Foursquare ECS I “1998” Rum
Rum: Rum from a traditional column still.
ABV Hydrometer Test: 40% ABV @ 20°
Celebrating 52 years of Barbados independence today seems like a great opportunity to write about something a little special as well as very rare, almost extinct from the Foursquare inventory.
Foursquare has become a phenomenon in the rum world and their Exceptional Cask Series of bottles have been especially well received.
Although I have reviewed the more recent editions, I have not reviewed the first three releases and so I am putting that right starting with this, the FIRST in the ECS series, simply known as “1998 Vintage” and released in 2008 at 40% ABV.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be classed as a “Traditional Rum”: Rum from a traditional column still.
At the start of this review, my one and only bottle of this is almost empty and given the vintage nature of this bottle, it is unlikely that I will ever find some more. Therefore, this review is bound to have a touch of melancholy and sadness attached to it from a personal point of view as this was one of the first ‘new’ rums I purchased when I started exploring the world of rum. But, rum is made for drinking and so at the same time, I should be celebrating enjoying this, whilst raising a glass to Barbados Independence Day.
1998 was the year of the rum’s distillation. According to the rear label, it was matured in ex-Bourbon white oak casks “for about 8 years before being decanted, reduced in strength and returned to the cask for a secondary maturation. Once the rum is considered well married and the maturation complete, the rum is then decanted for bottling and labeling by hand.”
Looking back to the 1998 Vintage, the original if you like, shows how Foursquare have tweaked their ECS rums over time. Presumably as the rum community have become more demanding and appreciative, so the rums have become ever more complex, bold and daring. Not that this rum is basic but comparatively, it does show some signs of age.
Why do I say this?
Well, to start with, the ABV is at a paltry 40%. This is how far rum has come in the last ten years since this was released in 2008. Nowadays if Foursquare releases a rum, we are treated to 56% (Foursquare ECS VII “Dominus”), 59% (Foursquare ECS VI 2005) and over 60% for the Velier bottlings, although of course Foursquare ECS VIII Premise, released in 2018 was 46%. If the next ECS bottle was released at just 40% there would be a collective groan in the rum community accompanied by utter disbelief that the one and only Foursquare distillery would release a special edition at 40%. Yet the first release was just that…..40%!
The label, whilst familiar when compared to other ECS bottles, does not have the Gargano Classification on the front label as this pre-dates Luca Gargano’s reclassification concept. No mention of Single Blended Rum, which I believe first appeared on the third edition, the Zinfandel Cask Blend.
Comparing the label to recent editions (“Dominus” is shown below), ECS I describes the cask type as simply “wood”, it also listed the cask number and did not reference the type of distillation i.e. pot and column still blend.
In addition, this rum was only from a traditional column still whereas others in the ECS series are blends of pot and column still distillate.
And now into the tasting to see how 1998 Vintage looks and more importantly, tastes…..
The bottle is familiar enough to anyone who has ever had an ECS release. As already mentioned, the label lack’s the Gargano classification (it pre-dates the Gargano classification, which I think came about in 2015) and the terminology differs from newer releases, but as with the bottle, it would look familiar to ECS and Foursquare drinkers.
On the front, there is a reference to the “wood” i.e. cask used for ageing (ex-Bourbon), the “cask storage” i.e. age (10 years), the “cask number” (2,807), bottling date (July 2008) and the 40% ABV.
On the rear label is a brief story of Foursquare accompanied by distillation and maturation notes.
In the glass, the rum is a medium amber with a golden shine to it. Swirling the liquid around the sides of my glass reveals moderate legs that are quite slow to descend the sides of the glass.
The aroma is very familiar, with the Foursquare-esque toffee and varnish being very prominent. There is charred oak on the nose, a hint of vanilla and some dried fruits, too. Possibly even a faint hint of old tobacco.
Taste, Initial-middle 35/40
Light, soft, delicate but amazing entry. The smoothness is incredible. Just a touch of oak and smoke at this point, light vanilla and dried apricots. Multiple tastings reveal a hint of white pepper.
Taste, Middle/Throat 35/40
There is toffee, vanilla and a developing oakiness. Some dried fruits and cinnamon, alongside a hint of peppery spice.
The rum continues to be light and soft as well as very smooth and easy-to-drink.
This rum has a medium-finish. The oak and vanilla are present but it stops short somewhat.
It is unlikely that I will ever taste this actual rum again, since I have finished my one and only bottle and the chances of finding a replacement are virtually zero. But, ECS I was made to be drunk, not to sit and gather dust on my rum shelves.
The rum is really good…..But, the 40% ABV is a slight problem. We have become accustomed to high ABV Foursquare rums developing into something formidable in the mid/rear-palate. Where this differs is that it starts off being really great and continues to be great throughout the tasting, but it does not quite become amazing as is the case with the later editions in the ECS series.
It is very similar to the R.L. Seale’s 10 year old (at the original 43% ABV) and St. Nicholas Abbey 10 year old rums, which is inevitable as it is essentially the same aged juice inside the bottle. This is not a problem as both of those are great rums as indeed is ECS I, but the problem is that expectations have moved on and when it comes to Foursquare, the bar is set ever-higher with each new edition and this was and still is great. But newer Foursquare rums by comparison are awesome. Maybe in years to come we will look back at Foursquare ECS V “Criterion” or Foursquare ECS VII “Dominus” in a similar way and merely consider them as being great rums.
Happy Independence Day Barbados and thank you for all of the amazing rums you produce!
Review No. 132
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