Initially light, but then the assertiveness of the fruit shows bringing a freshness and less of a sweetness. A light touch of black pepper precedes intense vanilla and creme brûlée. Buttery pastry and a warming fresh ginger with pepper on the mid palate. There is decidedly less wood influence than I would’ve expected….it is there given the drying nature of the rum, but the mouthfeel, whilst intense is devoid of those heavier oaken notes that usually appear in continentally matured Foursquare. The finish is initially full of intense fruit, vanilla and black pepper but this soon fades to a slightly dry croissant. The finish is quite short, a lot shorter than expected anyway, but the fruit remains in dialled down form with a hint of those peach vapours at the back-end. Salty Liquorice rounds things out.

A very very beautiful nose let down a little by a surprisingly below-par finish. I would love to try this blend with tropical age as I have no doubt that it’s the maturation location that has betrayed this Rum. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very good Rum and it deserves your attention and money, but it is perhaps suffering from being surrounded by such great Rum from the same distillery. I will say however that it has one of the most vibrant and fruity noses that I’ve ever experienced in a Foursquare Rum.

3.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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.

 

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Veritas White Blended Pot & Coffey Still Rum

The only way that you won’t have heard about Veritas (Probitas when released in the States) would be if you had absolutely no interest in the Rum world.

A teaming up of two amazing and honest distilleries to produce a pot and column blended ‘White’ Rum. These two powerhouses are of course Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica.

The front label, resplendent with a “Guardians of Rum” crest, states that it is a blend of Coffey Still and Pot Still Rums…..it also states the Master Blender (Richard Seale) and the inspiration (Luca Gargano). As you would expect, the rear label confirms that the Coffey Still component is from Foursquare and the Pot Still component is from Hampden…..the rear label also confirms that the Rum is aimed at the cocktail market…..but its so much more than that simple. There is also a ‘tongue in cheek’ mention of dosage on the label….I’ll say no more about that….but the jibe would fall flat if the Rum did not stand up to closer inspection. I have written extensively about Foursquare Distillery products and you can read more here, with a bit of information on Hampden Distillery here.

Veritas White Blended Rum – 47%

I mention above that this Rum is more than it appears on the surface….and here is why. The make up of Veritas is more interesting than stated as it is actually a blend of three Rums. The first component is a 2 year Tropically aged Foursquare Pot still Rum (the Rum has colour for a reason). The second component is an unaged Coffey Column still Rum from Foursquare. The third component is an unaged Pot still Rum from Hampden Estate. There is no charcoal filtration of the Rum. The biggest component of the blend is the unaged Coffey Column Rum which when tasted really does show that a little pot still can go a long way. Digging deeper, the Hampden marque used is OWH (Owen W Hussey). Numbers wise, this is the lowest count marque that Hampden produce….but as has been pointed out to me, purely elevating ethyl acetate isn’t improving the Rum. The OWH marque, whilst ‘low ester’ in relation to Rum, is actually high by spirit standards. The marque itself was put forward by Vivian Wisdom, Master Distiller at Hampden (and all round lovely chap) for use in the blend and its inclusion was agreed by Richard Seale.

 

Tasting Notes

Nose: Beautifully creamy. The abv excerpts itself robustly on the nose with a little sting. Portuguese custard tarts. Vanilla pods. Present but light and very well-integrated pot still element. It possesses the creaminess and fresh vegetal cane like quality of the Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 and 2015 releases. Light acetone bite dragging citrus oils and a basket of fresh tropical fruit on the table at breakfast in summer.

Mouth: There it is. The pot still is way more present in the mouth feel which is a lot more oily than I expected. Real proper weight in this rum on the palate. It is the pot still that leads the early exchanges. Chewy Molasses. A touch of Kola Nut. Give it time and the lighter, fruitier elements come to the fore. Sugarcane. Light and so so typical marshmallow from the Coffey column. Banana. Guava jam on a buttery crumpet. Croissant like buttery pastry sweetness. Molasses in the finish. So much body to it.

Really really impressive. Prepare to have your preconceptions of young, cocktail oriented rum changed for good. It’s not just good for a young Rum, it’s good full stop. Yes…..I’d be perfectly happy drinking this neat….but it mixes so well. Daiquiris…good….provided you keep them on the sour side this Rum sings a wonderful tune. Banana daiquiris…..good. It even mixes well with coke.

4.5 / 5

A previous favourite of mine at home for daiquiris was Plantation 3 Stars…I enjoyed the fact that it had a bit of pot still in there and that it was reasonably cheap …..I have no need for it now. Tried side by side, the 3 Stars lacks palate weight, lacks character. Night and Day difference

Veritas is around £25 a bottle….you’ll have to buy from a France or Italy at the moment which is annoying…but it’s worth the effort.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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.

