Rum Review : Foursquare Sassafras

Today’s rums in one many of us eagerly await every year. It’s the Foursquare Velier weird name collaboration!

Yes! The absurdity has diminished somewhat from last year’s Plenipotenziario. I didn’t review that expression because there were already plen(t)i out there. But since I’m only behind the incomparable Fat Rum Pirate, I’m pretty happy to post this.

So, the rum of the day is Foursquare Sassafras. First off, let’s get the name out of the way; Sassafras is a plant of some kind with a certain aromatic property. Apparently, it was used for medicinal reasons and it was also used in root beer as flavouring. This vague explanation goes together with the apparent lack of any connection I’ve found with the rum… after a five-minute search.

Anyhoo, the name doesn’t really matter though, does it? As long as the rum itself is good. Let’s see what’s supposed to make this a blasting rum which goes for about €170-€200.

The rum is a blend of the classic Foursquare Twin column Coffey still and copper double retort pot still. It was then matured for 3 years in ex-bourbon casks, followed by an astonishing 11 years in ex-cognac casks. This should result in a pretty impressive double maturation in terms of tropical ageing and cask influence, much more so than that other rum brand that mainly does double maturation. Finally, the rum was bottled after a total of 14 years (still a very impressive feat for tropical ageing) at a barrel proof strength of 61%.

Let’s dive in


Colour:

Deep orange, dark copper

Nose:

A very classic foursquare nose in the beginning. Dried fruits and oak, raisins, and some dried plums. Along with this comes a very present cognac influence. Some pungent old grapes that remind me of an older powerful cognac. This is very well supported by another layer of vanilla, and the slightest hint of glue. The nose has a grandpa-in-a-cardigan-who’s-telling-old-war-stories kind of vibe.

Taste:

Ooh, Grandpa’s a badass, and delicious… I mean the rum, not grandpa. Great rum, from the first sip. An intense palate combined with a certain grape-y crispness really makes this an interesting rum. All the scents come back in the palate but more refined and with a bigger punch. At 61% it’s certainly powerful, but once again it’s for the better. The ABV gives the liquid that extra bit of bravado.

There’s an amazing combination of the dark and heavy flavours with lighter fruitier ones. The good amount of tannins and tiny bit of bitterness from the wood, the deep vanilla, leather and tobacco are perfectly complemented by the crispness of grapes, raisins and maybe even a bit of apple and pear.  Stunning rum.

Finish:

Even the finish inches as close to perfection as possible. An extremely long finish slowly releases all the flavours like the second half of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’. Slowing down and leaving you to linger with a masterpiece with the occasional yelp of greatness.

The last flavours I get are those of the classic foursquare palate and an exuberant cognac.


Incredible rum. I previously gave the Détente a 5-star review (and it’s definitely worth that), but this is on a whole other level (it’s a different cask combination too but still). It appears that the solely ex-bourbon cask don’t particularly do it for me with Foursquare, but these 11 years in ex-Cognac really do something for me. An amazingly complex, deep and multi-faceted rum. Seale truly showed the world how to double mature on ex-cognac casks. The rum is a proper statement piece and even at the retail price point it’s more than worth the money.

10/10

Rum Review: Berry Bros Caroni 1997 22y

Today is an independent bottling of a Trinidad rum, more specifically Caroni, quite the legend. The bottling is done by Berry Bros & Rudd. A London base wine and spirit merchant that also bottles their own spirits. You can find their history here. This 300+ year old company has a reputation of bottling some great rums, with there being so many independent bottlers around at the moment. These long standing companies are always a beacon of quality.

This Caroni was distilled back in 1997, and bottled 22 years later. A significant part of the aging was in continental conditions and it was bottled at 60.3%.

