An Interview with Nikos Arvanitis – Rum Traveller

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

Instructor of Rum in Bar Academy Hellas

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

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

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

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

From the West Indies to the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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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.

Foursquare 2006

Here we go then……Velier’s Foursquare 2006….a first for Velier and also a first for Foursquare Distillery as it is their first release over 60% abv….62% abv to be precise.

foursquare-2006

I won’t go over old ground and grumble (well maybe a little) about the Rums release seeing the kind of speculation that is rife in the Whisky community spread to the Rum community. I’ll just add that I hope the guilty bunch will do the decent thing and use some of their shady gains to pick up and enjoy some of the less exclusive releases available from Foursquare Distillery. Whilst I’m still a little sore at not even having a fighting chance at getting a bottle, I am unbelievably glad that it proved to be ridiculously popular for Foursquare Distillery…and lets face it, it couldn’t have been predicted.

Anyway, moving on. Through the generosity of a certain Mr Henrik Kristofferson of Rum Corner, I now have the opportunity to try the Rum. Foursquare 2006 is a collaboration with Velier and is noted as being a ‘Single Blended Rum’. This translates to a blend of Pot Distilled Rum and Twin Column (Coffey Still) Distilled Rum from one distillery. Single (distillery) Blended (pot still and coffey still) Rum. The Foursquare 2006 has a full 10 years of tropical age with 3 years being in ex-bourbon as standard and 7 years being in ex-cognac barrels. As an aside, the Angels Share was >72%. Presentation is the standard Velier black bottle with the relevant information and nothing else contained on the bottle label and box (according to the images available). I was fortunate enough to bid on and win a bottle of the now unavailable Foursquare produced Mahiki Cognac Cask at last years UK RumFest auction and I picked up the Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 which is a 2 year old Pure Single Rum which has also been aged in ex-cognac. This Rum with both its age and strength presents an entirely different proposition to those though.

foursquare-2006

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a really deep, almost boardroom table like mahogany and a swirl of the glass shows an obvious ring of tiny little droplets that are in no real hurry to return to the rest of the liquid. Initial trips to the glass give a robust and insanely deep, but never overbearing experience. It takes a few visits to acclimatise to the aromas but chocolate is the first obviously discernible aroma, quickly followed by dried fruit peels and vanilla. Time allows it to open a little more to give raisins, oak and an oily citrus reminiscent of flamed orange peel. Time also pushes the oak further forward and reveals a nuttiness. A drop of water makes the approach gentler and turn the aromas into spiced fruit cake and finishes with light floral notes.

Mouth: I won’t lie. Upon taking a sip and allowing it to envelop every bit of my mouth, my eyes roll back and a smile begins to appear on my face such is the immense delight contained within that first sip. Straight away the oak is very apparent along with a little menthol vapour. Chocolate coated raisins and a sherry like nut and stewed fruit follow. Your entire palate is powerless to avoid falling under its spell. It has the robustness of the Velier Demeraras that I’ve tried previously with the gentler side of the fruitier Foursquare offerings. Further sips bring liquorice, dark stone fruits and a peppery spice. Oily citrus shows just before it starts to dry out….and boy does it dry out…..it also becomes quite tannic but not unpleasantly so. The medium to long finish is all warming chocolate initially which develops into salty liquorice and drying oak. Right at the back-end something vaguely ‘soapy’ fades in but it is not unpleasant. A little water brings out the floral qualities and gives that familiar peachy vapour that I experience frequently in Foursquare offerings.

I’m so glad that I’ve had the briefest of chances to experience this Rum due to the kindness of others…..its just not enough though….the sample is gone and I need to locate and own this Rum…..I just have to. Whether from a completest angle or just because I want to experience that initial sip time and time again.

As you know, I don’t score or mark Rums on this site…..but if I started to do so, other Rums beware….this is the yardstick by which all other Rums from Barbados will be measured. For me its flawless….and lets face it, there is only one producer that can top this offering…..and that is its creator.

sugar-cane-score-5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Compagnie Des Indes Barbados (Foursquare Distillery) 16 – Cask Strength Denmark Release

Back with independents and back once again in familiar Foursquare territory. This time though we’re looking at a cask strength proposition….60% abv to be precise. If you’d like to refresh yourselves on the 45% abv release, please have a click here and I’ll see you in a second. In my write up of that release, I added at the end that I’d love to try this 60% release. Fortunately for me I have some friendly and generous readers. Step forward a chap called Eigon Vilhelmsen. He emailed me and offered up a sample of the Danish only release along with a few bottle shots, and I’m very grateful that he did.