The Duchess Barbados 2005 13 Year Old Rum

What we have today is another independent bottling, this time of a Foursquare Rum. The Duchess is a specialist independent bottler of whisky and rum that they say are to cater for a “discerning audience”. All Rums released by The Duchess are additive and colourant free. They claim to sell an honest Rum for an honest price. I have their Guadeloupe 19 release and can say with all honesty that it is a very good bottling…..so I’m looking forward to digging into this offering. You can do a search on these pages for Foursquare Distillery if you need some background, there are plenty of articles to choose from.

The Duchess Barbados 13 Year Old Rum – 59% abv – Single Blended Rum

We are aware that the label incorrectly displays 1995 and not 2005

This Duchess Barbados 13 Single Blended Rum release was distilled at Foursquare Rum Distillery in 2005. It saw 3 years maturation at Foursquare before being matured for a further 10 years in Europe prior bottling at 59% abv. It is a run of 294 bottles from cask number 44. The labels on all Duchess bottlings are by Hans Dillesse who is renowned for his work on various Whisky labels. It depicts the National Flower of Barbados whose Latin name is Caesalpinia pulcherrima. It is also known as The Pride of Barbados. The Rum was a joint selection between Richard Blesgraaf and Nils van Rijn for the Whisky & Rum aan Zee Festival 2018 which will take place in the Netherlands this October. I received a small sample of this release ahead of schedule and as a result have already placed my order.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Straight off the rum is bouncing from the glass. A classic Foursquare nose. Oak. Vanilla. Candied fruit peel. A little coconut. There’s plenty of acetone like aromas in there but they’re not dominant. The fruit is joined by some pretty obvious flamed oily orange peel and a bag full of nuts. Dried tropical fruit, maybe some guava juice. Fruit and nut milk chocolate. Freshly shelled peanuts. It is very reminiscent of the nose on the Rum Sixty Six Cask Strength. Wood glue. Sappy cedar wood.

Mouth: A very warming and astringent oak led entry. An all-encompassing mouthfeel. Mild sweetness straight off but the oak rapidly comes into play in the early stages. Subsequent visits to the glass reveal a little more sweetness. A bag of dried tropical fruit. Peanuts. Cocoa. Peach loop sweets. Vanilla. Coconut. The mid palate is where the oak excerpts it’s dominance. It brings a host of light spices and plenty of black pepper heat. Seeded bread sticks. Cedar wood. Cumin seeds. The finish, which is decidedly long is initially heavily spiced and full of peppery oak, drying, warming and with real depth. As it progresses it lightens with burnt orange oils, nuts and those oh so familiar peach vapours that I adore. Mild tobacco notes and a hint of mint.

4 / 5

It’s always well-balanced, always poised. It lacks the intensity that the rum Sixty Six Cask Strength possesses, possibly a maturation location thing, but my word it’s an impressive Rum. I’ve tried a fair few independent offerings of Foursquare Rum, some have been better than others, but this one gets it all right. It will set you back around €75 and it’s worth every penny. It can be purchased here, and I’d suggest that you do as it’s a limited run.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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.

The Barbados GI & Why It Will NOT Threaten Diversity & Innovation

There has been talk within Rum circles and Facebook Forums about the proposed Barbados and recently completed Jamaican GI, and how there are concerns that this may stifle innovation and quell diversity. The following is the ‘as written’ response to this fallacy by Richard Seale which he has kindly agreed to allow me to publish in its entirety….and it is the best thing that you’ll read on the subject. Enjoy.

THE PROTECTION OF BARBADOS RUM

As Jamaica has completed their Geographical Indication for “Jamaican Rum” and Barbados moves to completion of their GI, it becomes increasingly important to dispel the canards around this important process.

With rum we have many canards – rum has no rules – rum is diverse and varied because of this wonderful lack of rules. Unlike other spirits, we are told Rum has no “global rules”. And that there are efforts to have a global rule which will crush our diversity.

See my takedown of this here – https://cocktailwonk.com/2017/08/richard-seales-epic-takedown-rum-no-rules.html

A recent canard is that a GI (a registered intellectual property) is a further threat to this diversity and a threat to “innovation”.

The irony of this situation is that a GI seeks to preserve and protect this diversity. It is the essential tool by which this is accomplished. And the dreaded fear of selling rum under one “unified” rule is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS NOW AND IS PRECISELY WHAT A GI WILL SOLVE.

If Caribbean producers sell rum into the US, it is not the standards of identity (“the rules”) of Jamaica, Martinique or Barbados that apply. It is the rules of the United States TTB that apply. That is right, despite being from three very different and diverse rum producing countries, they will be sold in the US under the same ONE rule. This means that although AGAINST THE LAW OF JAMAICA to add anything to rum besides caramel a Jamaica Rum can be sold in the US with added flavours including sugar (and labeled as Jamaican Rum) because the generic rule for Rum sold in the US allows blenders to be added to any rum.

