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 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.

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Rumfests 10th Anniversary is a Sell Out Success

*Press Release*

RumFest 2016

SELL OUT SUCCESS FOR RUMFEST 10

THOUSANDS OF RUM LOVERS JOIN THE UK’S LEADING RUM FESTIVAL FOR TASTINGS, MASTERCLASSES & 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS

Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd October 2016 
London’s ILEC, Earl’s Court

rumfest.co.uk

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Levi Roots with RumFest founder Ian Burrell at RumFest 2016

Thousands descended on London’s ILEC over the weekend for a very special edition of RumFest. Celebrating a decade of championing rum culture in the UK, organisers pulled out all the stops to mark the milestone with hundreds of rums from around the world and special guests including Levi Roots and Beach Bum Berry. Tastings, masterclasses and seminars gave an incredible insight into the world of rum for both newcomers and aficionados across the weekend, with the spirit of the culture brought to life with live music and RumFest’s renowned Carnival Hour. 2016 also saw the return of The Rum Auction raising over £4,000 for charity. Full details of the event can be found via The RumFest website.

Over 400 rums were on offer at this year’s RumFest, presented by distillers and blenders from all corners of the globe and all available to sip, savour, buy and take home. Well-known brands like Bacardi, St Nicholas Abbey, Diplomatico and Mount Gay showcased some of their lesser known gems while ticket-holders were given the chance to discover and sample newcomers like Cornwall’s own Dead Man’s Fingers and India’s Wild Tiger. Golden Tot tokens made a welcome return to give the more discerning drinker access to ultra-premium and rare rums, some of which retail for over £200 a bottle.

Those looking to heighten their knowledge of one of the most exciting spirits in the world, took part in intimate seminars and masterclasses over the weekend. Diplamatico presented some its newest releases and Mount Gay‘s master blender Allen Smith gave an exclusive UK first tasting of its limited edition pure pot still and column distillate rums. Sam Smallman of Rococo chocolates delved into Rum and Chocolate pairings in his third year at the festival, while newcomers were taught about rum tasting notes and vocabulary by Kim Lahiri to discover the key aromas in their favourite tipple.

On the main stage Saturday, RumFest founder Ian Burrell was on hand to take guests and bidders through rums on offer a the Rum Auction and a grand total of £4,000 was raised and all to donate to Max’s Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping detection of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other heart conditions in pre-adolescent children. Celebrity chef Hasan De Four made a RumFest return and cooked up a storm to demonstrate how to get rum in the kitchen, while Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry told the story of the founding father of Tiki, Don the beachcomber. Sunday’s main stage hosted a takeover of the famous Levi Roots as he showcased a tasting of his new restaurant Levi’s Caribbean Smokehouse. The revered master blender Joy Spence was interviewed by Ian Burrell with a tasting of Appleton Estate rums and bartenders competed for a trip to Barbados in the fierce Doorly’s Rum Competition.

Kicking off the rum-fuelled weekend on the Friday, the trade-only Boutique RumFest returned for a seventh year providing a platform for the industry’s newcomers and independent brands. Rum wholesalers, distributors, buyers, bar professionals and importers congregated from as far afield as Panama and Japan, presenting the perfect opportunity to sample the next big thing.

Ian Burrell, Global Rum Ambassador and RumFest founder says, “We could never have predicted how successful RumFest would become when we started out all those years ago and what a ride its been. It’s great to see so many old faces back to join us in celebrating rum culture but also the new comers who are getting to know the spirit properly for the very first time. A huge thanks to the brands, blenders, ambassadors, speakers and rum lovers who came over the weekend, here’s to the next 10 years!”

*End*

We were fortunate enough to attend and personally think that it was one of the best years in terms of seminars and sheer variety of rums available. Something to suit everyone and with the addition this year of a Velier stand……it was pretty much heaven spread over a weekend. Our own write-up of the events from Friday morning until Sunday evening will follow once we’ve come down from the high of the weekend.

© 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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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© 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

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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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