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.

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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.

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.

A GI for Barbados Rum

I awoke this morning to more informative text from Richard Seale regarding the Barbados GI. I had previously posted regarding the Barbados GI here. Below in full is the information that I awoke to this morning addressing key points and presenting the agreed position of Mount Gay, St Nicholas Abbey and Foursquare.

A GI for Barbados Rum

A GI is intended to:

– protect the name of Barbados Rum in export markets by having the standards applied at home recognised in those markets.
– codify those standards so that they will be maintained to protect the reputation of Barbados Rum
– link the essential characteristics of Barbados Rum to its geographical origin.

The latter sometimes causes confusion. There are two types of GI – A PDO like AOC Martinique Agricole which absolutely requires the sugar cane grown in Martinique or a PGI like Scotch Whisky which allows imported grain but demands other ties to the geography e.g. water and climate of aging.

The geographical link also provides the economic motive behind establishing a GI – to ensure the economic return from a product is earned within the region.

Attached is the unified position of Mount Gay, St Nicholas Abbey and Foursquare. We have worked carefully together and given our inputs to the local authority. Not everything here is in latest draft but we are confident in our work being recognised. It has been a joy to work with the team from Mount Gay and Larry from St Nicholas Abbey.

Also attached are the relevant clauses from the EU regulations. This shows that it is an indispensable requirement of registration that essential characteristics of the product be derived from its geographical origin.

I think it is unfortunate (and disrespectful of the local authorities) that the draft GI has been subjected to criticism in front of foreign audiences. Once you understand the position of MG/SNA/FS in the context of the meaning of a GI and its registration requirements, you will see the criticism is disingenuous, misleading and self-serving.

YEAST
Yeast is not restricted to Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. The exogenous ADDITION is restricted to Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. Not that this is much of a restriction – 99%+ of all wines and spirits out there are made from the thousands of available strains of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. All native yeasts are in fact allowed. This includes several species besides Saccharomyces Cerevisiae.

It is important to understand the history behind this. Until the modern era, all rum fermentations proceeded exclusively from native yeasts. The addition of exogenous yeast brought efficiency and flavour control at the expense of aromatic diversity. That horse has bolted, added yeast is here to stay. But restricting non Saccharomyces yeast to native yeasts we are preserving a link to our geography and to our history.

WATER
It is imperative in order to maintain the link between Barbados Rum and its Geography that water is restricted to Barbados Water. It is also easy to understand if you know our history. Barbados was able to dominate early sugar and rum making because of our access to water compared to our volcanic neighbours. I have attached a perspective from Mount Gay on the issue.

STILLS
There is no restriction on stills in the Barbados GI. All batch and continuous stills are allowed. Distillation proof is restricted to 95% abv and copper must be used. *(Note the chamber still referred to in the counter arguments. Batch and Continuous is the language used, not Pot and Column)*RDB

SUGAR
Sugar is not added by any Barbados blender. No indigenous brand uses addition of sugar. In fact in a world of sweetened rum, indigenous Barbados Rums stand out for not using sugar syrup. A GI must reflect that. Adding sugar to Barbados rum weakens the diversity of rum.

CARAMEL
Caramel (e150a) has been used in Barbados rum for as long as anyone knows. It was not used to deceive people. Most Barbados Rum was sold unaged – “white rum” or “coloured rum” at the same price. So the GI allows caramel but with some constraints to avoid abuse.

AGING
Aging provides arguably the most essential characteristic of Barbados Rum in export markets. It would be ludicrous to CERTIFY a rum as Barbados Rum where one of the most influential stages of production takes place outside of Barbados. It is also the stage where the most of the value is added. It would be equally ludicrous to CERTIFY a product as from Barbados where most of the value is earned outside of Barbados.

OAK
This is more about protecting the reputation than geography. Until now the reputation of aged Barbados Rum has been derived from aging solely in oak. A GI is about protecting reputation not leaving it to the mercy of experiments. Our position has been cleverly crafted. We can venture outside of oak when it is proven. To simply allow “wooden casks” is unacceptable. The myriad of possibilities from oak is almost limitless. In practical terms this is no restriction at all.