Since this is the first Caroni that I’ll review, I’ll give a small introduction. The Caroni story started in 1918 like so many others, with a sugar plantation. Actual rum distilling started in 1923 and this lasted up until 2002 when the distillery was closed by the government. The distillery produced a “Heavy” rum, a flavour profile with notes such as tar, rubber and petroleum. This all may not sound attractive, but for most experienced rum drinkers, it’s an eye-opening experience. Unexperienced drinkers on the other hand may believe something is very wrong with it, to each their own.

Because of this intense and expressive profile, the rum wasn’t all that popular when the distillery was open, especially since most of the worlds tastebuds were more prone toward lighter rum and rum cocktails.

In 2004 Luca Gargano re-discovered this now-closed distillery and found a massive amount of resting barrels in an abandoned warehouse. Gargano continuously released single casks and blend of the rum which went from the fringes to wide recognition and now legendary status. Gargano made Caroni great and a lot of independent bottlers are trying to share some of the profits with him.

Among which is today’s bottler. With their 1997 vintage, they’ve brought a (hopefully) memorable Caroni identity.


Colour:

Amber, orange with deep golden hues.

Nose:

There they are: petroleum, tar, rubber. These heavy notes are also complimented by tropical fruits (passionfruit and bananas). The heavy elements serve as a solid base on which the fruit can float. Chocolate and molasses join the party as well but these get lost in the heavier notes.

The intensity of the nose and its ABV of 60.3% makes my eye water sporadically when diving in deep. Nothing I can’t handle though. (yes, I’m a badass)

Taste:

Molasses, orange, tar, petroleum, banana, chocolate and tobacco. In that order. Just a very warm and intense rum. It’s like sitting at an open fireplace in a cabin and smoking a fat cigar and eating tangerines… near a petroleum factory. I’ve been told this is one of the “more approachable” and lighter caroni’s still out there. Since this is my first review of a Caroni I can not confirm nor deny this statement. I’ll just have to see as the years come along where this one ranks.

The ABV is filling and not sharp at all. Also some spice is present on the tongue, but very light. A light saffron hint.

Finish:

The finish is almost infinite and woody, the tar and rubber linger. A thin layer of caramel covering a cask remains as a last lingering note.

This being the first caroni I’ve reviewed, I don’t really have a standard with which to compete. But as a rum on its own, it is of course an immensely good rum. I must admit I like the tar, rubber and petroleum notes, though I don’t love them. Meaning that this is a solid rum to try occasionally; not daily or weekly. Perhaps monthly or even less frequent than that. With the status this distillery has and its intense flavour it only seems normal to keep this type of rum for special occasions or tasting sessions.


Overall, good rum, powerful and expressive. Wouldn’t recommend it for the weaker hearted, but for the ones that are open to trying it. It’s a great piece of history to try it.

This Caroni now stands at a price of €520. Which is a lot. The question is, is it worth it? There are 2 sides to the answer.

-As a collector’s item? yes! as a collector’s item this is definitely worth it, since Caroni is a closed distillery, prices will only go up. So the best time to buy Caroni is yesterday.

-As a drinker? not at the moment. There are cheaper Caroni’s available on the market, both full and partial tropical ageing. Over the next couple of years this could become worth it though. As the already limited stock sells out, this type of pricing will be normal for Caroni (as it is now for the more limited bottles, that run at multitudes of this price already).

In the end it’s really up to you if you’re willing to pay this kind of money for this kind of rum.

And for this money you can be that annoying and pretentious person that has drunk Caroni and can’t stop talking about it… Like I will be from now on. You may from now on address me as ‘Sir RumRobin, Knight who says (Caro)NI‘. all I need now is a crown, a cupbearer to bring me rum at a moment’s notice and a shrubbery.

9/10

Here you can find the link to buy the bottle. The webshop only works for Belgian customers or for people who have “Bancontact” at the moment.

If you aren’t from Belgium and are still interested in this bottle. Send me an email on robin@crombewines.com

Disclaimer: I work at the store of which I included the link. I do not however receive any money or incentives to sell these rums. I just like them, put them in the store and share them with you all.

