Foursquare Destino – Single Blended Rum – Velier 70th Anniversary Edition

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

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

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

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

Destino Flask

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

iPhone Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting Notes

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

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

5 / 5

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

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

This is a legacy Rum.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

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.

Foursquare Principia Single Blended Rum – Early Thoughts

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

Principia Sample – Foursquare Distillery, March 2017

Foursquare Principia Single Blended Rum – 62% abv

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

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

Tasting Notes

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

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

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

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

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

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

An Interview with Nikos Arvanitis – Rum Traveller

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

Instructor of Rum in Bar Academy Hellas

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.

Foursquare Triptych Single Blended Rum

I’d hate to think what street value my bottle of Triptych has at the time of compiling this article. I am recently back from an astonishing visit to Barbados and my first visit to a Caribbean Rum Distillery just had to be a trip to Foursquare……in fact it was so much fun, we did it twice within 10 days. Just the ability to get such a first hand, up close and personal experience was amazing….and best of all…..given the open and honest policy that Foursquare Rum Distillery has (albeit adhering to the ‘no go’ signs which are there for your own safety), you can also experience this. I wholeheartedly suggest that you do. Just to share the room with the stills that produce these Rums is worth the trip alone. But lets just take a moment to look at the glorious black bottle, the striking label and that glass of majestic dark amber liquid…..

My first opportunity to try Triptych came at last years UK RumFest and even with a certain amount of palate fatigue, it was impressive……Now getting to try it again in its actual release blend format, whilst in the Foursquare Rum Distillery tasting room was the thing of dreams. I was sat next to Barnali, right opposite my good friend Nikos and I had Richard to my right. Glasses were duly prepared and Triptych was poured. The next five minutes were spent in silence, nosing the glass and grinning from ear to ear. As far as experiences go, this was by far one of the finest……but Triptych wasn’t the only thing that we got to try that day….and we tried even more when we returned for our second visit with Ivar and Mariangela….On that visit we were also fortunate enough to be joined by Gayle….but had the setting, the excitement of being in the room that I’d only previously seen pictures of, the sun of Barbados and the amazing company influenced my opinion of this Rum? Fortunately I have spent the last 5 weeks or so dipping into my available supply to compile my notes….

Foursquare Triptych – Single Blended Rum – 56% abv

You’ll know all about Foursquare Rum Distillery if you’ve been here before and a few of their more recent releases can be found here and here.

A little more about this release then. The name gives up a lot….Triptych…..We automatically assume that it has three components. The bottle label details that there are three single blended vintages each with a different oak maturation. A 2004 ex-Bourbon, a 2005 ex-Madeira and a 2007 Virgin Oak. Virgin Oak for me (based on my reading, not on experience) has always been synonymous with Bourbon given its distillation method. Where a distiller can make their cuts with a Pot still or choose a specific plate on a Coffey still, a Single Column still allows the good, the bad and the ugly to pass over into the distillate. Virgin Oak I have read is used as it has an initial aggressive effect on the distillate, calming the rough edges in a short space of time. That has always led me to view its use as something that wouldn’t necessarily be used for the maturation of Rum from a Pot Still or Coffey Still…..But this is Foursquare….and they thrive on this type of innovation. I posed a couple of questions to Richard regarding the make up of the blend and the differing barrels. Firstly, this Single Blended Rum is made up of three other Single Blended Rums. I was asked via Instagram whether the blend is a collaboration between Foursquare and Velier. I can report that the blend is entirely developed by Foursquare Rum Distillery, with samples being shared with the Velier Group for their comment and observations.  The ex-Bourbon barrels were utilised for the 2004 Single Blended Rum up until bottling in November 2016. The same goes from 2005 for the ex-Madeira barrels. I did however ask a few more questions about the Virgin Oak. Firstly I wondered if the aggressive character of the barrels led to them being monitored more closely than usual during the process and whether Virgin Oak was chosen to accelerate the maturation process over a shorter period…..I received some real insight into the use of these barrels. Virgin Oak requires sufficient air seasoning to allow it to become easier to work with….and the cask choice was perhaps one of necessity. With the reported stock shortages of ex-Bourbon barrels at the time (2007), Foursquare took the opportunity to experiment and familiarise themselves with the more expensive Virgin Oak barrels (Virgin Oak is twice the cost of ex-Bourbon). Monitoring of these barrels occurs more closely due to the aggressive effects of the oak and light blends will typically spend no more than 6 months in new oak. Based on the fact that the blend spent 6 years in Virgin Oak prior to transfer into older barrels for the remainder of its maturation period (approx. 3 years), I asked the obvious follow on question of whether this Single Blended Rum was particularly Pot still heavy to cope with the effects of the Virgin Oak. This was confirmed. An excellent and open insight into the constituents of this super complex Single Blended Rum. I also managed to grab a few (hundred) photographs on our visits and below are the two stills that created this Rum.