Compagnie Des Indes Barbados (Foursquare Distillery) 16 – 60% abv

cdi-foursquare-16-danish-release

Bottle image courtesy of Eigon Vilhelmsen 2015

Again, as with the lower abv release this Rum was distilled in December 1998 and bottled in March 2015. We’ll have to run with the same mix of tropical and European age to make up its 16 years with 7 of those years spent in the warm climate of Barbados and the remaining 9 being in Europe…somewhere in Amsterdam. The Rum is a blend of both Pot and Column and was matured in an ex-Jack Daniels barrel. The Barrel Number as displayed on the bottle was MRS236 and this yielded an out-turn of 250 bottles at 60% abv. Again, no sweetener or colour has been added to this release.

Tasting Notes

cdi-60-glassIn the glass: the Rum displays itself as a dark copper and initial forays to the glass give rise to heavy astringent oak and a really intense apricot. It’s the oak that dominates the Rum for a good 5 minutes or so before it starts to back down a touch and open up. Light floral notes and bourbon like cherry follow and aromas of Bakewell Tart are aplenty…..I’m also convinced that there is a little solvent in there. Further trips to the glass remind me of the Neisson Reserve Speciale that I’ve been enjoying recently which can only be a good thing.

In the mouth: Initially the Rum is very warming but feels nothing like its 60% as its unbelievably approachable. A light sweetness on entry brings with it butterscotch and apricots like an apricot tarte tatin. It becomes dry quite quickly with very apparent oak and vanilla. The vapours creeping up my nose remind me of Peach Loops, Lidls finest children’s sweets and something that I seem to notice a lot in Foursquare Rums!  What surprises me about this 60% release is just how well-balanced it is. Nothing is too dominant and there are no off notes. It all just plays nicely. The finish is shorter than anticipated given the abv but is full of apricots, a peppery bite and it sees the return of those Neisson Agricole notes right at the death.

4-0-star

So, with thanks to Eigon, I have had the opportunity to try the highest abv Foursquare Rum that was available….I say was, as the Velier Foursquare 2006 trumps it slightly…..and given the well documented event that I’ll now call ‘Night of the Living Speculators’ it is another Dane that I need to rely upon to allow me to experience that particular Unicorn…..but that is for next time.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Compagnie Des Indes Foursquare Distillery 16

CDI Logo

I have previously told the tale of our trip to Paris, and specifically to the Christian de Montaguère store on a previous post. This was the second Compagnie Des Indes release that I picked up on the trip and it was a ‘must have’ for me being as I am, a huge fan of Rums from Foursquare Distillery. It was an instant winner on three counts…..distilled by Foursquare Distillery……aged for 16 years in total AND bottled at 45%…..what is not to like?

This therefore will be quite a short intro before we get into things. The bottling is an independent release from Compagnie Des Indes and I have recently covered their rather tasty Caraibes Rum on a previous post. You can read all about that Rum, plus get a little background on Florent Beuchet, the guy behind the company and releases here.

Down to business……..

Compagnie Des Indes Foursquare Distillery 16 – 45% abv

CDI FS Bottle and GlassThe Rum was distilled in December 1998 prior to bottling in March 2015 and had been matured for 16 years prior to bottling. 7 of those years were spent in the warm climate of Barbados and a further 9 in Europe…somewhere in Amsterdam or Liverpool. The Rum is a blend of both Pot and Column and was matured in an ex-Jack Daniels barrel. The Barrel Number was BD36 and this yielded an out-turn of 363 bottles. I have information directly from Florent that assures me there is no added sweeteners or colour of any kind. I am really excited about this bottle based on the abv being higher and than any other expression that I’ve tried from the distillery, and also it is the oldest expression that I have tried from the distillery too…..

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum displays as a dark amber in the glass with warm gold flashes. Initial aromas are of fresh mint, orange oils and a very light oak. There is some alcohol up front so I leave the glass for a short while. Going back to the glass there is a clear milk chocolate aroma now backed up with a light vanilla. After leaving the glass to warm slightly in my hand, bananas and a buttery pastry start to appear. Initial forays to the glass show a real freshness to the aromas but as the glass warms, the oak starts to elbow its way in. It becomes the more dominant note along with a hint of warming milk chocolate. It really does benefit from time in the glass and it is really pleasant to just sit and let it unfold before you. Right at the back there is a candied dried fruit peel or something similar along with a very light coconut. Its Foursquare….but not as you know it. I found a few similarities with Rum Sixty Six at its base but it develops more given time.