Review #25: Rhum Bielle 2012 Brut de Fût

Today we’re visiting Marie-Galante, a little island just south of its parent-island of Guadeloupe. On this Island there are 3 distilleries: Habitation Bellevue, Poisson (Père Labat) and Bielle.

Bielle is todays subject. The distillery was founded at the end of the 19th century and produces its rum in the old fashioned Agricole way. This means with pure cane juice and creole column stills. This production method is widely used in almost all French speaking rum producing islands and mostly gives a fresh, herbal and grassy taste, a rather specific palate as a general category, with a lot of variety from distillery to distillery in the category. This again shows the insane flexibility rum has.

The Bielle distillery and the other distilleries on the island were replacements for the small “sucrottes”. These were tiny sugar cane plantations that have become unviable due to a globalizing sugar production (cane and beets). Instead of stopping production, these sucrottes became Agricole distilleries which use the fesh cane juice to make an outstanding product.

Today’s Bielle is the Brut de Fût 2012. Brut de Fût meaning cask strength… and 2012 meaning it was distilled in 2012… Thank you captain obvious.

The rum was distilled in 2012 using Savalle (créole) column stills after being fermented in open air for 48h. It was bottled in January of 2020, this will put the rum somewhere between an old 7 years old to 8 years. These years of aging resulted in a final ABV of 53.7%

Colour:

Deep orange-brown, dark copper hue

Nose:

The initial nose is quite closed. Revealing only hints of vanilla beans with some grass attached. However, it doesn’t take long for it to start coming open. A hefty vegetal nose starts coming through surrounded by oaky influences; a bit of spice and again some vanilla all support this dark sort of grassiness.

Taste:

Again, right on beginning of the first sip, this rum feels closed. And just like on the nose it doesn’t take too long to expose itself. The same vegetal note hists again, but more pronounced and fresh. I get this very particular taste of those classic brown plasters and I must say, I don’t hate it. This reminds me of the “chemical and medicinal” qualities some Jamaican rums are said to have. Though in Rhum Agricole the specific flavour here can be disruptive to me rather soon. The Bielle is well-balanced and the plaster remains within the bounds of the pleasant.

In this case it gives a fresher impression than for example Clairin or Providence. Though it is deeper and more rounded out thanks to the cask influence than some of the very minty unaged Agricoles.

Thanks to this cask influence I also get spices, a bit of caramel and vanilla on the palate as well alongside some leather and tobacco (this only in minor forms). Lovely and interesting dram

Finish:

The finish is medium-long, with spices being the main attraction and a musty-ish and dark  grassy/vanilla sideshow.

Pretty great rum. It clearly is an Agricole without it feeling like purely grass in a glass. It has depth and complexity and it does it better than the Vieux Clairin. The vegetal and woody notes complement each other far better and create a very nice and pure rum. A very very solid Vieux Agricole.

I’m a fan!

9/10

Review #24: nectar of the daily dram le galion ex-dok px-cask

I’m back with another 2 rums selected by The Nectar (BE). What can I say? They’re just really good at what they do, and that’s selecting spirits. This time it’s from a self-owned company Daily Drams. Here’s a link to the other one

The Nectar was born in 2006. The creation of 2 whisky-lovers Jan Broekmans and Mario Groteklaes, the company was founded as a passion project, especially to bottle great, fun and tasty tipples. Passion projects as companies or independent bottlers are always a good idea, this ensures the first goal of the company is to bottle the best possible product out there; profit often takes a second place and this is something to be applauded.

This year’s rum selection consists of a 13 year old Foursquare, aged in a bourbon barrel and bottled at 63%. The second bottle originates from Le Galion Distillery in Martinique. The distillery is the only one on the island that uses molasses instead of cane juice for their rum. This has then been aged on an ex-PX sherry ex-DOK cask. Yes, you read that correct. The gorgeously juxta positioned (this is my word of the day… am I using it correctly?) Pedro Ximenez and DOK-rum filled this cask before the current Le Galion was laid to rest in there for 6 months.