A GI which allows a purported ‘Barbados Rum’ be made from imported molasses, non native yeasts, non native water and aged in another country is a farce and would never meet the requirements of registration.

It should be well noted that a GI does not prevent non compliant Rum being made in Barbados. Article 14 (attached) contemplates that in the modern era stages of production may take place in different regions. A rum distilled in Barbados that meets the basic EU standard is still legal to sell as rum. And if it is aged in France and has special sugar syrup (made with French know-how) added, it is no longer a certified Barbados Rum but it is entirely legal and appropriate if it is called French Rum.

Every distiller wants to make the best they can but when the inputs are no longer Barbados inputs (or Barbados traditions) – it moves from away from being a Barbados Rum to being a Rum.

This is a “restriction” that holds no fear for a Barbados born distiller or blender.

The Unified Position of Mount Gay, St Nicholas Abbey and Foursquare Rum Distillery

Clauses from the EU regulations demonstrating that it is an indispensable requirement of registration that essential characteristics of the product be derived from its geographical origin

Counter Argument Criticism of the GI Proposals

Information Presented by Mount Gay

Article 14 contemplates that in the modern era, stages of production may take place in different regions

All eyes are on the progression of this fundamental and vital weapon in the arsenal of the Barbadian producers to protect their heritage.

© 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

R. L. Seale’s Finest Barbados Rum – Export Proof

A relatively short one today as this is a re-review of sorts…..R.L Seale’s Finest Barbados Rum, or R.L Seale’s 10 as I’ve previously called it and how others know it has been around for a while and for me has been one of the most classic examples of Barbados Rum available. Numerous members of the Rum Community have sung its praises on multiple occasions….in fact I’d rate it on any list of ‘must have’ bottles for Rum lovers both new and old. You can read my rather basic summation of the bottle in its previous 43% abv guise here. You only have to scroll through the pages here to understand the high regard in which I hold Foursquare Distillery……But let’s dig into it.

R.L Seale’s Finest Barbados Rum – Export Proof – 46% abv – Single Blended Rum

What you have in the quite unique and very recognisable blue-bottle is a Single Blended rum. A blend of Coffey Column and Pot Still rum from Foursquare Distillery. It is a minimum of ten years old and has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels. It is a Classic Foursquare proposition and one that I enjoyed multiple bottles of in its 43% iteration. I was quite excited to see it released as a 46% products, I had no real issue with it at 43% as it always delivered just what I was looking for….classic Barbados. But it’s always nice to get that little uplift to see how it affects the overall experience and Richard is not one to do these things on a whim, there will have been thought and reasoning behind it. I had forgotten about this bottling for a while, as if often the way. But over the course of the past few months I have found myself reaching for it more and more frequently….so I thought that a re-visit was on the cards.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Classic Foursquare and classic Barbados. Vanilla. Caramel. Buttery pastries. A warming, well-integrated yet spicy wood influence. Growing powdery cocoa and a hint of coconut. The oak brings a touch of black pepper and nutmeg. A hint of raisins and citrus peel. More time in the glass reveals freshly cut apple, sugared almonds and the mildest floral top notes. Beautiful stuff.

Mouth: Beautifully dry entry but along with the obvious oak and vanilla it brings a sweetness of coconut and milk chocolate. Raisins and mixed fruit peel. Maybe a touch of citrus oil. The mid palate is all about the commanding oak. It is very drying and brings with it some welcome spice notes like cinnamon and white pepper. Flamed orange oils. It also brings a buttery pastry like quality and a hint of almond tart. Warm crème brûlée. The finish brings a little crisp apple and some raisins, maybe juicy plums before the oak and particularly the warming spiced barrel notes lead you off into the sunset. Classic Foursquare peach vapours at the death. It is both robust and gentle whilst remaining approachable.

