Review #20: Foursquare Détente

Another Foursquare review? Yes! I’ve got some catching up to do when it concerns this distillery. Today I have another ECS on my plate/glass, the Détente. This is was the last release of 2020 and it’s supposed to be a banger, what did you expect? (no, not a Schweppes commercial)

The Détente has been aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon and ex-port casks. This continues the “tradition” of Foursquare ageing some of its rums on Fortified wine casks, a habit which has worked out for a long time in the world of whisky and its doing pretty fine in the rums of Foursquare and other distilleries.

These ex-port/madeira/sherry casks always seem to be a hit, since the flavours given to the barrels by their respective fortified wines are accessible, full and generally delicious. This will be the first time I’ll try a port-cask Foursquare so I’m psyched *self-five!

This rum (to my completely uninformed megalomaniacally self-inflated guess) is geared more toward people who are newer to rum and haven’t quite visited the fringes of Hampden, River Antoine or even the Foursquare Velier releases. Due to its popular cask selection and its relatively low ABV (51%) this seems to be more approachable than a 60% 2008 or a 63% Nobiliary. This doesn’t mean weathered foursquare fanatics won’t like it, they’ll probably love it just the same… maybe even more.

Once again this rum is the result of a blend between pot and column still, which makes it a single blended rum. These blends were then aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon and ex-port cask. Bottled in August 2020 at 51% ABV


Colour:

Straight up orange/copper

Nose:

The nose is timid, very low profile to begin with. I really have to dig my nose in there to get a good scent. This “effort” reveals a fruity bouquet, some red fruits, grapes, peaches and apricots. Still the nose is very subtle and light. Some vanilla and wood pop up after a couple of nosings. Very approachable to begin with

Taste:

Great first impression, the first sip comes in perfectly. Not to strong, not to light, not to sweet, not to tart, not to spicy, not to mellow. Just right!

The fruit of the nose carries over on to the palate but now combined with more wood and vanilla, a bit of caramel joins the party too. The rum is at once sweet (in the good pure way) of fruit, some chocolate and hazelnut, spicy and dry. A marvelous balance is found here. Raisins appear when breathing out to give yet another layer to this complexity.

This is a real people pleaser

Finish:

The finish leaves a dry mouthfeel which then again encourages another sip, this combined with more spice and wood leaves a long complex grandfather-clock like feeling. Very interesting rum from start to finish.


Seale does it again, what a man. The Détente is a great everyday sipper, it has the complexity of some of the more expensive and challenging rums without being out there. A very light nose, which evolves in a fuller palate and then finishes woody, spicy and dry. This all creates quite a ride for the good old tastebuds and with the rum being “only” 51% this complexity is made very easy-going and easily drinkable.

I have found previous Foursquare rums to be either a tad one-sided like the 2008 or a bit too “challenging” and “overpowering” like the Hereditas. Even the royal tasting Nobiliary might be a bit much for some. But this is a great rum; complex and interesting, easily-drinkable and just a delight to drink.

9.5/10

Hampden Estate Distillery

The House of Jamaican Funk

cherrypicking some history

The Mekka of ester-nerds and people who love good rum in general. The Hampden Estate distillery is a must visit for anyone who likes jamaican rum.

Like many, the distillery started as a sugar plantation. The plantation started its operation around 1753 in the Trelawny Parish under scottish rule. In 1779 the iconic Great House was built, it was used as a rum store until the early 1900’s. then the Great House became the residence of the estate’s owners and eventually reaching its final stage as subject for the label art of the Distillery bottlings in 2019.

In 1827, ownership of the estate changed to Dermot Owen Kelly-Lawson (better known by his initials DOK). And through a marriage into the Kelly-Lawson family Mr Farquarson came to posses the estate.

With the 21st century coming around, it was once again time for a change in management. This time the new owner was the Sugar Company of Jamaica. As the name might suggest, the main focus of the company was sugar. All of the rum produced in the distillery were exported to Europe for blending.

The last and current owners are the Hussey family. They took over in 2009 under the name of Everglades Farm Ltd. through a public bid for the estate. Since then they’ve focused on the heritage of the place and more importantly (for us) on rum. This focus paid of in 2018 when they finally released the first fully Jamaican aged home bottled Hampden rums.

