Earlier this year I was fortunate to be invited to the latest Foursquare exceptional cask release at Trailer Happiness. Peter Holland of The Floatingrumshack coordinated the event for Richard and Gayle Seale of Fousquare distillery fame. I had the pleasure of meeting the Seals (Son Christian as well) at the distillery in January. They were so welcoming and generous with their time and of course their Rum (another story to be told).
Foursquare rums are some of, if not my favourites so I was excited to try the new releases.
The event started with the gathering of many rum bloggers, fellow enthusiasts and a Hurricane cocktail which awaited us on arrival and what a great cocktail it was. I do love Trailer Happiness and wish we lived in London so we could visit more! Anyway, once everyone was assembled Richard began talking us through the range but also a little through the history and creation of the Exceptional cask series.
Doorly’s, one of the original Foursquare brands imported to the UK was being showcased at the UK Rumfest in London way back when it started. Rum enthusiasts would ask what was coming next and at this point Richard started to have exciting new projects to taste under the counter for those in the know. Richard explained that one of the reasons for new editions is to be “nimble with change” and “dynamic”. Some may have considered this as a risk but these are “new editions, not a new brand”. From a true rum enthusiasts point of view he said “it allows producers such as Foursquare to be in competition with mega brands”
At this point I think it is worth covering a little bit of exceptional cask history. The first release was in 2009, the 1998 Vintage, 40%, 10 years, ex Bourbon cask. I am sad to say I was not aware of this release at the time and so have not tasted it. The second was the Port Cask finish, 40%, 9 years (3 ex Bourbon & 6 ex Port cask) one of Mrs F’s favourites. This led onto the 2004 release, a cask strength 59%, 11 years ex bourbon, but so well balanced. Next was the Zinfandel Cask blend, 43%, 11 years (5 ex bourbon & 6 ex Zinfandel Cask). So far I think I have consumed 6 bottles of this, it’s that good. Mark V was Criterion, 56%, 10 years (3 ex bourbon & 7 ex madeira.
Each one of the releases has been highly rated and quickly disappears off the shelf. It links back to Richard establishing that Foursquare does not have the same commercial risk now with these due to the reputation for quality so he can put strength where he wants it as these limited runs will sell out.
So on with the latest releases.
The 6th release is the 2005 (follows 2004, same distinct blue lettering on the label). 12,000 bottles, pot column blend, 59 %. This has been aged for 12years in ex bourbon.
The 7th release is Dominus (follows Criterion, same distinct green lettering on the label) 6,000 bottles, pot column blend, 56%, aged for 10 years, 3 ex bourbon the 7 in ex cognac.
The 8th release is Premise (follows Zinfandek cask, same distinct red lettering on the label) 15,000 bottles, pot column blend, 46% (new minimum for this series) aged for 10 years, ex bourbon and ex sherry
After trying the three releases We were extremely lucky to also get to sample Principia, the next Foursquare Rum linked to Luca Gargano of Velier following the awesome 2006 and Triptych. I was fortunate to try this at last year’s Rumfest and even more fortunate to be given a bottle by Richard when visiting the distillery. Principia is 62%, 3 years ex bourbon and 7 ex sherry.
In terms of tasting notes, I will leave that to those who do it better than I ever could. What I will say is that they are all elegant rums. My favourite is the 2005. It is amazing, it has more intensity of flavour compared to the 2004 but is still soft at 59%. What Foursquare do so well is balance the rum before release. Richard did discuss adding water to cask strength releases but explained he had “already done this before release” whereas whiskey cannot do this.
During the tastings Richard was asked several questions. When asked about the strength Richard pointed out that it is a “balance between commercial reality and quality”
When asked about releasing older rums Richard explained that 3 years is the sweet spot for Caribbean aging which is almost double that of somewhere like Scotland and it’s single malts. The current oldest barrels at the distillery are from 2003. Doorly’s XOs commercial success allows for aged limited editions maybe 12/14yr olds but tax restricts % alcohol vol mainly to 10 years.
So what does the future hold? The next phase of exceptional releases could involve some of the many barrels currently at the distillery including Bourbon, Sherry, Madeira, Port, Syrah and Muscat. Whatever Richard decides, I for one, can’t wait to try them!