Single Blended Rum – A blend of only pot still and traditional column still.
ABV Hydrometer Test: 56.5% ABV @ 20°
Every so often, I have the pleasure of reviewing rums from genuinely amazing distilleries, crafted and blended by some of the most passionate rum producers in the world.
On this occasion, my review is about Foursquare Criterion from Barbados – certainly a distillery that produces amazing rum.
Most people in the rum community will be familiar with Foursquare Master Blender/Distiller, Richard Seale. If ever there was a person to act as an advocate for producing pure and unadulterated rums, this is the guy. Not content with producing fine rums, Richard is also very active in rum discussion groups, arguing passionately against the deceit and downright lies that are prevalent amongst many rum producers, yet are not widely known by the rum drinking public. This is where I share an equal passion with Richard as I frequently explain to rum consumers about what they are drinking and whether the value in their purchases comes from the liquid inside the bottle, or merely from the fancy bottle/packaging or some dodgy pirate-based marketing b*llsh*t made up to deceive consumers.
But I digress…I am here today to talk about Criterion from Foursquare distillery in Barbados.
4,000 bottles of this rum have been produced worldwide – 2,000 in the UK and 2,000 in the US, so we have a very limited edition here. The rum comes from a combination of pot and column stills and is guaranteed to contain no added sugar nor additional flavours. In other words, it is pure unadulterated rum. It is the fifth release in Foursquare’s Exceptional Cask Selection and was released in April 2017 at 56% ABV.
This rum has had two ageing periods – one in ex-Bourbon for three years and the other in old second fill ex-Madeira casks (and rum was their previous contents) for seven years making ten in total. Richard Seale explained “these were second fill ex-Madeira. They had rum in them before. It is not the Madeira directly we are after, it is about choosing an excellent quality cask, selected and charred for wine and seasoned by many, many years of use in wine and rum. Now we have a wonderful vessel for our rum to blossom and age.” This sounds like the basis for an intriguing spirit.
I asked Richard about the name and if it represented anything specific to which he responded “Just inspiration.”
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be classed as a “Single Blended Rum” – A blend of only pot still and traditional column still..
The bottle follows previous Exceptional Cask Selection releases from Foursquare. It is slightly stubby and has an artificial cork enclosure.
Foursquare’s bottling leads the way with the disclosure of information on the label. We have a distillery that is rightly proud of what they produce and is not afraid to explain every detail of it to those that want to know. The label helps us to see where the value lies in this purchase. Specifically, it highlights the type of rum (Single Blended), the cask type (ex-Bourbon & ex-Madeira), the length of ageing (10 years), type of distillation (Pot & column [still] blend), the release date (April 2017) and the 56% ABV.
My first nosing was quite overpowering, which surprised me. Despite the 56% ABV, I usually do not find this from Foursquare rums. But a few moments in the glass soon assisted and I was able to detect the Foursquare trademark delicate toffee-varnish aroma. The wine aromas are very distinct – if I did not know it was ex-Madeira casks, I would have said the aroma is of Port, or possibly red wine. It gives the nosing a very pleasing accompaniment to the toffee-varnish. Another inhalation reveals some dark chocolate, which is almost treacle-like, ripe sultanas and some dry wood reminiscent of treading sawdust on an old traditional English pub floor.
Taste, Initial-middle 38/40
The entry is beautifully delicate. There is a balance of smooth toffee accompanied by light oak. In the background is tangy red wine tannins creating a dry mouthfeel but at the same time there is a softness, a gentle sweetness. What a great start!
Taste, Middle/Throat 39/40
The first sip creates exactly what I adore about fine rums…a beautiful rum burn in the mid-rear palate. But this is not a fire, it is tempered and controlled, balancing the high ABV with the sweet toffee and dry red wine tannins that persist through the tasting. But where this rum works its magic is that the burn does not make your mouth numb as some high ABV rums do. Instead this has a wine texture that feels and tastes like the fortified wine barrels that were used for ageing. This drifts from slightly sweet salted toffee to dried figs, sultanas and even some ripe bananas. Then comes the smoky vanilla, freshly ground black pepper and the lasting dryness that stops the rum from tasting sweet. After several tastings, there is a distinct astringency to this. The rum has a power and continues to linger, becoming ever-drier as you taste it further, even offering some dried spice notes, too.
The pot still gives this rum its power and punch but the lighter column still distillate helps to keep it under control.
The rum’s balance between sweet and dry continues through the afterburn. Just when you can taste the salted toffee starting to take over, it is pulled back by fine dry tannins. The wine flavour lingers long after swallowing.
I did not want to be predictable and just say “this is from Foursquare and so therefore it is amazing.” But, to be honest, I do not want to lie either…this IS amazing rum! Whatever you have to do to get a bottle – beg, steal or borrow, DO IT and you will be forever grateful as Criterion is simply superb. One of the best rums it has been my pleasure to taste!
This is a tribute to the art of fine rum making. Something that all-too-often is lost in the rum world today, which is dominated by cheap, fake products full of anything-but fine rum, yet masquerading as so-called “premium” rum with the obligatory pirate-story marketing.
I do not know what the definition of “Premium” rum is, but if I want to cite an example of it, I will use Criterion, which is defined as “A principle or standard by which something may be judged or decided.” (Source: Oxford Dictionaries). Well, this is a rum by which others should be judged.
Richard Seale has confirmed there are some more great rums from Foursquare coming in 2018. To improve on Criterion will be a real challenge. I hope Richard realises that this has set the bar very high indeed.
Coming in 2018:
- “Principia” – aged six years in very old ex-Sherry casks, that previously held rum for “many many years.”
- “Destino”, which is being “finished” in ex-bourbon very old rum barrels. “It is a rum finished rum!”
And I did not think that Richard did finishes!!!
P Denotes the rum contains POT still distillate.
C Denotes the rum contains traditional/Coffey COLUMN still distillate.
B Denotes the rum contains a BLEND of POT and COLUMN still distillate.
M Denotes the rum contains MULTI-COLUMN still distillate or is a MODERN rum.
A Denotes the rum is an AGRICOLE i.e. from Cane Juice.
S Denotes the rum is presented in a SWEETENED style.
Bottle/Presentation Out of 3
Glass/Aroma Out of 10
Taste, Initial-middle Out of 40
Taste, Middle/Throat Out of 40
Afterburn Out of 7