In the mouth: Initial notes are dominated by oak. This carries with it a slight bitterness, but not enough to detract from the overall experience. Working through the oak I can taste bitter chocolate chips and a buttery short crust pastry. Light candied peel and raisins follow. There is a very pleasant all-encompassing mouthfeel to this Rum. Then the dryness of the oak led entry starts to take effect. It dries very quickly and cuts off further developments until right at the back of the finish. Talking about the finish, it is long and very robust. It starts with a light  pepperiness which is accompanied by that drying, warming oak. This leads into warm buttery chocolate croissants and the vapours remaining create that familiar peach like note that I experience a lot in Rums from Barbados. Right at the end…..when everyone has tidied up, left the building and taxis have taken them home to their beds, there is a really pleasant feeling of hazelnuts. Even the empty glass is a treat……wonderful oaky notes and just a hint of treacle remain.

CDI FS Close UpGiven its additional years in Europe taking it to a total maturation time of 16 years, I’d say that this Rum is only a touch more developed than Rum Sixty Six which sees all of its 12 years played out in Barbados. Maybe that change in climate brought something new to the table? As mentioned above, its unmistakably Foursquare….but not as we know it. The core experience is the same, but there is a different flavoured icing on this particular Rum cake. It works and it works well….as does the additional %abv. Florent and his Compagnie Des Indes brand are ones to watch. Their releases are in very limited quantities and from the expressions that I have tried, he knows how to pick them. It was an inspired purchase and one that I would willingly remake when this has disappeared. There is also a 60% abv release specifically for the Danish market…..if anyone reading this has a bottle…I would love to trade a little sample with you just to experience that release too. Essentially what I am saying is, if you see it, buy it. DO NOT HESITATE.

One thing to add is that I made all of my tasting notes on this Rum whilst using my recently obtained NEAT glass. It assisted with the separation of the alcohol aromas from the delights within. For the purposes of tasting, I would say that it is a worthwhile investment as it reveals more from the get go for those that feel that overly dominant alcohol vapours kill the experience for them. However, for the purposes of sitting down and actually enjoying the experience of drinking a Rum like this, I would always choose my regular stemmed glass. It is far easier to drink from given the NEAT glass has a very wide flat lip and it just fits the bill a little more. If you’ve tried it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

4-0-star

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. 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 Sixty Six Family Reserve

Rum_Sixty_Six_LabelRum66 Bottle SideThe main thing to get out of the way first is that this Rum is a product of Foursquare Distillery…..I’m a big fan of the Rums produced there and you can read a little about the distillery itself and the Rums produced therein here, here and here. Now that you’re all refreshed we can talk about Rum Sixty Six Family Reserve. So, the Sixty Six of Rum Sixty Six refers to the 30th November 1966 which was a date that saw the Barbados Independence Act 1966 come into effect. The Act also presented the ability for a new constitution to take effect upon independence and this was actioned through the Barbados Independence Order 1966. This effectively made Barbados the fourth English speaking country in the West Indies to achieve full independence from the UK. A coat of arms adorns the bottle with the motto ‘Pride and Industry’. This coat of arms was adopted on the 14th February 1966 by decree of Queen Elizabeth II. The Family Reserve aspect refers to the fact that due to production costs and the effects of evaporation on long aging of Rum in Barbados, the quantities of Rum aged for this time period are reduced and their allocation reserved for family. With an allocation given the the British branch of the family which emigrated in the 1960’s. Up until the launch of Rum Sixty Six, it was only ever exported when members of the family returned home with unmarked bottles after visits to Barbados. That then is the marketing tale behind the Rum….there is a part truth though as Foursquare Distillery do not sell bulk 12-year-old Rum.