4.5 / 5

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 46% – Measured abv 46% – 0 g/l additives*

I had decanted and saved a small bottle of my 43% release at there was crossover with this release. Assessing it side by side I note that there does not appear to be as much caramel colour added to the new release…it is more of a straw gold…don’t let the image fool you. I also noted that this 46% release is not as wood heavy on the nose or the palate and its better for it. It just delivers more of everything…..and here’s the real killer….it is still available for between £35 and £40 in the UK.

Things are changing for Foursquare though, they are very much in the ascendancy with the Exceptional Cask Series and their collaborations with Velier….but this exposure and acclaim has been earned by producing such consistently good releases such as R.L Seale’s, the Doorly’s range and my particular favourite, Old Brigand. This bottling remains as classic an example of Barbados Rum, and Foursquare Distillery as you’ll find.

© 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.

Diablesse Caribbean Rum

New Rum brands are popping up everywhere…..and here is another…..but I have a little more knowledge about this one. Around two years ago I met brand owner Cleo Farman for lunch in South Manchester. She had contacted me as a result of a mutual friend suggesting that we discuss her ideas for bringing a new Rum blend to market. I had prepared a few of my own blends from my home stock for us to discuss at that initial meeting. There were a few real stand outs (for me) and a few were pretty ropey. Anyhow, we discussed distilleries and principles and the state of the industry from a consumer standpoint. As is often pointed out, we Rum Enthusiasts sometimes exist in an echo chamber whereby we are surrounded by similar views on what constitutes good Rum. My focus during discussions was on the formulation of an honest product, free from additives and nonsense. Cleo, who has previously owned multiple successful bars in Manchester happily agreed and listened as I rabbited on about the importance of not messing around with Rum. If you are doing it, do it justice. I sang the virtues of distilleries like Foursquare, Mount Gay, Worthy Park, Hampden and St Lucia Distillers and all of this information was absorbed. Things were going well and I was hopefully going to be more involved in the project but then due to personal issues (if you know, you know) in early May last year I had to back away and sort a few things out. Fortunately Cleo pursued the project and with the help of a few quality bar tending friends progressed with sourcing and trialing blends. Fast forward to early November 2018 and I met for lunch with Cleo again. In her hand she had the final blend. She also had a brand name and label images. In mid February I was able to purchase this creation from Master of Malt. I’d imagine this to be a pretty proud moment and reward for Cleo’s hard work….and financial outlay! Below is a little image that I took at the launch at Cottonopolis in Manchester…..one of the signature drinks is a quite awesome Roasted Banana Daiquiri. So we know that it plays very nicely in cocktails…..but what does it taste like?

Diablesse Caribbean Rum – 40% abv – Blended Rum

So here we have it. Diablesse Caribbean Rum. There is a marketing tale to accompany the Diablesse name but I’ll let you view the brand website for that. Presentation is in a nice heavy bottomed squat bottle….similar to the one that the excellent Woods has started using and from the wooden topped cork stopper to the label design and material its a pretty classy package. But its whats in the bottle that counts. This Rum is blend of three Rums. An 8-year-old Single Blended Rum from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, a 4-year-old Pure Single Rum from Worthy Park in Jamaica and a 2 year old Traditional Rum from the Enmore Coffey Still at DDL in Guyana. Proportions wise, though not deadly accurate, we have roughly 45% Barbados, 35% Jamaica and 20% Guyana. Along with the sourcing of credible Rums for the blend is the little note on the label……Pure, Golden Rum free from added sugar and other adulteration…..It is this principle that I put so much emphasis on during our early discussions….and the fact that it made such an impact on Cleo that it has made it to the label is very satisfying on a personal level.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A beautiful candied aroma. The Worthy Park definitely rules the early exchanges. Tropical fruit punch. Trademark overripe banana. Molasses. This leads into a char-grilled pineapple. The maturity of the Foursquare component brings coconut shavings and a warming, well-integrated oak with just a hint of spice notes from the barrel. Cocoa powder and vanilla fudge. Beautifully light marshmallow.

