Malternative: Foursquare Barbados Rum, 13 Years, 63.3% abv, Indonesia Exclusive, bottled by Malt, Grain & Cane
Today we’re gonna take a look at some rum. Now if you’re not familiar, rum is liquor made from the fermentation and distillation of sugarcane molasses or juice. Much like whisky, this produces a clear distillate which only takes on its full coat of golden colours upon maturation in oak barrels. Rum and whisky almost take opposite ends of the map. Where rum is made in the Caribbean, whisky is made in Scotland, Japan, Taiwan, Australia. So they have pretty contrasting footprints.
The rum we have today was bottled by Singaporean independent bottler, Malt, Grain & Cane (MGC). We’ve reviewed a number of their malts, so now it’s time for the canes.
Today’s rum is from the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, which is headed up by Richard Seale, a man whose reputation in the rum world certainly is thunderous to say the least. Richard Seale makes known that the world can be divided into those who wait and those who don’t. He belongs to the latter.
Richard Seale has been a tour de force in the world of rum to say the least. (Image Source: Food for Thought)
Richard Seale is the fifth-generation head of the Seale rum distribution business, but where his predecessors purchased and bottled rum, Richard had other plans. He decided to get into the distilling business to make quality rums entirely from scratch.
The second thing you should know about Richard Seale, is that the man hates, and I mean hates, with a burning passion, sweetened rums – basically rums that have had sugar or sweet wines added to them.
Richard Seale does it right and don't you forget it. (Image Source: Visit Barbados)
Once he got his own distillery up and running, Richard took to Facebook groups, to call out the widespread use of sweeteners in rum making. Not one to shake the bridge, he instead preferred to burn the entire bridge down, as he went to rum festivals with a digital measurement device in hand, to take ABV measurements of his competitors’ rums onsite, live, to further prove his point about his competitors’ shall we say lack of ABV.
To be fair, the man wasn’t without a point, nor a solid product of his own. His Foursquare rum has steadily picked up award after award, and has been met with resounding popularity (his commitment to keeping his prices affordable certainly helps as well). Some of them have even secured collectible status. This guy is perhaps the greatest rum maker alive.
Keen eyes will spot the Velier bottles. That's right, Foursquare has had a wildly successful collaboration with legendary bottler Velier. (Image Source: Alambic Magazine)
Foursquare’s rums are typically aged in American Oak Bourbon Barrels, though they do tinker with some other casks such as Port Pipes, Cognac, Zinfandel, to name a few.
This particular bottle here was first tropically aged for 12 years and then shipped to Europe in a neutral container in early 2019, where it was subsequently re-filled into a first-fill Bourbon Barrel for another additional year of continental aging. Given that it is from Foursquare, it should go without saying that there were no sugar or sweeteners added to it.
Right, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Foursquare Barbados Rum, 13 Years, 63.3% abv, Indonesia Exclusive, bottled by Malt, Grain & Cane
Colour. Dark Copper.
On the nose. A lot more gentle than you’d expect given the 63.3% abv, which is nice because it allows you to get to the more appealing flavors without waiting too long for the alcohol to mellow out. The nose is very firm, spicy and blends into what could give sarsaparilla a run for its money. There’s a really wonderful cola fizz flavor to it. Also comparable to root beer or Sarsi (a fizzy sarsaparilla cola). I suppose what gives it that flavor is a very light liquorice on the nose sans the bitterness.
A nice lightly fizzed root beer with a good creaminess and a sarsaparilla chew tops out the nose. (Image Source: Bundaberg)
Further nosing gives me notes of haw flakes. I also get some very gentle floral notes of honey suckle and daisies. Very light and bright nectar sweetness. This is really such a unique nose that I can’t get enough of.
The bittersweet notes evolved from sarsaparilla to haw flakes when left to air, almost as if the rum itself was sunned on a straw basket.
On to the palate. Medium weight, again a very firm texture. It starts out almost with no burn, and you get a very sweet, herbal and honey candy note. There’s caramel and vanilla pods in there as well. The warmth starts to turn up.
The sarsaparilla on the nose carries over to the palate; thankfully. It's less intense but fills up the seats available in the base notes section. The wonderful cola candy flavor comes in a woody and mellow spice. Think coke by the beach, the sort that comes in a glass bottle; the aromas flowing out in wisps as you snag off the bottle cap.
There’s also a lighter note of desiccated coconut flakes, and even coconut milk. Light, fragrant and sweet. Just taking one final sift around, I also get some touches of cherries, the kind you’d find perched on a mountain of ice cream.
Nice, delicate, yet so aromatic. (Image Source: Hasmuk)
On the finish. Medium, with some leftover eucalyptus and ginger, as well as a slight tanginess of orange rinds. It ends with a nice gentle lingering warmth with a nice clean, crisp finish. Almost like a magician’s disappearing act.
This was a really well-balanced rum, with no specific character overpowering the other; it was very well integrated with a good, firm body. Very harmoniously blended with the flavors melding wonderfully into each other, almost like a well synchronized contemporary dance performance.
Weaving in and out of one another, little to no negative space. (Image Source: CGTN)
The nose was what really stood out to me, it was a delightful cola fizz/sarsaparilla that was creamy, sweet and also almost chewy with a light tangy bitterness. I was really smiling from ear to ear nosing this; as far as I’m concerned it was spot on.
The palate was of delightful bourbon and cola candy. The combination of caramel, vanilla cream, wood, gentle spice and coconut flakes made it tropical; then again were we to expect any less? The characterization of this bottle would perhaps be “chilling by the beach”. And then just like that, it faded away in the finish. But thankfully you could simply also just have another sip.
You might not be able to find a beach to sit by, but this bottle sure feels like it. Can't wait to go back to Canggu. (Image Source: Living + Nomad)
I enjoyed this dram thoroughly as you can probably tell.
A man surfing because this bottle of rum makes you wanna kick your feet back, head over to the beach and just soak in the sun and play around in the ocean. Enjoyed it thoroughly!
In any case, you could probably still find a few bottles over at Malt, Grain & Cane.
Alternatively, find them at one of MGC's partners, LMDW, Auld Alliance, The Single Cask, Swan Song, Limehouse Asia, Cafe Gavroche (all based in Singapore), or Miles Whisky Bar (Indonesia) and Rudder (Japan).
Of course be sure to follow MGC on Instagram and Facebook (@MaltGrainCane) or follow Marcus himself @HampdenPirate.