But the situation is very different for the spirits produced by developed countries. The United States TTB will enforce the rules of Scotland for a Scotch Whisky sold in the US. The United States TTB will enforce the rules of Cognac for a Cognac sold in the US. The US will not protect a Jamaican Rum or a Barbadian Rum from adulteration in the US. The US does not control the use of the word ‘Agricole’ in the US market leading to all sorts of hideous products, not remotely consistent with the standards of ‘Agricole’ being legally labeled as Agricole

Now the US does not directly recognise GIs so creating a GI alone will not be enough to solve this issue in the US but the US illustrates the challenge of protecting our diversity very well and the GI will be the necessary first step.

The same situation applies in the EU save for the fact that the EU does recognise some GIs at this point (for example the word Agricole is protected) and it is hoped that they will recognise the GIs of Jamaican and Barbados in due course. At the moment, a Jamaica Rum and a Barbados Rum are sold in the EU under one and the same EU rule. If the EU recognises our individual GIs, it means that a Barbados Rum sold in the EU will need to meet “Barbados Rules” and a Jamaica Rum will need to meet “Jamaica Rules”. That diversity everyone wants will be protected – that dreaded ‘global rule’ for rum, avoided.

Because the EU recognises the GI for Scotch Whisky, the additional requirements to meet the standards of identity for Scotch Whisky over the EU generic standard for whisky are recognised and the label “Scotch Whisky” is protected throughout the EU. The GI for Jamaica Rum and the draft GI for Barbados pose additional requirements, over and above the generic EU definition of Rum (the “one” rule) to protect and preserve the characteristic identity of these rums. The GI is the tool by which we will protect our diversity. The GI is the tool by which we avoid having to produce under one “global rule”.

What of the claim that a GI stifles innovation?

Lets be clear as to what exactly is innovation. Marketing gimmicks that do not add value are not innovations. Changing the elements of repute in a Jamaica Rum or a Barbados Rum is not innovation. A GI is not a legal restraint on a producer. All producers continue to operate under the existing laws. A GI is a piece of intellectual property protecting how a type of “trademark” can be used – it places no law whatsoever on production. It constrains no one from producing as they please. It constrains them from labeling as they please. A Jamaican musician can play any tune just do not expect it to be called reggae unless it sounds like reggae.

So what are these innovation stifling constraints in the Barbados and Jamaica GIs:

– Barbadian trained operators

– fermented and distilled in Barbados/Jamaica

– Saccharomyces types only for yeast

– local water source only

– free of additives except caramel which must only be used for colour (Barbados draft GI has a quantitative albeit generous limit on caramel) – the same restriction in Scotch

– minimum ester levels for Jamaica rum (by marque)

– aged in oak (“small” is the Jamaica requirement, 700 litres maximum for Barbados)

– aged entirely in Jamaica (a min of two years in Barbados).

– Jamaica rum must pass an organoleptic test

I will address the wisdom of “restricting to oak” in another post, save to say that is hardly onerous and Scotch Whisky has the same “restriction”. There is a plethora of excellent oak casks available for “innovation”. One obvious point is that it keeps a point of difference between rum and cachaca and preserves an important distinction in our social and economic history.

Aging is Europe is a product of the colonial way of doing business where only limited value was earned in the colonies and product whether it be sugar, rum or bauxite was to be shipped at the lowest commodity value. Bulk brown sugar would leave the Caribbean in the ship’s hold but arrive on the supermarket shelf as branded granulated sugar. Bulk molasses sold as branded ‘treacle” once on the shelf.

The advent of continental aging therefore had nothing whatsoever to do with product quality and it is absurd as ageing Scotch Whisky in southern Spain. It simply steals value from the local producers leaving rich European brands and decrepit local operations. The Barbados GI arguably does not go far enough. Bravo to Jamaica – this “restraint” is worth millions in forex earnings. A greater share of what you pay for that bottle of rum ends up in the Caribbean with “restraints” like this.

Conforming Rums must (may?) use the words “certified Geographical Indication” on all documents including labels. Non conforming rums can be made but they will not be able to simply state “Jamaican Rum” or “Barbados Rum” and most importantly – “the use of any indication or sign which may cause a buyer to believe that a rum has the right to use the protected Geographical Indication “Jamaica Rum”, although it does not satisfy all the conditions defined in the present decree will be prosecuted”.

You cannot sell your product under another’s brand because of trademark law and you cannot sell your product under another’s protected origin because of intellectual property law. You add something to Jamaica Rum – it is no longer Jamaican Rum – that is the law of the land of Jamaica. A recognised Jamaican GI means you cannot avoid Jamaican law by selling in Europe. No more selling pure rum as “dry style rum” and sweetened rum as “rum”. In Jamaica and Barbados, rum without added sweetener is just known as rum. I have never in my life heard any Jamaican or Barbadian call it “dry style” rum. Would I dare go to Scotland and call all whiskies “dry style”? Who am I to dictate that.