Forsyths Twin Retort Pot Still

Coffey Still

Tasting Notes

Glass: Dark amber with copper flashes. Quite a lot of astringency initially. Heavy stone fruit and the acidity of fresh quince juice. A developing grape influence and acetone. Soft but growing oak. The entire opposite of what I had expected given the presence of long maturation in fresh oak. I braced for dominant oak and vanilla….it did not dominate. Such is the complexity, even the oaken influence seems to introduce itself under a series of sub-headings. Light vanilla, pencil shavings, dusty library books, cherry influence from the ex-bourbon through to damp wood. Toasted coconut, walnuts, milk chocolate and powdery cocoa have an interplay with earthy, dirty aromas and chestnut mushrooms. Light floral notes are also present right at the back end. The nose is so well balanced. Everything just works in its own way. No shoulder barging….very British….just standing in a line waiting its turn. This can’t be a fluke though. It has to be down to exemplary cask management plus a large chunk of just knowing what you’re doing. To achieve such a soft, yet powerful nose delivering an experience that is just a joy using three such different and influential cask types is no mean feat. The nose on the 2006 was beautiful. Direct, robust and holding real depth. The Triptych almost makes it seem ordinary (by Foursquare standards). Its like comparing a three-piece band to an orchestra.

Mouth: This is a real experience. Soft enveloping amber liquid that is all encompassing. It has a beautifully velvety mouth-feel. Salty, sweet liquorice and pepper both initially and on the mid-palate. Talking of the mid-palate, the edges of your tongue almost curl as the oak announces its arrival….it takes the wheel for a good few minutes but its not overly dominant. Balance is the overarching feel to Triptych. Dry, tannic fortified wine accompanied by dates. Candied fruit peels. Apricot. Pickled Ginger. Toasted coconut. A definite sappy cedar wood. Floral wildflower honey. Its wave after wave of intense flavour. There is tropical fruit….maybe pineapple and banana. At the back end there is milk chocolate. It is a beautifully savoury / sweet Rum (thats sweet, not sweetened…never confuse the two). The finish is of a medium to long length….a dry oaken start progresses to salty-sweet liquorice and a return of the tannins and stone fruit. Again, characteristic of Bajan Rum for me is the trademark apricot vapour and its here.

Each barrel has its moment in the spotlight, tells its own part of the story. Certain elements grab onto certain areas of your tongue, pinging your senses and leading you on a journey. You absolutely could not create this experience using ‘short-cuts’….and thats what it is….its an experience. It takes the near perfect 2006 and just adds layer upon layer of complexity. Its more nuanced. More light, more shade. Sweet but never as sweet as the amazing Zinfandel and Port Cask. Even now, 5 weeks in I’m discovering more. I’ve not even added water….Did I mention just how unlike a 56% spirit this feels? It carries the intensity of a higher abv Rum but its maturity and balance make it a joy to behold.