The selection appears to be geared towards 2 kind of consumers. The rum from Le Galion has more of an experimental function. It’s a crazy fun combination of several interesting and powerful flavour palates. This then should without much surprise be perfect for the “connoisseurs” and nerds among us. People who want to experience as much flavour combinations and weird stuff as possible. This would be the perfect rum for a tasting among a hardcore group of rum drinkers, or perhaps for a Belgian 23-year old who writes about rum for fun.


Colour:

Very light yellow, comparable to the Veritas.

Nose:

Powerful nose this, with the hogo grassy and vegetal notes nicely supported by the chemical-ish notes of the DOK. This is mellowed and filled out by the PX cask. The most prevalent scents are of course the more ester-y and vegetal notes (even though Le Galion is a molasses-distilling based product) alongside with briny olives and some fish which I also noticed in the River Antoine (here in less outspoken and more manageable amounts). But from time to time the tiniest whiff of a sweet PX comes floating to the surface. I’m curious for what the taste will tell.

Taste:

This is ONE experimental rum, I get bombarde by very different palettes. At first it’s all clairin and a good pure vegetal notes. With sweet fresh grass, like a regular Agricole but make it chewing gum. Which is weird since it really isn’t one. Coincidentally the rum is rather chewy as well. This is a Grand Arôme rhum, so I suppose the second ester and varnish bit of the experience has to do both with the rum itself and the DOK-cask it’s been in for 6 months.

Only after getting used to the initial shock and settling into the rum do I truly begin to appreciate the weirdness and complexity of the rum. Believe me, it’s a weird rum. There’s so much going on, all at once. I can’t seem to quite get over the underlying orange and raisins that I can only assume are brought in by the PX-cask. This keeps me in a sort of purgatory between disliking it and loving it.

Finish:

The finish settles down a bit, with mainly the grass notes and some oranges remaining for quite a while. The weirdness still remains and continues to intrigue me. Really keeping my attention to tasting for a considerable amount of time after finishing my rum.


Le Galion is a very experimental and specific rum. It’s tailor made for Agricole drinkers who like their high-ester flavours. I think the PX part of the equation is make or break, after much trying and contemplation, I’ve grown to like it. The rum is overwhelming at the start, not out of strength or alcohol, but of a complexity that comes from all over. Eventually the Agricole and DOK are a perfect combination. Once again I suggest to go find one for yourself and find out whether you like it or not.

This rum was clearly meant for the more experienced rum fan who wants to try every possible combination out there. And with that The Nectar has obviously succeeded. some people will love its innovation, some won’t. And that’s fine, because differences in preferences is what keeps us discussing rum for hours on end.

7.5/10

With this year’s Daily Drams, The Nectar has released a bottle for both the main market segments: the casual drinker, and the nerd. Both are done well and succeed in their respective purpose. I expect to see the Foursquare in a lot of bars and the Galion in a lot of rum tastings.

Review #23: Nectar of the Daily Dram 2007 Foursquare 13y

I’m back with another 2 rums selected by The Nectar (BE). What can I say? They’re just really good at what they do, and that’s selecting spirits. This time it’s from a self-owned company Daily Drams. Here’s a link to the other one

The Nectar was born in 2006. The creation of 2 whisky-lovers Jan Broekmans and Mario Groteklaes, the company was founded as a passion project, especially to bottle great, fun and tasty tipples. Passion projects as companies or independent bottlers are always a good idea, this ensures the first goal of the company is to bottle the best possible product out there; profit often takes a second place and this is something to be applauded.

This year’s rum selection consists of a 13 year old Foursquare, aged in an ex-bourbon cask and bottled at 50%. The second bottle originates from Le Galion Distillery in Martinique, and has been aged on an ex-PX sherry ex-DOK cask. Yes, you read that correct. The gorgeously juxta positioned (this is my word of the day… am I using it correctly?) Pedro Ximenes and DOK-rum filled this cask before the current Le Galion was laid to rest in there for 6 months.