So you can continue to flavour Jamaica Rum you just cannot label it in a way that may cause confusion to the buyer that they have purchased certified Jamaica Rum. The diversity and identity, created by Jamaicans, will now be protected.

Europeans created the concept of protected origins and it is used extensively by developed countries to develop and protect the intrinsic value of their products in export markets. Our time is now.

We and fellow Barbadian owned producer St Nicholas Abbey are on the record as supporting the Barbados GI as drafted.

The EU generic rule for Rum for which all Rums need to comply

The generic US TTB rule for Rum for which all Rums irrespective of origin need to comply

The US recognises and applies different rules for different types of Whisky. No such recognition for Rum – so a Rum labeled Agricole in the US need not even be from fresh juice

The US TTB will enforce the rules of different origins for different spirits but not for Rum. Even Canadian Whisky is protected.

A GI is a form of Intellectual Property – it is not a law constraining how Rum can be made

The EU will recognise GIs – they must then comply with the rules they submit through their technical file

The EU will protect a registered GI. Scotch is a GI and so Scotch sold in the EU must match the rules in the Scotch technical file, it is not enough to conform to the generic EU rule for whisky

The EU does protect some GIs for Rum. We hope to add Barbados and Jamaica to this list

An example of Cognac applying to New Zealand to say protect our origin. We need to do the same for Rum and the GI is the first step. Diversity can then be protected.

The Scotch Whisky technical file details the difference between the rules of Scotch and the generic whisky rule of the EU. They add further detail to this page.

To gain a recognised GI in the EU, a technical file must be submitted.

Jamaica has an organoleptic test requirement for its GI

I personally find it hard to understand why anyone that has an interest in the future and protection of the Rums and the people of Barbados would ever not think that the Barbados GI is an essential thing.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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 Destino – Single Blended Rum – Velier 70th Anniversary Edition

This post has a certain air of inevitability. I was always going to try my best to obtain a bottle of this Rum in one guise or another….

As quite a few of my Foursquare articles have started recently, let me take you back to March 2017 in Barbados. Monday’s are not famed for being great days….but this one as you’ll see was very different. It was mid-afternoon on Monday 27th March and we were stupidly late for our rendezvous with Richard and Gayle at Foursquare Distillery. Traffic wasn’t great, and we had stopped off to grab a Roti and a refreshing drink on the way to Foursquare….when I say we, I am talking about Me, my wife Barnali and our friends Ivar and Mariangela. We toured the distillery again (our second time on this trip), with Richard being kind enough to take us around again…..We tasted fresh from the still Rum, Ivar climbed to the top of the Coffey Still enclosure and we got up close and personal with the barrel houses whilst watching the new one being constructed in front of us. The smell of those places, the aroma of Rum, the barrels stacked in their different positions, labelled to keep full track of their location and contents, the sunlight shining through the cracks in the building and highlighting the dust particles in the air……Experiences like that cannot be truly conveyed to others fully. You have to experience it. It’s an assault on the senses and a real heart skipper when I think back and look at my photographs….again. But to Richard and the guys busy beavering around and getting on with their tasks, this is just another working day.

It’s almost as if they’ve been doing it for over 300 years in Barbados…..

Allow me if you will….again….to take you to the Foursquare Distillery tasting room come boardroom and its bountiful contents. Ivar had just been given his wings (in the Guardians of Rum sense) and we were trying Triptych and Principia. Then Richard disappears for a second and brings back a 200ml labelled flask……’this is Destino’ we were told……..It found its way into our glasses…..

Destino Flask

I only made brief notes on my phone on the day as my excitement levels had peaked…..but they comprised the following:

iPhone Notes

Short and sweet I know, but I was taken aback. This was an experience of a lifetime.

Flash forward almost 10 months and a friend and avid reader of the site was able to secure me a bottle of the Velier 70th Anniversary Edition Destino at retail price…..and sold it to me for zero profit. That is what a large percentage of Rum obsessives are like…..they don’t want to hoard and sell….they want to share experiences and help others share experiences.

Foursquare Destino – Single Blended Rum – Velier 70th Anniversary Edition – 61% abv

Destino translates from Spanish as “Destiny or Fate”……perhaps it was Richards destiny that he would produce something like this? Now the anniversary edition, apart from being a release of 600 bottles taken from two barrels was as a response to Luca wanting Foursquare to make an old Rum for the Velier 70th Anniversary. Richard not being one for cliches and anniversary bottlings agreed to have a differently labelled small quantity run of Destino. Everyone is a winner.