Triptych is the mark of a Master Distiller and a Distillery rooted in tradition, devoted to doing things the right way. Building upon a desire to experiment, re-invigorated by the belief that others have placed in it and reveling in the impact that it is having on the industry and consumers alike. It is entirely on top of its game. Its ‘pulling wheelies’….not to impress….but just because it can. It is also sticking a middle finger up to the ‘Bajan rum is boring’ crowd.

I’ve struggled with this over the course of the 5 week period….dwindling my stocks of both Triptych and 2006 in side by side comparisons…..But I can hand on heart say, step aside 2006….there is a new benchmark in town……for now…..The amazing thing is, this wasn’t even the best Rum that I tasted on our visits to Foursquare….

© 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

Habitation Velier Foursquare 2015 Pure Single Rum

Yes you read that correctly….2015. This is unlike the 2013 that saw 2 years age in ex-cognac barrels. This Rum was produced using 100% Barbadian molasses and distilled at Foursquare on their twin retort pot still. This is your only chance to get to try such a lightly aged (4 months in ex-cognac barrels) 100% pot distillate from Foursquare. In fact it is the only one that has been bottled and released commercially…..I’m also quite hesitant to say that it is commercially available as I’ve not seen this bottle for sale…..anywhere. It was obtained as an open bottle from Luca Gargano (who also signed the bottle label for me) in the final Velier seminar at the 2016 UK RumFest….and I feel immensely lucky to have it. Now I have written previously about Foursquare releases and you can read more into their other releases here, here, here and here. The bottle was open with a small amount gone when I was gifted it and my subsequent tastings have taken it past the shoulders and I’ve put some time in with this Rum…..so I suppose it’s on with the tasting notes…

Habitation Velier Foursquare 2015 Pure Single Rum – 59% abv

foursquare-2015-bottle

 

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum as stated has been aged for 4 months in ex-cognac barrels. It presents itself as a light straw gold in the glass. Initial aromas are fresh, clean and acetone in nature. It is salty and ever so lightly floral. Brine and salty black olives are present and accounted for. It is everything I expect from a pot distillate. It is very pungent but extremely approachable. As the glass warms it brings a warming, creamy biscuity aroma. There is also a light smoke….almost burnt splints that we used to use to light Bunsen burners back in school. With water the acetone attack is dialed down a notch and the florals come to the fore, along with more of the creamy biscuity aromas.

Mouth: The entry is hot and peppery. Black olives and salty brine are very apparent. As the heat subsides a sweetness grows that is almost salty / sweet liquorice. It is a very oily proposition and is all-encompassing in the mouth with, for me, clearly defined effects on my palate. Oily citrus zips your cheeks whilst the peppery bite nips at your lips. All the while your tongue is bathed in salty liquorice with the slightest bitterness of treacle. With water the citrus is dulled but the black olives and liquorice remain on the growingly creamy and textured mouthfeel. The finish is of a short to medium length and is resplendent with liquorice, brine and the lightest bitter note.

This was another Rum that I had expected to be a ‘reference rum’ much like the Habitation Velier Port Mourant. However, I found the Rum to be such a flavourful proposition that I decided to put it to work in a few drinks. It excels in a Daiquiri and I also built an Old Fashioned. Tasting the drink as it diluted I felt that it needed a little help so added a drop of Doorlys 12 which added balance to the drink. A drop of Peychauds and Angostura Bitters also worked well.

foursquare-2015-old-fashioned

I think that Josh over at Inu A Kena summed it up earlier this week when he observed that ‘Being a Rum Nerd means that you reach a point where white Rums really excite you’. This was further commented on by Peter Holland from TFRS who said that ‘If a new make Rum has no taste interest, its highly unlikely that time in a barrel is going to significantly improve things’.

Both good observations. This Pure Single Rum is a massively exciting proposition. It contains insane levels of both flavour and aroma, the likes of which some longer aged products could only dream of containing. Can you just imagine how much complexity could be added to this Rum with time in the barrel? Well I have the 2 year old Foursquare 2013 still to come to these pages so I guess we’ll find out!

4-0-star

© 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.

cropped-business-card-2016-front.jpg