The selection appears to be geared towards 2 kind of consumers. This one is the old reliable. Foursquare never disappoints and the only discussion is about the degree of awesomeness This rum is targeted towards the loyal army of foursquare fanatics for one. Also for your whisky-turned-rum drinker, people who’re looking to go into more premium rum and people who like something smooth to drink in their lounge chair after a long week, and for everyone who has working tastebuds.


Colour:

Golden orange.

Nose:

Classic Foursquare: vanilla, woody bourbon, a tiny bit of nail polisher and some citrus . All very light and almost fresh. From the nose alone I wouldn’t expect this to be 63%. Which for a Foursquare I like very much.

Taste:

Chocolate and vanilla goodness. Wow, I think I’m in Madagascar picking fresh vanilla beans. With the first sip, the delightful rum fills my mouth with excellence. This is exactly what I want from a Foursquare. Deep dark and (dare I say) smooth tones. The vanilla, chocolate and orange really dominate; which for this rum is perfect. There’s also just the right amount of spice to make it that extra bit more interesting. Though it’s not overly spicy and this makes it very easily drinkable. The 13 years on bourbon barrels have done their work incredibly well, even better than some of the similarly aged bottlings released by Foursquare themselves. The rum again has the right amount of acidity from the barrel without being meek or disruptive.

The rum as a whole is incredibly approachable, yet complex. A combination of easy-going and very interesting hints.

Absolutely stunning rum this.

Finish:

The finish is medium long and keeps up the theme of the rum. Full, warm chocolate hug; like spooning with a moelleux and vanilla ice cream.


The Foursquare is unbelievably good. For me this is one of the best foursquares I’ve had. It’s full, inviting, with the right amount of interesting quirks and extra’s to make it thoroughly enjoyable for foursquare fanatics and the general public alike.

I always envisioned Foursquare as being the stately, reputable and nearly perfect rum comparable to some of the great names in Scotch Whisky. And throughout my travels (read: sitting at home and drinking Foursquare) I’ve found this to be true. Soon whisky will have to start comparing itself to Foursquare.

I’d easily order this in a dark moody jazz-club with a velvet evening jacket and smoking a bit fat cigar, because this is that type of rum. Easily drinkable and even easier to enjoy. Or even introduce this to a tough rum- or whisky-tasting crowd, because it’ll hold up regardless. I’ll definitely be picking up a bottle (or two).

9.5/10

With this year’s Daily Drams, The Nectar has released a bottle for both the main market segments: the casual drinker, and the nerd. Both are done well and succeed in their respective purpose. I expect/hope to see the Foursquare in a lot of bars and the Galion in a lot of rum tastings.

Here you can find the link to buy the bottle. The webshop only works for Belgian customers or for people who have “Bancontact” at the moment.

If you aren’t from Belgium and are still interested in this bottle. Send me an email on robin@crombewines.com

We only have 10 more bottles of this rum at the moment of writing, so be quick!

Disclaimer: I work at the store of which I included the link. I do not however receive any money or incentives to sell these rums. I just like them, put them in the store and share them with you all.

Review #22: Chairman’s Reserve Legacy

Again a somewhat belated review by yours truly. By the time of writing there are already 2 reviews of this rum. One by The Fat Rum Pirate, and one by The Rum Barrel. Both have given this rum a high rating, so I wanted to see if this heavy and funky palate is also fond of the Legacy edition from Chairman’s Reserve.

Chairman’s Reserve is a rum produced by Saint Lucia Distillers, located in Saint Lucia (always nice when the distillers’ name is indicative on its location, makes it easy to remember). The distillery produces with pot and columns stills, which is also the case for this rum.