As you can see above, the abv did change from the 62% that we tried. This Rum is a Single Blended Rum…a blend of pot and traditional coffey column still Rum. A minimum of 14 years old, this release has seen a full 12 years tropical maturation in ex-Madeira barrels and a further 2 years in barrels that have previously been used for the maturation of Rum……so a ‘Rum finished Rum’ if you will…..though as we know….Foursquare Distillery don’t do finishes…..its double maturation. So, how does this Rum taste? Did Foursquare Distillery manage to keep track of the barrels, move their position and stop them from leaking for just long enough to fluke a win?

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a completely irrelevant (colour is not our guide) deep, dark bronze. Quite oily and clingy when swirled, the Rum also has an olive-green halo where it contacts the glass. The slightest tingle of alcohol vapour disappears in an instant and the Rum jumps from the glass and into the room. A beautifully focused and robust oak arrives first, a deep dark brooding oak with a tinge of bitterness. Pencil shavings and the heady aromas of the rummy oak from the aforementioned trip around the barrel houses. A hint of acetone. Stone fruit…plump ripe blackberries, blackcurrants and a little acidity. Light and non intrusive vanilla is accompanied by dark chocolate notes. A little tannic, but never distractingly so. It’s a very giving Rum that delivers with confidence. Wet corrugated cardboard. Manuka honey. More dark, powdery cocoa. Dusty books. Walnuts. Nothing is rushed here. Time has played its part and the resultant Rum is a joy to sit with. It’s quite difficult to not dig right in, but you’ll be missing out on so much by not giving it time, uncovered, in the glass. It raises a wide smile when considering just how approachable this robust and punchy Rum is.

Mouth: The initial sip is an explosion of juicy hedgerow berries. You’d also never peg this as 61%, such is the level of integration that the alcohol has. There is a sharp bite of gooseberry followed by the rich buttery base of a homemade cheesecake. The mouthfeel is such that your palate is dominated by homemade blackcurant and raspberry jam….dark stewed fruit. It’s incredibly rich. Victoria plum freshness is backed by the sticky bitterness of dried prunes that helps to announce the almost sweet and juicy oaken notes on the mid-palate. This soft, chewy oak dries in a wave over the sides of your tongue and brings a pleasing bitter note. This clears the way for toasted coconut, rich velvety dark chocolate and vanilla. The bitterness that fleets in and out is reminiscent of so many long aged Velier Demeraras. The long, rich finish starts with the nip of tart fruit and homemade jam before the drying oak brings salted liquorice, molasses and buttered chewy malt loaf. You’re left with a beautiful interplay of dark stewed fruit and oak that you can almost chew. Right at the back-end there’s something floral and almost perfumed before the trademark apricot vapours announce themselves. You just have to pour more….which is why I’m halfway down the bottle.

5 / 5

This Rum is so much better than a 5…….But 5 is all that I have to numerically display my appreciation…..perhaps the below can expand on this number….

So there we have it. This is seriously impressive stuff. A real kicking up of gears for Foursquare and a foray into new territory as this may be their oldest Rum matured fully in their own facility….and it is without a shadow of a doubt the best Rum that Foursquare Distillery has produced to date. It just has so much going on. I’m still discovering new things to write about even as I’m wrapping up this review. It has layers of complexity that unfold in front of you. Depth beyond anything they’ve produced previously. The bar that I said Principia had set, has once again been raised. Destino is bottled proof that if you know what you’re doing you can produce something honestly, with integrity and grace that flattens all in its path. There is no quick fix…this is knowledge and good old fashioned time. Foursquare has its production methods rooted firmly in the tradition of the 300 odd years of Rum making on the island of Barbados that preceded it, but their techniques are refined to a point where this kind of stuff is becoming effortless for the distillery.

This is a legacy Rum.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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 Principia Single Blended Rum – Early Thoughts

Now I’ve not been fortunate enough to obtain a bottle of Principia yet…..I do however have a generous friend that visited an even more generous distillery owner in late December and I now have about 25-30ml of Principia to bring you my initial thoughts. We were fortunate enough to first try Principia when we visited Foursquare Distillery in March 2017 and were instantly blown away. We then had another chance to try it over two days at the UK RumFest in October 2017 and were further impressed. Now it has been bottled and I assume shipped over to Velier in Italy, we can hopefully look to obtain a few of the available 5400 bottles.

Principia Sample – Foursquare Distillery, March 2017

Foursquare Principia Single Blended Rum – 62% abv

Luca and Richard…You can clearly see the amazement in Luca’s eyes – UK RumFest 2017

Principia is another result of Foursquares ‘double maturation’. It is a Single Blended Rum that has seen 3 years in ex-bourbon barrels and then 6 years in very old Oloroso barrels. No ‘finishes’ here. It’s quite standard for Foursquare to use Oloroso barrels but its their double maturation technique and the length of time that they are left to mature in those differing barrels that Foursquare do so well. It’s all just so well judged and must have taken a hell of a lot of foresight given the list of upcoming releases from the distillery. So without further ado…..