The inner workings

Fermentation

When the molasses enters the distillery it’s mixed with water, dunder (the “leftovers” of previous distilling runs), sugar cane vinegar and muck (a mixture of bagasse (crushed cane), bacteria, acid and who knows what else, which often has been laid to rest underground). This mixture will then be put in the fermenting vats and laid open for the wild yeasts in the air to react with it.

Hampden does not use cultivated yeast strains as they let the environmental yeasts do their work. Fermentation lasts for about 8-15 days, here is when it becomes a mash. After 10 days the process of creating alcohol through fermentation stops, this is when the mixture starts to oxidize more and mainly esterfication happens.

As esters are the result of acids colliding and combining with alcohols, so the longer the mash is fermented, the more esters are created over time.

Distillation

Hampden Estate Distillery only distills only with double retort pot stills. A batch distillation process which creates a heavier and fuller palate than its alternative, the column still.

There are 4 stills at the moment. The oldest of which is a John Dore, which was installed in the 1960’s. The three other stills are: Vendome (1994), Forsyths (2010) and TNT (2016). More stills are under construction or have been built by now.

If you see any wrong information or find that there’s information lacking, don’t hesitate to contact me:

Review #19: Foursquare 2008

I’m a little late on this one… only about 6 months and almost 2 new releases late; so overall, not too shabby. So, with a bit of a delay, I’ll be reviewing the Foursquare ECS (Exceptional Cask Selection) #13, the 2008 vintage. Due to my tardiness, there has already been some writing on it, which you can find here and here.

The 2008 is the 13th installment of the Exceptional cask series and the 5th vintage (after 1998, 2004, 2005, and 2007). The ECS-series releases have quickly become essential grabs for everyone even a bit interested in rum; with Foursquare being the golden standard for general rum quality and Richard Seale being the professor of and preacher for transparency, pure production, and rum GI.

This will no doubt be a solid rum, the recent history of Foursquare shows no reason to think otherwise. Definitely for the price at which the bottles are sold primarily. At release, the 2008 will set you back about €70-80, and from previous experience I’ve never felt that a Doorly’s or Foursquare has been overpriced, more often than not it’s the exact opposite. With the primary price being rather under their worth and then picking up on the secondary market by an immense margin, as is the case for much of the Foursquare ECS rums

Now, the 2008 as a rum. Let’s quickly run over the specs; The rum has been produced by a Pot and Column blend (single blended rum) and aged for 12 years on ex-bourbon casks, it was then bottled in April of 2020 at an ABV of 60%.


Colour:

Dark orange, mahogany, copper

Nose:

The initial impression is a bit underwhelming. Some vanilla and glue are present but it’s not the full and gentle nose, it’s more sharp and alcoholic which sort of makes sense at 60%. Further notes of citrus is added in the form of tangerines. Lots of spice closes of the initial nosing.

After letting the rum rest for a while, the deeper notes start coming forward. There’s more chocolate cake and the vanilla is somewhat more pronounced. The nose is overall pretty good, but nothing that blows my mind.

Taste:

On the palate is where the rum really starts to shine. Initial sweeter notes of vanilla and marzipan are combined with woody spices and the ABV adds a bit of a kick to it, less so than what I expected from the nose. Further on there are some sherry notes by way of oranges and raisins. It also should be no surprise that the rum is as dry as you would expect from a foursquare. The rum also carries some heaviness, a certain boldness and bravado which I do appreciate.

Finish:

There is a long lingering finish filled with the transition of vanilla and sherry to tobacco and eventually leather with the woodiness and spices continuing on from the beginning and middle palates.


Overall a good Foursquare, it hits all the expectations without going above and beyond. All the purely ex-bourbon Foursquares possess so much of the same qualities (no shit, Sherlock), this of course makes them solid rums, some slightly better than others. But it also makes for a mostly homogeneous and unsurprising(ly good) set of releases. The limited quantities of the bottlings then ramp up interest and eventually prices, which for rum lovers is a damn shame.