I’ll now show the blend in this rum, shamelessly stolen from The fat Rum Pirate’s website

John Dore 2 – 7.5 years old – Molasses based (16%)

Pot Still Vendome – 7 years old – Molasses based (4%)

Coffey Column Still RR104 marque – 5.5 years old – Molasses based (72%)

Pot Still John Dore 2 – 5 years old – Sugar Cane Juice based (8%)

There we go, copy paste! Just like in school, making a presentation solely on Wikipedia. (please don’t sue me Wes).

These rums are each aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being blended together for the final result.

This rum is a dedication to the former chairman of the distillery and the man who introduced using pot stills and sugar cane juice into the rum making of the company, Laurie Barnard. Pushing for a more complex and attractive rum. One can only cheer on this type of vision, moving away from industrial column distilling towards a better process which yields less but better rum. Hence the distillery made this blend to honour Laurie.

Unfortunately the biggest part of the blend is column distilled, which to me usually means a less interesting rum. This and the fact that it’s bottled at 43% ABV shows the rum is meant for a broader public with a less weathered flavour palate. We’ll see if this is a good or a bad thing.

Colour:

Deep orange

Nose:

I must admit, the nose gives a good impression. A lovely layer of caramel which is glazed over allspice, oak, a hint of tobacco, some fresh green fruits and of course the obligatory vanilla. Very approachable nose, the massive amount of column still is hardly noticeable, a nice and full scent almost makes this foursquare-like.

Taste:

The palate is a somewhat other story. The first impression is a letdown compared to the nosing. It’s become more obvious where the column part was hiding, at first I don’t get much from the rum. Some woodiness, barely any spice and some raisins.

On the second sip the spiciness does start to pop up in a very small amount. The rum becomes somewhat more complex, with tobacco, more wood, some certain minty freshness. But to my taste it’s still a bit weak, like giving a handshake to someone who gives that limp hand, god I hate that.

I must admit, with every sip it does get incrementally better, but it never quite reaches that wow-moment.

Finish:

The finish is medium, with some oak, vanilla and spice.

Not really my kind of rum, but I can imagine there are a lot of people who may truly like this rum. I can say it’s very accessible yet complex for its 43% and price of about €38-40. But for that money I’d much rather have a Doorly’s 12. Which has a fuller palate than this lightweight of a rum.

But I’ve always said to rate rums for what they are, there’s no way I can compare the Legacy to my favourite line-up of hogo and funky rums. So I’ll try to give a slightly unbiased rating for the rum it’s trying to be. It may not be my personal kind of rum, but objectively it’s still decent.

6/10

Review #21: Rum Fire Overproof Jamaican Rum

Ah, Rum Fire. Originally released by Hampden Estate for the domestic Jamaican market with a cheap looking bottle, amazingly tacky 80’s vibe and MS paint-looking label and a name that doesn’t exactly scream drink me to the general public outside of the Jamaican scene. It has since then grown to (as almost everything form the Hampden Estate) cult status. And rightly so

Rum Fire is the last of the Big Three of Jamaican unaged overproof rums (Here’s a great overview of all three), and it seems to be fitting that this is the one to round of the trio. First we had the J. Wray and Nephews with its pot and column blended overproof, this began as a fringe rum only to be used if you want to set something on fire in a tiki bar. Luckily it became recognized as the quality rum it really is and it is now unmissable in any bar which takes its rum selection somewhat seriously.

Later on came the Rum Bar overproof from Worthy Park. Purely Pot still and funkier than Uncle Wray, this rum is still approachable to most people but it gets the Ester-geeks going a bit more. With its buttery and fruity taste it is a great rum for daiquiris, snaquiris and straight drinking alike.

Now we FINALLY have the ultimate evolution of Jamaican Unaged Overproof rum, the Charizard of the three. Evolved from the relatively low-heat Charmander of Wray and Nephews, to the medium-heat Charmeleon of Rum Bar and finally to the intense Rum Fire Charizard (this one’s for all you Pokémon lovers)

Rum Fire is produced at Hampden Estate Distillery and is a continuation of the tradition of siphoning unaged rum of questionable strength for own use. Since in the past most of the rum produced by Hampden and most Jamaican distilleries was used for export and blending, this illegal white rum was used on the island to fuel parties, make rum cake, fight illness and many more purposes.