Mouth: Very soft and gentle entry. Butterscotch Angel Delight. Freshly sliced tropical fruit accompanied by a gooseberry like sharpness. Relatively thin mouthfeel and a little alcohol bite….but a touch of youthful exuberance never did any harm. Mid palate brings spice bun and mashed banana with just a sip of black tea before warming, peppery oak and vanilla hits home. Subsequent visits reveal more of the interplay between the banana of the Worthy Park and the well-integrated oak and classic peach vapours of Foursquare. The moderate length finish is warm and spice led with banana bread, dried cranberries, pineapple cubes and a little black pepper.

3.5/5

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 40% – Measured abv 40% – 0 g/l additives*

Price wise this sits at the higher end of standard at £37. Like Neptune which is the last top quality new brand that came before it, it is an economy of scale thing. But like that Rum, as sales increase, pricing may change. I’ve definitely spent a lot more on a less honest and poorer quality product. This is no-nonsense tasty blend of two of my favourite distilleries plus a little Enmore column still to lighten things up. It’s clear that Cleo cares about the Rum given her emphasis on no additives. I’d buy another, and I reckon that you should pick one up too.

© 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.

Berry Bros. and Rudd Hampden 17 Year Old 2000 Cask # 27 and Hampden 17 Year Old 2000 Cask # 54 The Whisky Barrel Exclusives

Hampden Estate will be familiar to any readers here as I have written about a few of their Rums. Information can be found here if you fancy a bit of background reading. It’s a place that I would love to visit, to see Rum making steeped in hundreds of years of history.

I want to get right into these bottles as there are two up for review today. Both are bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd and both are Exclusive to The Whisky Barrel. They are both from a distillation in 2000 which would make them potentially LROK giving them an ester level of 200-400 g/hl AA. Not excessively high….but as we know….elevated ethyl acetate is not the key driver to a good rum. Both of these Rums are available from The Whisky Barrel for just shy of £85 each…..for 17 year old Hampden’s…not too bad.

Berry Bros. and Rudd Hampden 17 Year Old 2000 Cask # 27 The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 57.2% abv – Pure Single Rum

Bottled at 57.2%, which we assume is cask strength, this release from Cask #27 saw 194 bottles.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Bright astringent ethyl acetate right away. Acidic sweet pineapple. Model glue. Varnish. Fruit is definitely a key facet to this rum with warm banana and a salty citrus oil backing up the pineapple. The sap from freshly sawn cedar…a memory that takes me back to making arrows in the shed at home as a child with my Dad. The freshness of pine mixed with menthol and eucalyptus. Something reminiscent of a new pair of suede trainers. Crazy stuff.

Mouth: Vibrant and sweet entry. It ticks all the relevant boxes. Pineapple. Banana. Tropical fruit leathers. Mango. Interestingly a bit of custard apple. In comes the savoury side of things on the mid palate led by a very well-integrated oak. Dry and peppery with spiced barrel notes. Olives. Brine. Salty crackers. Preserved lemons. Melting plastic makes an appearance. The long finish is spice led with the oak flexing its 17 years influence. Citrus, pineapple, play-dough, heavy acetone all sit in the mix. Quite a bit of peppery heat there too. It keeps your attention till the death. A hint of hazelnut and milk chocolate play off the oak. A lot to enjoy in here.

4.5 / 5

Berry Bros. and Rudd Hampden 17 Year Old 2000 Cask # 54 The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 58.1% abv – Pure Single Rum

Bottled at 58.1%, which again we assume is cask strength, this release from Cask #54 saw 189 bottles.

Tasting Notes

Nose: I know that technically these are sister barrels…..same marque….same year of distillation….same maturation period….but the initial aromas are very different to barrel #27. Dialled down ethyl acetate and acidity gives way to a more vegetal and wood dominated nose. There’s something dirty like potatoes freshly removed from the ground. The fruit is there, definitely there but it is a background note initially. Warm pineapple upside down cake. Turmeric. Window putty. Fennel seeds. Sticking plasters. Menthol. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Time allows the varnish and model glue to appear.