Because don’t get me wrong. Every single Foursquare I’ve tasted so far is of the highest quality. So maybe the limited releases of vintages and expressions isn’t all that bad when they produce these sorts of rum. And every Foursquare is an outstanding rum, be it in the Barbadian segment, or worldwide. Seale really knows how to make rum.

I, therefore, look forward to tasting the Détente (the review of which is coming soon), this will be a good time to see what Foursquare does on Port cask (I haven’t tried one yet).

Anyhoo, Foursquare 2008: good, solid Foursquare; great rum. Even though it lacks that eye-widening special je-ne-sais-quoi, which makes you say “oooh Holy Guacamole, this is something”, it’s a bloody good drink.

8.5/10

Review #18: Hampden Great House 2020

Hampden Great House part 2: return of the funk.

The second iteration of the Hampden distillery edition has come to grace us with its presence. Normally distillery editions are only available at the distillery, not with Hampden. For why should they limit themselves to only selling this rum on the property; with their momentum being as huge as it is currently and with the severely limited travelling capabilities due to Covid-19.

This year’s edition is somewhat similar to the 2019 edition, with some differences which should make it interesting to try both side by side. This years blend consists of 80% OWH and 20% <>H, compared to the 80-20 split of last years OWH and DOK respectively. This should result in a slightly less funky rum, since the ester count drops from the DOK to the <>H by about 500-600gr/HLPA (DOK: 1500-1600, <>H: 900-1000). This drop of course does in no way shape or form mean a worse rum from the start. In the wise words of Luca Gargano “the biggest boobs aren’t always the best boobs.”

The label remains pretty much the same as last years, only the colouring has changed from red to green. I wonder what next year’s colour will be (I have 1 year of inner debate to go on this essential factor of the rum).

The rum dropped at about the same price as the 2019 edition, but by the time you read this review it will have sold out on the primary market and it’ll probably be gathering absurd prices on the secondary market.

Well, let’s go to tasting… One thing’s for sure! The expectations are stellar.


Colour:

Light, goldenbrown. a tad darker than the 2019 edition

Nose:

The nose carries some spiciness and tobacco and a bit of tar. these are the first things that jump out besides the classical Hampden bouquet. The smells are heavier and less fruity than the previous iteration. Somehow I also get a mineral smell, a bit like rocks being hit by a waterfall.

All this of course is in symbiosis with the classical banana, pineapple Hampden notes. along with some zesty citrus (mainly orange).

After the first sip I start to get some smokiness and peat on the nose (see Taste for why)

Taste:

Let’s start at the beginning. the first tastes that come to my puny brain are meaty mangos and papayas and then, all of a sudden smoke. It almost feels like I’m drinking a peated whisky for just a second. Not bland for a first sip, innit?

This blend has one extra year of barrel aging, and it’s noticeable. This and the different composition of the blend create a wholy different experience than its predecessor. This year the rum is heavier and darker than its counterpart. more towards say… Caroni than other Hampdens, those rubber and tarry notes aren’t very far of.

These heavier elements do start to fade and mix into some lighter tastes after a bit. with some slight vanilla popping up, accompanied by cinnamon and nutmeg.

Finish:

The finish is semi-long and mainly cinnamon/nutmeg-spicy and a bit meaty, with a residual smokiness.


Rsiking sounding like a broken record: this tastes like a completely different rum than the previous version. I’ve now had a couple of these “wow, this is a different Hampden”- type moments in the last months and I don’t know whether it’s because my taste has somehow changed or whether it is actually the diversity that Hampden can put out there.

Between the 2 current Great Houses, the former is greater for me. The 2019 is just so funky and fruity and quintessentially Hampden (or at least what I assume everyone likes about hampden). The 2020 edition has a darker scent and taste than its counterpart. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very very good rum, because no matter what Hampden does create wonderful rum regardless. This edition is just doesn’t do it for me as much as the 2019 does it. (edit:) This is the back-up meal you choose if the restaurant doesn’t have their world-famous steak.

9/10

Links for more information.

Here are some links to other bloggers who have done amazing blogging and amazing pieces on the more technical parts of the spirit.