It’s made in much the same way as the other Hampden releases, with a 10-14 day open air, wild yeast fermentation, dunder and muck added for extra bacterial and acidic supercharging. Pot still distillation and reduced to the standardized 63% before bottling.

Okay, enough build-up, let’s get into this bad boy


Colour:

So see-through, it may look so uninteresting and gentle to the untrained eye. But we rum-nerds know better, proper unaged rums are beasts.

Nose:

Well, my room will be smelling like Rum Fire for the next couple of hours… and I love it! Honestly if someone were to be able to make a candle or fragrance that smells like this, hit me up!

The smell is truly room-filling. Even as I’m writing, the glass is a bit away from me and the smell still tickles my nose. Apart from making my spidey-senses tingle, let’s get some actual tasting notes. The first hit is fat and buttery, very much like the Rum Bar on steroids. It’s very pungent, the alcoholic sensation you normally get from nosing a spirit from closeby is now almost constantly present, but it’s more ‘freshly baked cartoon pie on the windowsill dragging me in through my nose’ vibes. The alcohol isn’t sharp or disruptive, it’s full and drawing me in.

After leaving the dram breath for a while, the fruit starts coming through. It’s such a smooth transition. First bananas, then pineapple, coconut and other tropical fruits. After a considerable amount of time I’ve forgotten all about the butter and I’m now in Jamaica surrounded by heaps of fruit, the bananas are starting to rot a bit, nice. Also there are a bit of briny olives on the side

Noticeable absences are the notes of varnish and paint-stripper. This makes the rum fuller and fruitier.

Taste:

The first sip as expected is a bomb of atomic proportions. First of all the 63% ABV hits at first, but gives way to a tidal wave of fruit which is then quickly replaced by a buttery blast to then again subside to a lasting fruity flavour. I haven’t taken another sip yet, so it’s safe to say this rum is something else.

Sip 2, here we go. Yep, still good. The alcohol is still present and it’s still warming and filling instead of off-putting and sharp, it translates into a warming pepper-y spice. It’s also dry as hell and even a bit acidic (if I can believe those diagrams which show the flavour receptors on the tongue).

On the palate I do get a bit of varnish, but it’s very fruity and not what I’m used to in Hampden’s it seems like this is the only toned down aspect in this belter of a rum. Other notes are of course the typical fruit bouquet (pineapple, banana, other tropical fruits), and again that fatter butter pops up, but it’s lessening with each sip. The briny olives are almost meaty and my mouth is nearly numbing in a delicious punch.

Finish:

The finish is everlasting and I really don’t want it to end. I kind of don’t want to clean my teeth ever again, like you don’t really want to wash your hand after shaking it with a celebrity.

Tastewise, the finish is spicy, slightly hot, fruity and dry.

I’m taking another sip, let’s do this again.


Rum Fire. Jamaicans know what’s up. Not only with this but also the Rum Bar and Wray and Nephew’s (reviews of these will be coming). The rum fire is an experience, that’s the least you can say about it. It’s a more well-balanced rum than, say a River Antoine. The room-filling aromas and explosive flavours are enough to make you dream about it for weeks.

On the one hand this rum is so special and good, I can’t believe this rum isn’t drunk everywhere. On the other hand, I can believe that only a very select group of people (including Jamaicans, ester-geeks, and experienced rum drinkers) will enjoy this, there is no way a newcomer in rum will like this, even be able to keep it in. 90% of people will think this’ll kill them instantly, and that’s okay for me (that means there’s more for us)

Unsurprisingly this also works amazing in cocktails: Rum Fire & Ting, nuclear daiquiri, or even a supercharged zombie just to name a few.

Rum fire simply is the best unaged(not even solely Jamaican) rum *Jeremy Clarkson voice* in the world.

9.5/10

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