Tasting Notes

Glass: The colour is dark burnt amber. Oily citrus bursts out of the glass. A very apparent oak. Pencil shavings. Spice and black pepper. The oak is the backbone dragging with it deep dark stone fruit. As noted on my very first tasting back in March 2017, this is very full but so soft and approachable. A bag of mixed fruit and hazelnuts. Burnt toffee and the mildest hint of milk chocolate.

Mouth: It sings on initial entry. Its all that you want it to be. A classically crafted Foursquare sweetness gently wraps itself around your tongue bringing with it its robust but surprisingly soft sherried wood. Don’t think sherry as in the massive taste of sherry….its no hybrid abomination…far from it. Very old Oloroso barrels have been used and its the seasoned quality of the wood that is being sought, not necessarily heavy sherry influence. A jar of homemade blackberry and raspberry jam and the tartness of Ikea Lingonberry preserve. It has real grip as the oak begins to dominate the mid-palate….but its never aggressive…in fact quite the opposite. Its moisture sapping yet fruity and the alcohol is so well-integrated in the grand scheme of things that you would never guess this was 62%…2006 shows its heft way more than this. Tannic and peppery with plums, dried prunes and hazelnuts. It has a persistent oak led finish that grows in heat and dryness. Dried fruit and nuts abound. Even the empty glass is a delight to smell.

To be revisited, initial impression score………..

Yep….Its maybe the best, most complete Single Blended Rum that I’ve tried to date…though I think that Destino may offer up some resistance.

To be honest, Richard has taken Single Blended Rum production and innovation to a point now where he’s only competing with himself. It’s a competition between Foursquare Distillery releases to see which can be the best one…..and that changes with every subsequent raising of the bar. For now, that mantle falls to Principia…its the real deal.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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

An Interview with Nikos Arvanitis – Rum Traveller

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

Nikos Arvanitis will be familiar to most of my Facebook Rum forum frequenting audience. He’ll also be more than familiar to Rum Festival attendees throughout Europe. In fact his biography reads very well:

Nikos Arvanitis has been working as a bartender since 2006. Rum is his passion and his desire to understand it led him to the Caribbean. Living in Barbados and using this island as his base, he has visited 30 islands of the tropical zone of the “West Indies” and over 45 distilleries and sugarcane fields, both active and inactive. His journey is still on, it will soon be reflected on paper and he has named it “From the West Indies to the World”.

Nikos Arvanitis through his travels and speeches is trying to spread the traditional production process of Rum and the culture of the Caribbean people.

He is a member in the jury panel and an instructor in rum presentation, in several European Rum Festivals (Berlin, Paris, Poland, Greece, Spain etc.) and bar shows.

Instructor of Rum in Bar Academy Hellas

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On a personal level, I have known Nikos for around three years and during that time we have conversed a lot about life, Rum and everything in between. During our period of friendship I have seen Nikos grow into a very well-respected spokesman for Rum and an evangelist for the history and tradition that exists within the Caribbean. More recently he has become a very active independent spokesperson for the Gargano / Seale Classification and a campaigner and activist for Pure Rum and raising the category in general.

I was fortunate enough to meet Nikos earlier this year in his natural habitat….a Rum distillery. The distillery in question was Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and it was also my first Rum Distillery visit. We chatted for a while, walked through the distillery with Richard and sampled untold delights in the Foursquare Tasting Room. We also shared a pretty eventful taxi ride with him.

Open and honest is all that I have known from Nikos and I’m giving his full, unedited responses to my questions. No cutting, snipping or leaving out of any detail. Hopefully you’ll see that his responses relay the passion that he has and the high regard in which he holds Rum as the true essence of the Caribbean and its people.

1 – For those that may not already be familiar with you and your work, explain to them what your project “From the West Indies to the World” is about.

From the West Indies to the World

It’s a personal project including photos, thoughts and notes for the real side of Caribbean islands and the connection between the locals and the Rum, through the eyes of the unknown reality.

Sugar cane fields, unknown dead estates, Rum Distilleries and traditional Rums.

In short, it’s my lonely trip-wandering in the tropic zone of the West Indies. Personal experiences, emotionally charged stories, culture, people. I don’t travel the easy way. I’m visiting places that they are really inaccessible to many white people and also I organized the 95% from all these trips myself, without sponsors, companies etc. The final collection of these experiences is the reason that this project is born, and due to that, I don’t focus only the to rum and the production process..

I’m not an author / writer and I do not even want to be. I just have the feeling and the belief that the experiences created to share. This project is an extension of me and the opposite.