Rum Sixty Six Family Reserve – 40% ABV

Rum66 Bottle and GlassThe bottle is tall, quite thin and has straight sides. It has a plastic topped cork stopper. Presentation wise its a unique bottle with memorable look. As stated on these pages before though, there are no prizes for presentation. Rum Sixty Six is a blend of molasses based distillates from both a Pot Still and a Coffey (Column) Still. This is where things become quite unique as I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to ask Richard Seale a few questions about the Rum and the methods used. I was previously only aware of aged Rums being blended to create the final Rum with the blending taking place prior to bottling. Richard revealed that the distillates are matured as a blend of pot and column, not as individual components. Very unique with the only other Rum that I had heard of using this technique being an experimental Velier release, which is why I had asked the question. Moving on, the distillates are reduced to 65% abv prior to barreling. Richard revealed that this is to get better extraction from the wood contact and also to reduce the losses to evaporation. The barrels still lose around 6% of their contents per year though to evaporation. He also stated that it would be his preference to mature at a lower abv but there is a trade-off due to the number of barrels required and also the space for storage during maturation. The blend of distillates are matured for a period of 8 to 10 years before the barrels are pulled and the most ‘suitable’ barrels are chosen for additional maturation for the final 2 to 4 years. These chosen barrels are then blended, reduced to around 56% abv and re barreled until a minimum maturation time of 12 years has been achieved for each barrel. Richard has been quoted previously as believing that for a relatively light Rum such as Rum Sixty Six, maturation beyond a 12 year period gives diminishing returns. At this point the Rum is reduced to its bottling strength of 40% abv, lightly filtered and bottled. But you’ll now be interested in how the Rum tastes….

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a dark coppery bronze in the glass. A swirl releases long, thin droplets. It is an extremely fragrant Rum. Up front there is a little alcohol that disappears quickly enough to leave a light sweetness and a few oaky aromas. Fruit is also present in the form of apricots, raisins, prunes and dried cranberries. Following on there is a whiff of dark treacle and as the Rum warms in the glass, there are nutty aromas released followed by the lightest hint of coconut and vanilla.

In the mouth: Wow. The entry is almost bitter and sweet in equal measures. The bitterness being akin to treacle and the sweetness being like dried mango. The nose did not prepare me for the oily and all-encompassing mouthfeel of this Rum either. Nowhere is spared in this Rums pursuit to coat every millimetre of your mouth. It is amazingly warming with oak being very apparent but not dominant as it is kept in check by the fruit and the lightest vanilla. At times it can taste like a chewy treacle toffee before you’re left with a beautiful oaky dryness. Further sips reveal apricots working well alongside coconut. To refer back to an earlier point, the mouthfeel is amazing and the Rum has a great medium body to it. It is a very bold Rum. Oaky and fruity yet it retains light coconut and treacle to keep your interest. It has a medium length drying finish with a little warmth from the oak and treacle but right at the end the apricot and coconut come back into play.

In conclusion then, this is my second bottle of Rum Sixty Six. Like most Foursquare bottlings, I rarely wind up not repurchasing. I have only tried this Rum neat….no ice, no cola, just Rum. It just works for me that way. It is another example of why Foursquare Distillery is highly regarded by the vast majority of people. Amazing value mixed with good but not over the top presentation and sublime liquid that sits firmly on the dry end of the spectrum but works so well. You also have an unwritten guarantee that it has not been ‘adjusted’ in any way. It has a bold mouthfeel, a natural sweetness and a warming oaky profile that hits the spot for me every time. It makes me long for the other 12-year-old Foursquare Rum, Doorly’s 12…..hopefully coming to these shores this year…fingers crossed. I picked up my first bottle of Rum Sixty Six for less than £30, my second cost £32 and that is roughly the cost of the cheapest bottle that I can find online. I have no hesitation in recommending this Rum to you….there is nothing not to like!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. 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 Real McCoy Rum

The Real McCoy Rum is the brainchild of Bailey Pryor, the Emmy Award winning Producer of the documentary, The Real McCoy. In fact the documentary won 5 awards; Writing, Directing, Editing, Photography and Producing. This was the first time that an individual film had won an award in each of these categories. The Real McCoy documentary, and indeed The Real McCoy Rum, are based on the story of Bill McCoy. Bill McCoy was a pioneer Rum Runner during the Prohibition era. In January 1920, Bill McCoy was the first to sail to the Caribbean and fill up a boat with Rum and sail back up to New York to legally act as a floating Rum Shop. Legal because at the time the international waters boundary was located 3 miles offshore and Bill McCoy was careful to anchor his boat outside of this boundary line. There was a tendency for some to dilute and adulterate their Rum (as is still the case today) with turpentine and prune juice giving rise to the nicknames of Booze, Rot Gut and Hooch. Apparently Bill McCoy never did this to his Rum, thus his Rum became known as ‘The Real McCoy’.

