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

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Gunroom Navy Rum

Gunroom Navy Spirits as a line up comprises a Navy Gin, a London Dry Gin and this, a Navy Rum. As a product line they are owned by (Lars) Renbjer and (Martin) Magnusson AB over in Sweden and I’ll cut to the chase…..you’ll need to purchase this particular bottle from Europe as it is not on general sale here. In fact it’ll be hitting the states before we get a look in. Fortunately there are several online French retailers that carry Gunroom Navy Rum…..but purchase it you should.

Gunroom Navy Rum – 65% abv

2016-05-17 19.28.35This Rum, as clearly stated on the label is a blend of Rums from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana and is issued at 65% abv…..the label states Gunpowder Proof but to my understanding that is 57.15% abv….but then again Pussers Gunpowder Proof is issued at 54.5% abv…..anyhow…I exchanged a few emails with Lars Renbjer a while back and essentially the desire of Lars and Martin was to create an older style Navy Rum inspired by and harking back to the earlier style of Navy Rums of 1800-1820, prior to them becoming standardised by the Admiralty. The Rum is a blend of aged Rums from both pot and column distillation and this gives a lot of character to what should just be a huge powerhouse.

2016-05-17 19.28.47The blend comprises the following components:

  • A blend of 2 to 5-year-old tropically aged Rums from Barbados
  • A blend of 2 to 5-year-old tropically aged Rums from Trinidad
  • A young Demerara Rum from Guyana
  • A large percentage of 3-year-old tropically aged light pot still Rum from Jamaica
  • The last element accounting for about 1% of the product is a ‘top dresser’ of an undisclosed Rum that Lars believes gives a lot of character to the final blend

These components are then blended at their original proof in Europe and allowed to marry prior to bottling…..no reduction in abv takes place and therefore the 65% is reflective of the %abv of the constituent parts.

 

Tasting Notes

2016-05-17 19.29.38

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a brilliant straw gold, almost like apple juice. I used my NEAT glass for taking the majority of my notes but either way, the first thing that hits you is a really heavy hit of alcohol vapours given the abv of this blend. The NEAT glass does a really good job of dissipating those vapours and allowing everything else to come through. Straight away the initial notes are very Jamaican. Pot still is apparent along with overripe bananas and a light but definitely present astringent nail polish. Oak is apparent but not dominant on the nose and that leads into a calm, warming toffee/vanilla note. I’d also say that there seems to be something decidedly Cuban about the nose as there is a little bit of a light oaky leather present (top dresser maybe?). It does seem to display its youth in the nose and there is a raw Guyanan quality to it.

In the mouth: It is a bit of a beast initially. There is an oiliness to it but a lighter body to the Rum than I anticipated. The peppery alcohol kicks like a mule and the Rum initially feels entirely Guyanan as the pungent oak and lightly bittersweet treacle starts to dominate. A fruitiness is present but it carries itself as a dark spiced fruitcake full of raisins and stewed plums rather than a light fruitiness which I would’ve expected given the Barbados component. It all feels very youthful and there is a lot fighting for your attention….its like a puppy dog, constantly pawing at your legs for you to notice it. Further sips reveal the light cooked banana fruitiness of the Jamaican component but the drying oak ushers that out-of-the-way and walks off into the sunset as the Rum slowly, very slowly, fades with a final hint of that tobacco and a whiff of smoke.

When using the right glass to allow the vapours to dissipate or using a good few drops of water, this Rum really opens up and displays a lot of character. This opens up the fruitiness slightly and allows a more mellow experience to be had. It certainly makes it more approachable but a less is more approach to the water is better as I found that it got quite heated initially before it calmed down.

Gunroom Mai TaiWhilst it is a massively drinkable Rum that is enjoyable neat and with a little water, where I believe it really shines though is as a component of a Mai Tai. I love playing about with the Rums in a Mai Tai and this Rum really has enough going on to provide a hugely entertaining experience. Its interesting enough to really add character to one of my favourite drinks with its differing components whilst still being powerful enough to provide the backbone to hang the other flavours onto. It’s a winner with me.

3-5-star

© 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.

Compagnie des Indes St. Lucia 13

Its been a while, but I’m back with another independent bottling. Coming again from the stable of Compagnie des Indes single cask bottlings, this time the delicious Rum within is from one of my favourite producers, Saint Lucia Distillers.

For a little light background reading on Compagnie des Indes as a company you can have a look here and for info on the basics surrounding Saint Lucia Distillers you can look here…..and now that you’re back, we can continue.