Bloggers in general

Anything from The Cocktail Wonk

On distillation

Great essays by The Lone Caner

On esters

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Review #17: Rivers Antoine

Looking forward by looking back

The obscure cult-legend of Grenada: River Antoine Royal Grenadian rum. What is there to say to fans and where to begin for a layman?

The distillery was established in 1785. A bit later than big names like Mount Gay (the longest still operating distillery in the world, 1703), Appleton estate (1749) and Worthy Park (1740’s). But contrary to all these distilleries, Antoine stayed in the 18th century in all its pre-industrial glory or backwardness, however you see it.

Everything about the distillery is old. The cane is pressed by a water powered cane mill, the stills are heated by locally scavenged wood. There’s no controlling equipment whatsoever, so the rum is never quite the same, in flavour profile or ABV. Therefore, the percentage mentioned on the bottle is just a general guideline. There are 2 -let’s call them- expressions; one for local consumption, which is bottled with at an ABV of at least 75% and one for export (of which there’s very little) which is bottled at around 69% (nice).

The distillery has earned it cult status with rum fanatics (more specifically with the hogo-niche) through its wild fermentation, wildly inefficient yet very flavourful distillation and the whole mystique surrounding this rum.

This is only a short summary based on The CocktailWonk’s article of what the distillery actually is. It’s a great read, a deep dive that’s at once educational and easy-reading. Read it! Now!

The bottle in my possession, I got from Spirit Academy. They recently dropped a small amount of bottles, again thanks to Gargano, who is understandably a fan of the distillery. So getting it to Europe in a small quantity was his latest pet project.

The bottle’s aesthetic (if you can call it that) is very artisanal and authentic or cheap and Lidl/Aldi-ish, however you see it.

Colour:

I’m running out of ways to say something is clear. So you know… it’s … it’s clear, and pretty see through… yeah…

Nose:

A very deep and heavy nose presents itself straight out of the glass. Almost nothing like the funky Jamaican rums. Comparable to Clairin, but heavier and with less grassy notes.

This smells more like briny sardines that’ve been laid in the grass and dirt for a little while. And then put into their tin can, the salt still quite present. At times the alcohol really comes out with a whiff of eyewatering pungency; If your nose is dear to you, don’t put it to far in the glass as I just did, twice (what’s that saying about a donkey and a rock?).

After some breathing the rum reveals some lighter notes; grass, some varnish and tropical fruits come up. Quite the varying nose.

Taste:

Yes, sweet Mary mother of Jesus and all that’s holy !!! This is something to careful with. It’s like drinking gasoline that’s on fire, then eating a cigarette. Yet I want to go straight back for another sip. The second and third sip are still challenging, hot and spicy. To be honest, the sheer power of it all never really subsides.

The full 69% is just hardly drinkable and enjoyable for any mere mortal.

Here’s my attempt at some actual tasting notes: the palate is very dry, leaning on sour. The briny and oily nose extends through the taste as well, though the fish doesn’t accompany it. More varnish and spice are along for the ride.

Finish:

The finish is more of the same. A warm hearth filled with peat remains for minutes. Other than that there are trace amounts of the varnish and spice are also present.

This really is the rum equivalent of the exorcist. All the while you’re drinking it, you’re thinking “What the hell am I doing?” and you’re thinking over all of your lives decisions. Yet it still manages to intrigue, it still challenges you to tame it. Even though you know you’ll never truly be able to handle and understand it completely, you’re still chasing that ultimate Nirvana of conquering the beast. Actually; I’ll change my comparison, it’s probably like a bad heroin habit.

Personally (and by now, unsurprisingly) I like it. It’s challenging, interesting and nothing like I’ve ever drunk. This being said, it really is a manic assault on the senses and the mouth as a whole and I believe the novice of it all can wear of pretty fast and it can get boringly brutish. That’s why I’ll give it two scores. One for all you crazy psychopaths (of which I’m partly one), and one for regular people. I can only recommend giving it a try, if you find one out there in the wild. You might love it, you might hate it. But it’ll blow you out of the water regardless

Self-destructive-sadomasochistic-wax-play-fetish-score

10/10

Everyone else

5/5

Overall

7.5/10