The ultimate goal of my project is to make as many people as possible respect and fall in love with the Caribbean, the local culture, the people and finally the distilleries that are keeping alive and  unchanged the traditional production process of the spirit we love the most.

2 – Your travels are followed by and envied by many people….including me. One thing that often gets said to people like me is that to truly understand Rum and all that it is, you have to visit distilleries. Just how many countries and distilleries have you visited?

I would like to speak on a personal level without meaning that it’s either wrong or right. Yes, I clearly believe that if you don’t visit the Caribbean by yourself and the distilleries as well, it’s really difficult to understand rum. There’s a huge difference between the word ‘knowledge‘ and the word ‘understanding‘. Countless sites on the Internet with completely different opinions and misleading information, distributors, companies and ambassadors talk about rum and they’ve never touched sugarcane in their life. So there is misinformation and false information about rum. When I visited the distilleries I acquired a complete image, totally different to the one I had before. And yes, I was reading and attending seminars. But I figured that it wasn’t enough. It was like I was going inside the glass and becoming one with rum. Of course, it is important that the people of the distilleries are also honest with you. I was lucky (and a pain in the ass for them)

I have visited in total 30 islands of the Caribbean tropic zone. The number of distilleries is 45 out of 50. My last trip was in Haiti and trust me, Haiti is a unique situation. It’s a category by itself.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

3 – I personally see you as a direct link to Rum producers that are not active on social media and have little to no online presence. Do you think that your relationship with these Rum producers is vital in bringing the plight of forgotten and overlooked distilleries such as the Callwood Distillery in the BVI and River Antoine in Grenada into the spotlight?

The first time I saw distilleries like the ones you mentioned, I said to myself, “I will spread all over the world about these distilleries-Caribbean’s heritage”.
I saw this subject in a very romantic tone. It is truly a shame that 90% of the whole world does not even know the existence of wonderful rums like these. But the most important thing is that they do not know the passion, the love and respect that the people who surround distilleries have for their rums. Their existence is the link between the past and the present. And if you do forget the past, the heritage and the history, the future is cloudy and uncertain…

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

4 – Apart from your project and the Rum, what continues to drive you to travel to these places?

People. Certainly people. The human relationships that I created there are by far the most important school of my life. They changed my worldview. I’m not the same person as I used to be before. At least I do not act and think the same way.

I adore the warm climate. I don’ really like the cold and I am freezing really quick and easy. I am not really sure if I will survive this winter in Paris. Hahahaha. Yeah, Paris is going to be my base for the following year(s)…

Finally, the word “vibe“. I can’t explain this feeling in a few words. It’s something much deeper. The vibe in the tropic zone makes me happy and above all, I’m 100% myself. Something I have never experienced before in the big European countries even in my own country, where the friendship and human relationships are in the second or even third fate. Unfortunately…

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

5 – You’re a firm advocate of the proposed Gargano / Seale Classification. Explain the classification for those that may not be aware of it. Why you feel that it is so important?

Usually, my presentations for this matter last like 4 hours…..So I believe it’s a little bit difficult to explain in a few words.

Yes, I am a 100% supporter of this wonderful classification. It was the middle of 2014 I think when Richard (Seale) firstly introduced me to this classification in one of my weekly visits to Foursquare distillery. When I saw the classification I told to myself: “Yes, this is the only way to have a better and promised future for the category of Rum, to put things in a row and first of all to give Rum the respect it deserves”. Two years later I found Luca (Gargano) in one of his trips in Barbados. He also helped me understand the classification. So, my communication with the two most influential persons of the Rum world plus my personal research was the common link for the final result…..to spread this classification all over the world.

This Classification focuses to the type of the producer, the type of the still and of course at the distillery statement. I believe that this last thing is the biggest problem in Rum. The 70% of rums of the global market haven’t got a distillery statement. This is really bad.

This classification it’s not about what’s good and what’s bad. Tasty or not. Originally, it’s a chronological order of the history of distillation and is based on facts. There is a separation between the traditional production process and the modern.  This doesn’t mean that tradition overtakes modern methods, but we surely have to have a different approach to an original artisanal Rum from an industrial one.

Finally, some people say that this classification is a copy of the Whisky’s classification. This is not true, not at all and please if you don’t understand the role of the classification, don’t judge. Open your mind and be more Caribbean…I am always open for conversations about this subject, contact me and it would be my pleasure to help you have better understanding about the classification.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

6 – Your time spent with Rum producers has seen you spearheading the important job of communicating the classification through your interactions on social media and your presentations to industry and consumers. Do you see knowledge of the classification spreading throughout the community to the point that there is a basic understanding already when you talk to the industry and consumers?

