Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2004

This is as you’d expect, a follow-up to my recent review of the Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2003.

If you are unaware, 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!”

Foursquare Distillery you will already know about but some information on other releases can be found here, or you can do a site wide search.

Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2004 – 43% abv – Single Blended Rum

This Rum was distilled at Foursquare Distillery in 2004 and bottled in 2013 at 43% abv. It would most likely be the result of a minimum maturation period in Barbados, of around 3 years which is the Foursquare way, with the remainder of its 9 year maturation period spent 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 maturation in the standard american oak ex-bourbon barrels. No bottle quantity information is available.

Again, this is bottle number two of this Rum for me, so taken was I with this and the 2003 upon release. I paid around £40.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A classic Foursquare nose. Heavily influenced by the oak it has classic bourbon spice. Maybe a nip of young (ish) alcohol. Light vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. A bag of mixed dried fruit sits alongside warm rice pudding. Toasted coconut alongside Snowballs….marshmallow coated in milk chocolate coated in desiccated coconut. A touch of citrus oil. Warming oak sits in the background carrying everything. Perhaps a little nutty too.

Mouth: A beautifully balanced entry with nuts and oak up front. The peppery oak announces itself straight away with warmth and a real bite. This develops into peanuts and chocolate….Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Mild dried fruit sweetness punches through and brings candied citrus peels. Vanilla. Coconut coated in milk chocolate. The mid palate starts with the nuttiness and leads into a drying bourbon oak. This becomes a theme into the finish which is all nuts, milk chocolate and coconut. Warming medium length finish.

It’s a good, solid Rum and is very typical of what you’d expect to find in a ‘standard’ Foursquare release…..well integrated oak and a classic Barbados, or more to the point, classic Foursquare profile…albeit with a little less intensity given its continental heavy maturation. It is a great all round performer that, similar to the 2003, is of its time. Surpassed by the exceptional cask releases of late, and currently for sale in its 12 year form for £75, it is easily outgunned for similar money, or even less by these distillery bottlings with true tropical maturation. However, it’s still a really solid and enjoyable rum. As an aside, if I could have this Rum, with more of the nose of the 2003, I’d be even happier.

4 / 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.

Advertisements

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.

 

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.

Rum Tasting of the Century & Hampden Estate Rum Launch

Sometimes in life, things happen that totally blow your mind. I have often looked on with extreme jealousy when I have seen amazing events playing out whilst I’ve been at home on the sofa…..but not this time! You see, I was one of the fortunate few to be invited by Luca Gargano to what was being called “The Rum Tasting of the Century”. This event had been arranged to celebrate the launch of the La Maison and Velier distributed Hampden Estate Rums. Luca also pointed out that these Hampden Estate releases celebrate the end of the colonial era in the Rum world after 265 years as Hampden Estate are bottling their own tropically aged Trelawny Rums. Now being invited to the Four Seasons Hotel to celebrate the launch of the Hampden Rums would’ve been a great experience, but the Rum Tasting of the Century was close on panic attack inducing. Imagine if you will, every toy that you ever wanted as a child, then the joy that spreads over you like a wave of euphoria when you see that ‘Santa has been’…..and he has delivered them all!

When I received the invitation, I also received the list of Rums that we would be tasting during the evening. You often see Rums and think to yourself, “I would love to try even the smallest drop of that”. For me those Rums include Skeldon 1973 & 1978, UF30E 1985, Albion 1983 & 1994, Blairmont 1991, La Bonne Intention 1998, Rhum Clement 1952, Saint James 250th Anniversary, Rhum JM 1987, Harewood House 1780, Barbados 1985, Bally 1929, Enmore 1995, Wray & Nephew 17….and the list goes on! You resign yourself to living in the land of make-believe with some of those Rums, imagine my joy when I saw the invitation and it announced that the Rums we’d be trying were:

Harewood 1780 – Barbados The oldest dated Rum in existence

Saint James 1885 – Martinique One of the oldest Rums ever sold

Bally 1924 – Martinique The first vintage in the Rhum Agricole world

Skeldon 1978 – Guyana A legendary bottling from Velier

Hampden Estate – Jamaica The new aged releases from one of the best distilleries in the world