Compagnie des Indes St Lucia 13 – 43% abv

CDI SL13 LabelTo kick things off, I’ve been told that every drop of this Rum is the product of Pot Distillation. It has seen just upwards of 5 years tropical age which gives it between 7 and 8 years in Europe, a similar level of European age as the quite excellent Compagnie des Indes Foursquare 16. There was something quite unique that the split in location did to that Rum and I hope that it also works here. There was an outturn of just 296 bottles in this cask (an ex-Heaven Hill barrel) and it weighs in at a not unsatisfactory 43%. The keen eyed among you may have also (if you read the linked articles) worked out the still that this Rum is from. As the John Dore 2 still was commissioned in 2004, the Vendome still was commissioned in 2003 and this Rum was distilled in 2002, it must by the process of elimination come from the John Dore 1 still. The interesting thing (for me anyway) seems to be the correlation between small pot stills (think the much fabled small capacity Rockley Still) and the production of really medicinal like aromas and flavours. As an obsessive of anything even remotely Rockley Still related, this really has me excited. Having been fortunate enough to taste both unaged and aged distillates from the John Dore 1 still on the recent Saint Lucia Distillers on Tour event, this assumption of a correlation between Pot Still capacity (John Dore 1 has a capacity of 1500 litres) and medicinal aromas and flavours appears, thus far, to ring true….to me anyway.

Tasting Notes

CDI SL13 Angle

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a straw gold in the glass and getting your nose anywhere near it instantly gives you a real hit off sharpness and a kick of the signature medicinal note. This medicinal note is present in large quantities and it brings with it a sort of salty, briny smoke. More time with the glass reveals a slightly earthy, medicinal sweetness in the form of root beer. Once you power through this (and it does take its time) you’re rewarded with a hint of something fragrant and flower like…but no real punch of oak is present which surprised me for a Rum of this age.

In the mouth: Initial entry gives no real heat but it does lead with a light fragrant sweetness….this is however very short lived and soon gets muscled out of the way by a cutting dryness that rather strangely is carried on a lot of fragrant woody notes…more sappy than heavy oaky notes. In fact this fragrant wood is a total polar opposite to what the nose gave away…it is really dominant in the early stages. The fruit is there but it is more akin to fragrance than a taste being so light as it is. The mid palate is dominated by a light fragrant flower like quality, maybe elderflower but this soon succumbs to the powerhouse of a finish. The medicinal edge that I so love powers through into the medium length finish and leaves that drying quality in your mouth with a light fennel and celery taste that fades very slowly…

This Rum yet again helps to back up the fact that St Lucia Distillers really are able to produce something special. The character that is carried through into this Rum is astounding. It may be a little one dimensional to keep my interest over an evening and the whole medicinal thing is a real turn off for some people, but fortunately not for me. At around £68 a bottle it’s not the cheapest purchase and it’s not a Rum that I can drink in huge quantities in a single sitting and it is probably best served as a reference Rum. I was hoping for something to completely blow me away in the same way that the Berry Bros. St Lucia 11 sample that I was kindly sent by Wes did, and subsequently the Berry Bros. St Lucia 14 that I now own as a result still does. But this isn’t quite up to the task. Almost amazing, but certainly a worthy purchase. However, comment must again be made about Florent and his Compagnie Des Indes company which really is starting to spread its wings and make accessible some really great Rums.

3-0-star

© 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.

Ron de Jeremy XO

RDJ XO AngleWe’ve been quite vocal in the past about our love of Ron de Jeremy. It is a product that was dismissed by some as it was thought to be pushing the boundaries of good taste. But we always felt that the Rum was quite enjoyable and it became a real regular purchase at home. The perfect foil to the cries of ‘gimmick’….something that stood up to scrutiny, which we think that it did. You can refresh your memory and see our article on Ron de Jeremy and also Ron de Jeremy Spiced here.