First of all I really need to share with you that NONE of the producers ever told me what to say in my presentations or to promote specific Rums (I am not a f****n promoter or brand ambassador and I will never be). I was In Berlin some weeks ago and someone came to me and said that: “You promote the rums of your friends distilleries”. This is not true. I love to promote the Rums I love and the distilleries who still respect the Caribbean’s heritage and tradition. It’s true that I have a personal connection with many distilleries like Worthy Park, Foursquare and others but this connection is more a friendship and match to our beliefs than a business. The people out there who know me personally, know this much better than anyone. The situation with the association is something new but all of us used to fight about the traditional production process of the Rum many years ago, but our voice is heard by a lot of people only in the last 2-3 years. The customers really want to know more about the Rum and this is wonderful. The promise I am giving is that I will always act 100% as Nick and I will do the best to raise the category of the Rum.

7 – A large proportion of the Rum producers appear to fear the classification. Why do you think that is?

From my point of view, the main reason is that they initially believe that if they accept this sort of classification, it is like neglecting what they say so many years about their products on the market. I think that they are only interested in the rise of their own label and not rum as a spirit. We all have to understand that sales cannot go up in a particular bottle if the category is not developed in general. You cannot deny that tradition, not least the complicated production process of rum, should not go into the same sink as modern industrial products. They cannot have the same prices and above all the word “artisanal” on their bottle. So yes, I think they initially think of their sales which is not true because if the rum is classified and developed in general, this will be a good thing for everyone. Speaking so much time for the world market, I will give a personal example from my own country that reflects what I have said. See it as a miniature of the market.

Ambassadors who have never touched a still, have not bitten sugar cane, have never walked in the Caribbean, have not spoken to locals and have not understood the rum, continue to promote products that are in the company’s portfolio, for which you do not know the existence of the distillery (which of course does not exist), so-called spiced easy rums and pure alcohol full of flavors and sweeteners, industrial products that have nothing to do with the history of the island are being produced. How do you orient yourself in the market by telling lies and having the main goal of selling your own only products and at the same time looking for the good for the future of rum? It can not be done. Quite simply because there is no love for rum and the Caribbean but love for your dominance in the market and the word “monopoly“.

The shawls have no pockets. What is the essence if you are not faithful to your values ​​and your beliefs as a person and you adapt to what the system imposes on you…?

8 – Do you think that the Classification will ever become industry standard?

I am very optimistic and positive as a human and yeah man, I believe that it will. Already you can see a great rise of the artisanal Rum in the global market and this is wonderful and makes me very happy. But I don’t like to use the world “industry” next to the word “Rum“. Let’s use another term: “The World of Rum” is much better I think.

From me and my team, there is a promise that we will do all we can to build strong foundations in this classification and we will fight for it through presentations, seminars, articles etc. What is the essence of human being as if you haven’t got something to fight for??

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

9 – Do you think that having a Geographical Indication for Rum production will become the natural progression?

Yes, I believe that this is the path. Jamaica for example, is fighting about this. But I would like to make a general statement on this really important subject.

In Jamaica we have distilleries that make completely different rum in a totally different way. In particular, it’s not possible to consider a pure single rum from Worthy Park or Hampden with that of Clarendon. Yes, these three distilleries take place in the same island, they are all Jamaican, but the Rums are completely different. The production process as well. In Clarendon they use a small amount of Rum from Batch distillation. The majority of the final blend is coming from distillation in Multi column ethyl alcohol plant. This does not happen in the first two distilleries I mentioned earlier. So, I say that simply saying Jamaican Rum is not enough because there is diversity within Jamaican Rum.

They all rely on some common elements in the production process, but at the end of the day the final products are completely different. So, just the world Jamaican Rum I don’t feel that it’s enough.

There must be also control to the independent bottlers with no distillery statement. I’m tasting very often rums like these, let’s say a Barbadian Rum, and this rum has nothing to do with the traditional rums of the island. The same happens also with other bottlings. Personally, I find it unacceptable to add sweeteners, aromas and other extras that literally do not respect the distillery, the history and the heritage of the island, and also the tradition, except some special situations. Of course, the majority of these independent bottles haven’t got distillery statement on the labels and at the same time they say that they choose personally the best barrels from the distilleries. They didn’t .They just bought these rums from other companies. Be careful with the false marketing terms. I really would like to see better control and balance between the distilleries and the independent bottlers in future. If the rum is not even close to the character of the distillery and the distillery bottlings, don’t give the permission to the independent companies to make the bottling. The master distiller has to taste the rum and if he agrees, enter the name of the distillery and his signature. So everyone cannot bottle whatever they want. Quite honestly, I believe this.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

So there we have it…..an amazing amount of passion and a completely open forum for Nikos to give his true, unedited opinions.

I’d like to personally take this opportunity to thank Nikos again for his agreement to undertake this interview and I hope that I have given him the platform which he deserves.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. 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