We assembled in the beautifully decorated bar at The Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square. Anticipation built and I was able to meet up again with old Rum friends in Wes Burgin, Peter Holland, Tatu Kaarlas, John Gibbons and Matt Pietrek and I also had a first face to face meeting with old Rum friends in Lance Surujbaly and Gregers Nielsen. We briefly spoke to Luca before being ushered into a private lift up to Apartment 17 on the 7th floor. We milled around next to the bar surrounded by members of the press from such publications and The New York Times, Le Monde and Imbibe. I had the opportunity to chat with Andrew Hussey of Everglade Farms Ltd, owners of Hampden Estate and the Long Pond Sugar Factory. We were then ushered into a large room at the end of the corridor, sliding glass partitions  to two elevations affording beautiful early evening views of Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, The Gherkin and the Shard. Sadly I only took a photograph after dark….but still…what a view

We also had our first view (and touch) of the amazing line up of bottles that we would be tasting…….Rum making spanning four centuries

We sat in our predefined places and awaiting the evenings events.

There was a beautiful introduction to the evening and a really passionate speech from Luca about the gathering and his delight at the new Hampden releases. We also received a detailed description of the Rums that we would be tasting and why they are special his opinion. The anticipation that had been built was clear for all to see as the tasting began.

The Rum Tasting of the Century

I managed to take tasting notes for each of the Rums and given the brief time with them I will present my notes as written with no elaboration. Purely first impressions.

Harewood House 1780 – Barbados – circa 69% abv (Light)

Sukhinder Singh of The Whisky Exchange was given the honour of opening the bottle. This was quite possibly one of the most amazing things that I have experienced in my Rum life. As you will hear in the video, there were approaching three dozen bottles found at Harewood House (you can read more here), some were full, some part full. The Rum was decanted, checked and re-bottled in the existing bottles, re-corked and wax sealed. There were 28 bottles released to auction in two batches. You can view the bottle opening video below:

Tasting Notes

Nose: Pears. Quite Acidic. Clean. Very little wood influence. Putty. Grape. Very astringent.

Mouth: Very dry. Way more barrel influence. Fortified wine. Crisp apple / pear. Tobacco notes. Fino sherry at back-end. Earthy. Dirt / Soil. Chewy.

This was quite the thing to try. To be nosing and tasting a Rum distilled over 238 years ago. To nose the Rum, you would have said that it was a cane juice distillate. I didn’t feel like it had much age on it. Maybe just the age that it gained on the journey from Barbados to the UK. The fortified wine notes could also be down to the barrels that it was transported in. Richard Seale often talks about Rums traditionally being transported in the barrels that had just delivered Port and Madeira with ex-bourbon being a modern practice. I also spoke to Richard regarding the cane juice feel of the Rum and he advised that in those days the Rums had cane juice from skimmings from ‘rum canes’ that had low sucrose content. The molasses would’ve also been very dilute which would have led to a less distinct caramelised molasses flavour. This was well and truly the experience of a lifetime. Amazingly, re-visiting the empty glass, any hint of the Rum has been replaced by  a very weak window putty aroma. This puts to bed the notion that the rum of the past was a horrific concoction.

Saint James 1885 – Martinique 

Tasting Notes

Nose: 100% Demerara nose. Dates. Walnuts. PX sweetness. Bitter raisins. Cream. Heavy. Thick. Coconut. Cough Medicine. Herbal Tablets. Lion Ointment.

Mouth: Medicinal. Emulsion paint. Ralgex vapours. Agricole oak notes. French oak. Molasses. Fruit cake. Treacle toffee.

This had by far my favourite nose of the night. In fact, blind tasted you would swear the Saint James was Demerara Rum and the Harewood House was a light cane juice Rum.

Rhum J. Bally 1924 – Martinique – 45% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: Crisp ripe pears. Tinned pears. Astringent. Acetone. Pear drops. Clearly agricole. Real depth. Foam bananas.

Mouth: Very obvious French oak. Very dry. Really fruity. Celery.

The Bally 1924 was an absolute delight. One of my favourites from the evening.

Skeldon 1978 – Guyana – 60.4% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: Raisins. Liquorice. Dates. Rose water. Fruit cake. PX sherry. Honey. Walnuts. Prunes. Stone fruit. Victoria plums. Uncut tobacco.

Mouth: Warm fruit compote. Christmas pudding. Cough sweets. Treacle. Walnuts. Walnut and Date cake.

Beautiful stuff.

Next up we tried the new Hampden Estate pairing but I will be covering these in a separate review at a later date.

We were also very fortunate in the fact that we were able to try both Unaged and Tropically aged Hampden DOK marque. The unaged was so unbelievably pungent and fruity, the aged was more approachable yet still an absolute bruiser.

