Foursquare Rum Distillery is one of the world’s most highly respected producers of premium rum. With an ever-growing, cult-like following akin to Bourbon’s Pappy von Winkle and Japan’s Yamazaki Whisky, the yearly releases of its Exceptional Cask yearly releases are waited for with much anticipation by fine spirit lovers all around the globe. We take a deeper look at Foursquare 2007 (Exceptional Cask Selection Mark X) and the inimitable distillery that produces it.
Barbados – a bit of background
Barbados is widely considered to be the birthplace of rum, not because it was the spot where the spirit was first produced but because it was where it was first distilled for the purpose of drinking (as opposed to something you’d buy from an apothecary – although overproof rum is still very much considered a cure-all in many Caribbean households, and we refuse to fault that logic).
Throughout the 1700s, Barbados dominated in both sugar and rum, becoming the biggest producer of spirits in the world at 900,000 gallons of rum per year. This collapsed in the late 19th century when estate sugar cane began being sent to centralised factories (instead on kept on-site for rum-making), that sold molasses on to newly devised rum brands. The new practice planted the seed for the growth of the modern rum industry where blenders were king. (Read more about the history of the Barbados rum industry in our Foursquare Rum Distillery 2018 Releases piece)
In 1926, the Seale family began buying rum from distilleries around the island, blending it and selling it under the name, R.L. Seale. This continued through to the 1990s, with the company acquiring further brands such as Doorly’s and producing fantastic ranges of rums. However, in 1995, David Seale and his son Richard made a calculated gamble, that many thought mad, and purchased a disused sugar factory, with wrecked buildings dating back to the early 1700s, that they dreamed of turning into a full-production, premium rum distillery. And so, Foursquare was born.
Foursquare Rum Distillery
Foursquare is now run by the passionate and outspoken Richard Seale, a maverick master distiller and master blender with a tireless drive to educate people about the category, increase transparency throughout the industry, stamp down on additives, improve the quality of Pure Single and Pure Blended Rum, and secure a GI for Barbados rum (to name but a few of his worthy soapboxes).
Generations of passed-down blending expertise and constant exposure to the island’s rums means that, whilst Richard is the first in his family to distil rather than purchase rums, he lacks nothing in terms of knowledge, know-how and vision.
Pot stills are the tradition on Barbados, but column allow for higher rectification and efficiency. Foursquare Rums produced are a blend of pot and column stills, and this choice goes some way to illustrate the brand’s unusual approach and nature.
Foursquare’s copper pot still is topped by a small column, which feeds two retort chambers and two sets of coolers. This, along with the addition of plates in the swan’s neck allows for the collection of more aromatic alcohols. The distillery’s Coffey three-column continuous still was made in Italy and showcases Richard’s embracing of new technologies. Operating under a vacuum to enable functionality at lower temperatures, the still run as both a two or three-column, with the first column comprised of two sections: a copper top and a stainless steel bottom. The addition of the third column means that it is possible to produce super clean alcohol for other, non-rum-related products.
Pot and column distillates are blended and placed in barrels. As with most rums, the majority of the barrels used for ageing are American oak ex-Bourbon casks, however Richard has notably experimented with Zinfandel, Madeira, Port and Sherry casks, but his single vintage releases stick to 100% ex-Bourbon. Another noteworthy feature of Foursquare Exceptional Cask Selection releases is their high alcohol percentage as they are bottled at cask strength to offer a more authentic experience without the diluting effects of water.
Exceptional Cask Selection
Foursquare continues to produce rums under the brand R.L. Seale as well as its commercial Doorly’s range however, the Exceptional Cask Selection is where Richard can play.
We first came across this range during a “Mark VIII” preview at rum mecca, Trailer Happiness (read our review here). Here we learned that all the Exceptional Cask rums are “single blended”, meaning that they are from one location, and are produced in the distillery’s copper, double retort pot still and column coffey still. They are also non-chill-filtered and entirely free from caramel colourings, sugar and other flavourings. The experimental nature of these expressions means that only a limited number of each is available, with new selections bottled each year as part of the series. Some of our favourite passed releases, such as Patrimonio, only had 6,000 bottles released worldwide, with a tiny percentage available in the UK. Needless to say, these beauties are rare, coveted, incredibly collectable and down-right delicious.
Foursquare 2007 Exceptional Cask Selection
One example of the Exceptional Cask Selection is Foursquare 2007. This single vintage expression marries a blend of pot and column still rums, tropically aged in Barbados in 100% ex-Bourbon casks for 12-years, before being bottled at a bold 59% ABV (although that’s somewhat tame for Richard). Whilst the exact ratio of pot-to-column rum remains a mystery, we are told that there is more pot still rum in the the 2007 than there was in the 2005 (which in turn had more pot than the legendary, and much missed, 2004).
Brand Ambassador, Pete Holland adds,
“The 2007 Vintage slots into an award-winning series that was started with the 2004 release – something of a game-changer as far as commercially released Rum was concerned. The 2005 Vintage was the ISC Supreme Champion in 2018, the first time that a Rum had achieved that accolade in the history of the competition. The 2006 Velier release is a unicorn in the spirits world, of course, and the 2007 continues in the same vein. For those thinking, ‘Well I’ve got the 2004, this is going to be more of the same’ then that really isn’t the case. The Seale families Rum Blending, Rum Merchant heritage reveals itself in that each release tastes a little different, all within the house style of course, but nuanced enough to ensure it’s in demand of collectors, and enthusiasts.”
Tasting Notes – Foursquare 2007 Exceptional Cask Selection
Sweet, woody notes fill the nose, followed by raisins, sultanas, ginger cake, vanilla, banana skin and spice. The fruity notes come through as you sit with the glass, with desiccated coconut flitting in and out.
A very dry and hot first sip. You feel the full warming effect of the ABV with woody cinnamon and ginger spices kicking it up a notch and keeping it company. Once the palate gets over the initial ABV, an earthy and rounded, ginger-y sweetness comes along. Rum-soaked raisins and chopped nuts arrive, with toasted walnut skin pairing with the dry wood character. Soon after, cold banana finds its way to the palate, accompanied by a touch of coconut.
Neat. Foursquare 2007 is not an easy quaffer. Instead, it is a complex and impressive premium tot that showcases the true originality and skill of the distillery. There is something unapologetically Bajan (Barbadian) about it that we love and every pour of it should be treasured yet freely enjoyed.
This is an outstanding (possibly mildly ludicrous) price for a limited bottling, 12-year-old tropically aged spirit from one of the world’s most highly-awarded rum distilleries. Jump on this whilst you can!