Ron de Jeremy XO – 40% abv

Right, now your back with us. We can tell you all about Ron de Jeremy XO. This Rum is positioned as the next step, or a step up the Rum ladder. The presentation is quite frankly is stunning. The bottle comes in a black cylinder and when the metal cylinder top is removed you are faced with a jet black smooth coated glass bottle. The text is bright white and furnishes you with a little information, the most important being the location of the source Rum(s). The Reserva was from Panama (though the blend has changed now but the profile of the Rum remains) but in this iteration the Rums have been sourced from Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana and Jamaica and are a blend of pot and column. Some aged for up to 15yrs. Solera is mentioned in the bottle but in this instance (and in the majority of instances), it is merely referring to the fact that there is a blend of Rums of differing ages/locations and no desire to be tied down to an actual minimum age. It is profile based not age based. It is a common practice…see Zacapa, Botran, Matusalem, Dictador, Cubaney and so on. A little further digging (Thanks Olli) has turned up that the distilleries in question providing the Rums are hugely credible locations. The Barbados component is a blend of column and pot distilled Rums sourced from Foursquare Distillery. The Trinidad component is from Trinidad Distillers (the production company of Angostura), obviously column only. The Guyana element is obviously DDL and they provide pot distilled Rum which should give the Rum some real backbone. Jamaica is the really interesting one….Hampden, Worthy Park, Monymusk and New Yarmouth Estate all provide high ester pot still Rums to the blend. All signs point to the fact that this should be some good juice…..

Now this Rum has been doing very well in Europe and is firmly placed to grab a slice of the big selling marketplace that is currently dominated by Zacapa and Diplomatico. It gives a three-tier element to the range with Spiced, Reserva and XO which positions them well in the grand scheme of things.

But what does it taste like…..

Tasting Notes

RDJ XO Bottle and Glass

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a nice dark gold with mahogany flashes and upon swirling is as reluctant to release any droplets as I am reluctant to get a round in….eventually (as with getting a round in) it succumbs to peer pressure and a few very slow chunky droplets meander back down the glass. When swirling the Rum looks VERY viscous and is almost giving the appearance of moving in slow motion. The initial aroma, which is not as shy as the droplets is one of a very rich fruit cake. Prunes and vanilla are there by the bucket load and there is an almost nutty quality surrounded in burnt caramel. A little one-dimensional and not at all what I was expecting. In fact, it is nothing like I’d expect from the knowledge of the Rums in the blend.

In the mouth: On entry the Rum is incredibly viscous. It immediately gives me a kind of bitter caramel flavour but that is soon kicked into touch by a thick, gooey sweetness…almost cloying. Straight off the bat there is a heap of vanilla, a tiny hint of spice and the hint of an oaky component. It is very smooth…..almost confusingly so. The finish is very short-lived and very disappointing. I expected it to linger but it just slips out of the door without telling you whilst you’re seeing to the other guests. I feel a little of that ‘peach’ like quality that I keep harping on about in the back of my throat that can only be the merest hint of the Barbados component. There is none of the pot still Jamaican magic that I expected and none of the backbone that pot still Demerara usually provides…Trinidad will maybe be the provider of the oaky element but this is the polar opposite of what the blend tells me. It’s all a bit ‘meh’….

I hate to put out bad vibes but after tasting a few glasses of this Rum I felt that something was amiss. It just didn’t sit right with me, so I sent a blind sample off for hydrometer testing by Wes, who runs another Rum based site (it’s not as good as this one, and I’m way more handsome…and taller). He duly carried out the test on this along with two other samples that I had marked up for him to taste…they were almost the controls for the hydrometer test. The resulting data was cause for concern and a bit of a red flag. 92 g/L of additions whether that be sugar, glycerol, vanillin’s or something else. I buy sweetened Rums and I enjoy sweetened Rums, but to say that I was shocked by the figure displayed in the results would be an understatement. More than this though, I felt really let down. I like Olli from One Eyed Spirits, even though I’ve only met him once. This was on the same night that I also met the big man himself, Ron Jeremy and Gaby from Spirit Cartel. Olli has answered my emailed concerns over this Rum and that level of honesty and openness should be applauded. I asked the questions, I got my answers.

The following though, is why I feel so disappointed. The Rum is sourced from credible origins (including some of the most credible) and it has all the potential to be a very interesting blend….world class even. I perhaps expected it to surpass our love of the Reserva! But it has massively under achieved as it has been masked by the additions and the whole experience has been dulled. Imagine that friend, everyone has one. They are a really vibrant and interesting person and for some reason they wind up in the kind of relationship where their partner doesn’t let them be themselves….they control every interaction that you have with your friend and they mask the very essence of what made your friend so great to be around in the first place. Ron de Jeremy XO is that friend and as a result is a huge missed opportunity for me, and it does it’s credible components a large disservice.

That said, it is massively unfair to put this Rum in the same category as all other Rums that have test data out there, for one, this product actually does have Rum as its base….and very credible Rum at that….it just went off the rails and made a few bad decisions whilst it was growing up.

As per usual, feel free to pop in for a drop. It’ll be popular, just not with me. I’ll stick to the Reserva.

0-5-star

In the interests of full disclosure, I was sent the bottle in question by some really lovely people to give my thoughts and feedback.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.