We cleared the tables and chatted over a few glasses of Hampden as the meal was prepared and served. The food was unbelievably beautiful and the meal was concluded with Baba au Rhum utilising the new Hampden Estate 46%. What an amazingly beautifully presented and tasty treat. We also added a little unaged DOK to one of the Baba au Rhum…..Crazy stuff.

We then relaxed on the terrace as Luca enthused us with passionate talk of Hampden Estate, the experience of visiting Haiti and his Distillerie de Port-au-Prince. Locations that one day I really hope to be fortunate enough to visit. Following more chat inside about the fascinating new Velier Long Pond bottlings, we retired to the Four Seasons Hotel bar. Over two bottles of Hampden we continued to talk into the night as the group of 7 became 4. We eventually saw our rooms at around 5am. What happens in the hotel bar, stays in the hotel bar.

I’m still in a daze about the event. It is one of those rare moments in time where everything falls into place and there is nowhere else that you’d rather be. Its all still a little ‘pinch yourself’. By far the greatest experience of the evening was to be present at the opening of a bottle of the Harewood House Rum. I honestly can never see that being bettered as a Rum experience. The outstanding nose of the evening was definitely the Saint James 1885 though sadly the palate did not match the excellent nose. Stand outs for me were the Bally 1924 and the Skeldon 1978. I’d find it hard to separate those two at the top of my list. The location, the people, the Rum and the event played out absolutely perfectly and I am so immensely grateful to Luca Gargano and La Maison & Velier for giving me the opportunity to be present. It was a dream come true. This Rum Tasting of the Century will live long in the memory of all attendees and will go down in the annals of Rum Tasting History.

To quote Luca, I am very very happy

© 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.

Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 – Pure Single Rum

Whats that you say? Another Foursquare Rum review…..another piece of the jigsaw. This time its a follow-up to its rarer and younger relative the Habitation Velier Foursquare 2015 Pure Single Rum.

You can read about that Rum here…..and just do a search for Foursquare in the search box to find out plenty more about the distillery and its Rums.

Forsyths Twin Retort Pot Still

This Rum was distilled at Foursquare on their twin retort Forsyths (with added Green Engineering whistles and bells) pot still and then matured for 2 years in ex-cognac barrels. As is usual with the Habitation Velier bottles, the information on there is amazingly comprehensive as we’ve been informed that the loss to evaporation in that 2 year period has been >15%, that the rum has not been chill filtered, is natural colour and is released at barrel proof with no dilution. Obviously, it is sugar-free.

Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 – Pure Single Rum – 64% abv

Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a pale gold apple juice in colour. Initially there is quite a bit of white pepper. It’s very punchy and up front….its definitely not shy. Immediately I get Rhubarb and Ginger crumble. Oaty and nutty aromas. Mild olives and salty brine. Preserved lemons and a hint of acetone. There is surprisingly not a huge alcohol attack, just a heavy delivery of aromas. Lotus biscuits, vanilla. The Rum is full and very oily….maybe even waxy. A hint of raisins and dried guava pieces. Doing my usual blowing into the glass reveals a beautiful marzipan quality to the vapour. This has only been matured for two years remember…..crazy stuff.

Mouth: A powerful, oily entry wrapped in warmth and sweetness. It is initially quite biting and that brings black pepper and salted liquorice…..maybe even a hint of liquorice root. A little bitterness but some real grip on the tongue, quite a fruity and grassy mid-palate. That oily citrus returns to tease your saliva glands before the anticipated brine and olives bathe your entire mouth. It takes on a savoury quality that sits at the back of your throat with a vegetal note before the vapours give way to peach and dried tropical fruit. The shortish finish is salty sweet caramel, liquorice and even has a mild amount of smoke. Very enjoyable.

After the initial punch you have to keep reminding yourself that this Rum is so young (though with tropical age probably hitting 5 years if it were a whisky) and at such a high abv as once acclimatised it’s even more approachable. It brings the sweetness of a young well crafted Rum, the weight that you expect from batch distillation and the level of flavour that a Rum of this maturity just shouldn’t have…..a nod perhaps to the choice of ex-cognac barrels. Quality french oak used not to gain anything from that famous cognac heritage, but to gain all from the quality of wood. Punchy? Yes. Powerful? Of Course. Approachable? Surprisingly so. Flavourful? Like you wouldn’t believe. Just the remaining taste in my mouth is taking me back to the aromas around the still and that tap that was turned to allow us to experience freshly distilled Rum at Foursquare. I would love to experience this Rum with a few more years on it as it has world domination stamped all over it. Another hit……like we expected anything else.