During his research for the documentary, Bailey traveled to Barbados where he met, you guessed it, Richard Seale. Together Richard and Bailey began to discuss and develop a classic Barbados Rum which obviously as it is produced by Foursquare Distillery, also adhered to the ‘no additives’ philosophy. The Rums are a blend of both pot and column distillates produced from black strap molasses and a proprietary strain of yeast. The distillates are then matured in heavily charred ex-bourbon American oak barrels. Three expressions make up the range and they are The Real McCoy 3, The Real McCoy 5 and The Real McCoy 12. The Rums have won a host of awards and deservedly so. We were fortunate enough to meet Bailey and we got the opportunity to chat with him at the Boutique RumFest in 2014 and he’s a very engaging chap. We also picked up a copy of The Real McCoy Documentary which makes for a great watch and further expands on the story.

The Real McCoy 3 – 40% ABV

Real McCoy 3

The Real McCoy 3 is a blend of 3 year ex-bourbon barrel matured pot and column distillates that have been charcoal filtered to remove colour before being reduced to bottling strength. A crisp white label reveals only the necessary information about the Rum. Its age (minimum obviously) and the barrel type used for maturation. The rear label has a little information contained within. The sturdy squat bottle also has a plastic cork closure which for me on a Rum in this price bracket is neither here nor there but it does make a satisfying pop. You can pick up The Real McCoy 3 for around £19 if you shop smart……

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is crystal clear in the glass. It’s initial aromas are of crisp, creamy sweetness reminiscent of soft summer fruits and berries. Vanilla and that marshmallow aroma that I frequently get from white Bajan Rums rounds things out.

In the mouth: Initial proceedings are warming and lightly peppery up front. Sweetness coms along in the form of custardy vanilla. The mouthfeel becomes really creamy with peaches on the back of the palate….peaches and whipped cream.

A beautiful, no-nonsense flavourful Rum at an affordable price point. This Rum also makes a great Daiquiri.

The Real McCoy 5 – 40% ABV

Real McCoy 5

The Real McCoy 5 is a blend of 5 year ex-bourbon barrel matured pot and column distillates. The label on this expression contains exactly the same information but obviously you switch out 3 for 5 and the label is a more pleasing shade of cream. The rear label has the addition of an image of Bill McCoy. Again, a plastic cork closure is present which is a pleasant addition. You can pick up The Real McCoy 5 for around £24 if you use the same source…..

Tasting Notes

In the glass: the Rum is a light coppery gold in the glass and for a 5-year-old Rum is the aromas are very approachable with little heat. Vanilla, butterscotch fudge, caramel and a light oak are in the initial aroma attack. A little citrus peel follows along with more vanilla. As the Rum warms up the oak becomes more apparent in the glass.

In the mouth: It has a spicier than expected entry based on the nose….more so than the 3. It has a little heated, peppery kick that is quickly followed up by a vanilla led sweetish component. Ripe banana and peach loop jelly sweets are next to appear. The sweetness is short-lived though as a pleasant dryness creeps in and allows you to pick up a little cola, a slight powdery cocoa, more peach loops and a little molasses. Quite a lot going on and it is a very drinkable relatively young Rum.

Again, this Rum is a great example of its ilk. It also makes for a great Corn N Oil. This cocktail has recently been ‘Cocktail of the Week’ over with our friends The Floating Rum Shack and like them, we also tone down the Falernum as it is a very tasty, but very sweet concoction. We also use John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum (another Foursquare product) in the drink. The recipe and method used at Rum Diaries HQ are as follows: 60ml The Real McCoy 5 and 30ml Falernum. We enjoy this drink nicely chilled and diluted so build it like a Rum old fashioned. Take a double rocks glass, add a large cube of ice (ours are 2 inch square). Pour over the Falernum and stir slowly then add the Rum 30ml at a time whilst stirring, This ensures that the whole thing is chilled nicely and has a decent amount of dilution. Add bitters if you feel that you need to. We don’t usually but when we do we use Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Teapot Bitters. We enjoy the clove aspect of the drink, but Angostura Bitters makes the clove too dominant whilst the Teapot Bitters bind anything Rum based together….trust us!

So, what you have here is a back story that is nice but is ultimately just that, a nice back story. The real stand out thing is the Rum. Both expressions offer what they set out to offer, un-adjusted, un-flavoured, un-perfumed proper Rum made in the classic Barbados style and from a distillery and a distiller that do their utmost to promote all of these values. You should absolutely pick up a bottle of both.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. 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.