Mouth: Warming, sweet and quite refined…it is LROK I suppose. Fruit is here with pineapple, bananas, flamed orange peel. Dried tropical fruit….think mango, papaya and guava. Higher abv than cask #27 but it’s more approachable. Light brine and olives. The oak is a lot heavier in this sip on the mid palate. Far more spice from the wood. Fiery fresh ginger juice, a hint of Scotch bonnet and black pepper. Maybe even some allspice. Celery salt and fresh crunchy fennel. The finish is again….long. It’s far more savoury that the other cask though. Solid oak influence resplendent with all of the barrel spice notes mentioned. If the other cask was vibrant wood, this is a musty, older cask. Wet cardboard. Roasted stock vegetables with dominant celery. Good….but different.

4 / 5

Approachable cask strength Hampdens you say? Both great expressions of non tropically matured Hampdens….specifically the LROK marque. Not as intense as the tropically matured LROK that I have experienced but they’re both very good examples and both warrant a purchase if you have the funds. Cask # 27 is my favourite of the two given the profile consistency from nose to palate, but there is plenty to enjoy from the heavier wood influence on Cask #54.

© 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.

The Paulsen Collection Foursquare Vintage 1998

We’re back into it with another Foursquare. Some bottle hunters are seeking the ‘unicorn’ Exceptional Cask Release I, more commonly known as Foursquare 1998. Bottles are rare with Gayle Seale herself having to pick them up from property auctions in Barbados. They do exist in the wild but sightings are rare and can be very expensive. So what we have here in this Paulsen Collection bottling is that very same ‘unicorn’, but perhaps without the rainbow mane and golden horn…..maybe just dressed as a regular old horse. It was available until recently quite readily and I believe it may still be available in Europe. I gained a bottle a while back as a present from my wife, I then subsequently picked up another 2 bottles from Richard Blesgraaf over in Holland. Less than 50 Euros per bottle I think.

Now you will be fully aware reading these pages that I enjoy Foursquare Rums, a quick click here will link to quite a few articles on their products to get your juices flowing about the place. Anyhow, let’s get into it.

The Paulsen Collection Foursquare Vintage 1998 – 40% abv – Traditional Rum

This Rum is, amazingly, the product of only the Coffey Column Still at Foursquare Distillery. Distilled in 1998, this Rum was matured in ex-bourbon barrels for around 8 years. It was then decanted, reduced to around bottling strength and then re-barreled for an additional 2 years of maturation totaling a minimum of 10 years tropical maturation. Presented an a heavy based square edged glass bottle with a cork closure and wax seal on the label it certainly looks the part….if that kind of thing matters to you.

Coffey Column Still at Foursquare Distillery

Tasting Notes

Nose: Classic Foursquare profile on the nose…..Vanilla, butterscotch and a beautiful marshmallow note. Peppery and well-integrated oak lays down a solid foundation for the sweeter notes to play off. A touch of dried fruit and powdery cocoa appear given time. Relatively simple and straightforward nose to this Rum, but quite enjoyable.

Mouth: Lightly sweet and far more complex on the palate. Initial vanilla and cocoa give way to a drying and quite punchy oak that scatterguns fresh fruity peppercorns and charred, spicy barrel notes. A little banana chip and dried coconut sits alongside cocoa nibs and fresh, zingy ginger juice. A medium length finish carries the oak, vanilla and cocoa into those familiar peach vapours at the back of the throat.

You sometimes have to remind yourself that this is the product of the Coffey Column still only…..nothing from their pot still. Whilst it lacks a bit of heft on the palate, I can think of no better rum to adequately display just how effective the creation of Aeneas Coffey is when in the right hands. I was going to conclude this review by saying that this Rum was very much of its time, and it’s amazing to see how far things have moved on since it’s release in 2008. Not just in the Rum world in general but in the output and confidence of Foursquare Distillery. But the truth is, released today, maybe at the island abv of 43%, it’d fly off the shelves. It’s like a more mature Old Brigand, proper enjoyable, even if it’s not the most complex offering. Column Still Rum never tasted so good.

4 / 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.