4.5 / 5

An example of Pure Single Rum that can trade punches with some tasty Jamaicans. Buy this while you can as there is still availability…even in the UK. £85 for a two-year old Rum? It’s so much more than the sum of its years….it offers development, aroma and flavour that some can spend a lifetime failing to achieve. Judge it on its merits and pick it up. It warrants your attention.

© 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

Copyright Rum Diaries Blog

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

Neptune ‘Gold’ Barbados Rum

We have another new Rum that has recently come to market and as with all such releases, it was viewed with an element of suspicion. That is until we found out that it has its origins in Barbados…..and more importantly that it is produced by Foursquare. It has been winning awards in both New York and China and one more that is under wraps for the moment….But as we all know these awards mean more to brands than to a seasoned drinker (functioning alcoholic)……Though it is fair to say that the casual drinker uncertain of what to buy may be swayed by a fancy sticker on a label.

Neptune Gold Barbados Rum – 40% abv

So, what is there to be added about this Rum. It’s from Foursquare….which is good enough for me….Well, it’s from Foursquare via E&A Scheer in Amsterdam. It has seen a full 3 years age in the Caribbean and is (as most Foursquare releases are) a blend of Pot and Column distillates aged together in the barrel…which is ex-bourbon. The Rum sits at a cask strength of 68% abv when it arrives. This is then diluted down to its bottling strength of 40% with the addition of a little spirit caramel to take it back to cask colour. No nasties have been added. The Rum is bottled in the UK. It would’ve been an ‘easy out’ to not put the age of the Rum on the bottle as it can be a big decision maker for a certain sector of buyers with a lot being put off by low numbers….but they were confident in their sourcing, tropical age and product to add it to the label. Presentation wise its a bottle shape and size that sits nicely on the shelf and there is a wooden topped cork closure. Embossed label text and a little information on the rear label. What I can also tell you is that there are plans to release a limited cask strength run of this Rum with the overall plan being to have 3 products in the Neptune Rum range. The cask strength alone is a welcome addition.

Tasting Notes

Glass: Light straw gold. A little peppery spike initially but it soon settles. Classic Bajan aromas (for me) of vanilla, pepper and light oak. Oily citrus is definitely present as is aroma of fresh peaches. Time gives a little marshmallow which I also find to be a classic Bajan aroma. Whilst not overly complex its solid and doesn’t give away its youth.

Mouth: Initial entry has you believe that this is way more refined than its 3 years. A light, peppery bite from the off, this rum genuinely has a little more grip than I’d expect from such a young Rum. It feels more viscous and all-encompassing than expected. Vanilla, very mild oak and a restrained crisp apple follow. Desiccated coconut is certainly there. That familiar peach note in the vapours that I associate specifically with Foursquare Rum is present too…The finish is short to medium length and starts with a beautiful sweetness developing those peach vapours. Powdery cocoa morphs into a drying light oak finish that sits for a while before fading into coconut.

I find this Rum very reminiscent of Old Brigand or Alleyne Arthur’s Special Barbados Rum…..whilst out and about in Barbados I managed to put away a lot of the One Eyed Pirate….

For new brands to market things seem to go one of a few ways. You can spend up front to start your own distillery and release an overly expensive unaged Rum to tide you over while your Rum matures. People will buy it because of words like Artisan and Small Batch on the label irrespective of quality and (as has recently been the case) whether it can even be classed as a Rum due to its origins not being from sugarCANE. Though doing it right is to be applauded. You can source average distillates (sometimes distilled to a neutral alcohol level) and fill them full of rubbish to appeal to the masses. People will buy it because its sweet, cheap and has a gimmick. Or, you can do as Neptune Rum have done. Source credible Rum (they don’t come much more credible than Foursquare), refuse to mess with it in the a hope that the honesty of the product and the flavour and credibility of the Rum will shine through. What you do have to do though is pay for that credibility which passes onto your retail price.

The latter one is perhaps the more risky way to go as you wind up asking, as is the case with Neptune Rum, upwards of £35 for a relatively young product. But as sales increase, business models change and economies of scale mean that prices can reduce. Buy this Rum with confidence….its currently on the high side price wise, but it possesses maturity beyond its 3 years and shows a few other Rums with bigger numbers how it should be done.

 

© 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.