Doorly’s XO Rum is an incredible, versatile and affordable rum from Barbados’ legendary Foursquare distillery. Adored by bartenders and rum lovers around the world, we take a look at this award-winning aged rum and explain why it’s one of the top expressions we recommend to both newcomers to the category and spirit nerds alike.
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Those who are regular readers of Sated or followers across our social media channels will know that we are not reticent or bashful about our unwavering love of Foursquare Distillery. It’s not that we have an undue bias towards it, or that we see Master Distiller and Master Blender Richard Seale’s wares as automatically beyond reproach. It’s just, quite simply, that we have never had a bad – or even mediocre – product from the Barbados producers. Ever. And we’ve tried a lot. Believe us.
The team’s dedication to creating incredible quality liquid without added sugar, additives or interference across its ranges (with the exception of a drop of caramel colouring added to a few bottlings to restore the natural colour from the cask that is lost during dilution) is remarkable. Everything they produce – from the Doorly’s core range and collaboration with The Real McCoy to Richard’s coveted vintage releases and Exceptional Cask Selection – is noteworthy and well-worth a try. However Doorly’s XO is one expression that – in terms of price-point and versatility – stands out for us as the rum that will universally appeal to all, converting lovers of sugared, mass-produced spirits to the good stuff; getting whisky drinkers into rum; and turning newbies into die-hard rum fanatics.
So, what makes Doorly’s XO so damn good?
Why Doorly’s XO?
A bit of background
Founded in the 1920s, Doorly’s was the first rum to ever be exported from Barbados. In 1993, the company was taken over by R.L. Seale (the family-run business behind Foursquare Distillery), which continues to produce amazing rums under the Doorly’s name 100 years on. (Read more about the history of Doorly’s here)
The XO was created by Richard around 2000 and is the only rum in the collection that doesn’t have a defining age statement. Whilst certain other brands might use the term “XO” – which has no legal meaning within rum – to dupe customers with what Richard terms “marketing seduction” into thinking that the liquid is older than it is, this is not the case with Doorly’s XO, where the rums in the blend are all between six and eight years old. The lack of an age statement was a deliberate choice at the time of creation, as Richard wanted to focus on the double maturation rather than the age: “Our local competition did not use an age statement. On reflection as we have developed exports we have reverted to age statements.” Not depicting an age also gives Foursquare flexibility to blend for consistency of flavour, however the minimum age of all components in the bottled spirit never dips below six.
Doorly’s XO is a blend of pot and column still rums that benefits from dual maturation: five years aged in ex-Bourbon casks followed by one to three years in ex-Olorosso-sherry casks. This was the first of Foursquare distillery’s rums that utilised sherry casks and “the reason that it’s between one and three years in the sherry casks,” Foursquare’s UK Brand Ambassador Pete Holland tells us, “is because some of the casks are now older so the liquid has to rest in them for longer to benefit”. Richard adds:
“Maturation is a long, slow process. Using an ostensibly excellent cask briefly suggests it’s more about the marketing than the effect […] If I have an excellent cask, I want to use it for many years [not months].”
When first brought over to the UK, Doorly’s XO was bottled at 40% ABV, which Ricahrd candidly admits was a mistake. This has now been redressed and the same blend is available at the Barbados standard of 43% ABV. It’s a bit crazy but even just that 3% brings out more spice, sharpens up the mouthfeel, makes the tannins more pronounced and seems to introduce a seductive oiliness to the palate, making this a more grown-up but equally as approachable drink.
One Rum, Many Uses
The reason that Doorly’s XO is the rum we recommend freely and openly to everyone and their mother (often literally) is because it is a supremely accessible expression that is an excellent starting point for those who aren’t well-versed in rum, as well as having enough complexity, body and staying power to hold the interest of spirit connoisseurs.
The insanely reasonable price of £31.90 (remember, this is a tropically aged premium rum from one of the most reputable distilleries in the world), also means it’s within most budgets and isn’t so expensive that you would feel too nervous to play around with it in a cocktail.
Incredible sipped neat as well as adding flair and excellence to pretty much any cocktail, it really is a must-have in any home bar.
Tasting Notes – Doorly’s XO
Let’s just take a minute to appreciate the packaging, shall we? Doorly’s XO comes in a handsome presentation box that protects the bottle whilst giving you a bit of history about this incredible brand. An illustration of a Hyacinth Macaw (the largest macaw in the world), sits proudly on the box (as well as the bottle label) – a nod to Doorly’s original labelling that featured a Scarlet Macaw. The bottle itself is a classic Foursquare stubby with a tactile label boasting gold foil detailing, and a ribbon sealed around the bottle neck with a royal blue stamp. Together, this all makes for an impressive look and feel that denotes the premium quality of the liquid within.
A rich, full-on nose bursting with warm toffee, plump raisins, clove studded orange, red apple, plum, redcurrants, walnut, sherry, fruitcake, ginger, coconut, banana, vanilla, milk chocolate, a touch of liquorice, and hazelnut.
A surprising burst of whipped cream, followed by rich caramel, marzipan, singed orange, heaps of spice, soaking Christmas pudding fruit, liquorice, barbecued banana, treacle, dark chocolate, toasted coconut, plum, dried pineapple, poached peach, and red apple. Sweet fruity notes build along with baking spices and an appealing integration of wood that adds dryness without being overpowering. This is an insanely balanced rum that is dangerously drinkable and wonderfully complex.
Honestly, the sky is the limited with this rum. We love to enjoy it neat as well as in almost any rum cocktail out there. Don’t be afraid to experiment with this beauty.
£31.90. Buy it here and here.
(This is a remarkable price for such a fine liquid and is your chance to dip your toe into Foursquare Distillery’s multi-award-winning waters. You won’t be sorry.)