"IN DUE COURSE" : MY DAY AT FOURSQUARE RUM DISTILLERY
FOURSQUARE RUM DISTILLERY
Rum has always haunted me, and for my own foolish reasons. You see when I was a young 22 years old I went down to visit my mum in Florida. We met the first night on a rooftop bar over looking the beach, where she ordered me a rum runner, with a rum floater on the top, as a mum does. I proceeded to gulp down that little plastic cup of frozen sweet glycerin, as I remember it being too overly sweet to sip on. Moments later, as I was mid conversation with my sweet mum, I very gracefully turned my head and barfed over the rooftop bar balcony. Again, done with total grace and class, I then wiped my mouth and continued my conversation like nothing ever happened. I hoped and prayed that nobody down below was greeted with my bad decisions. Needless to say, my first rum experience quickly became my last. I swore it off for the next 10 years.
In the time between then and now, a lot has changed. I have a deeper appreciation and understanding of what makes a great spirit, and have made it my mission to learn as much as I can about them. Whisky has opened many doors for me on not just one singular category, but on everything that I drink now. As my research into the world of rum has gotten deeper, I have learned that it all isn’t sweet sticky sugar and coloring in a bottle. While I have tasted some delicious rums from Lost Spirits , some single cask SMWS rum offerings, and some not so great “big brand” rums I hadn’t really had an “experience” yet where the foundation was laid for me to build on. Luckily a few weeks back we had an opportunity to travel to Barbados, where the world’s best rum is made at a beautiful storybook distillery called Foursquare. I was even luckier to spend some time with Gayle Seale, rum boss lady extraordinaire, to tour and taste through some of the best rums IN THE WORLD. I mean, hows that for a foundation?
There are no guided commercialized tours at Foursquare. Just some yellow footprints to follow through at your own leisure, which gives you time to soak it all in. The grounds on which the distillery sits are truly beautiful, lush, green and much like Disneyland, where everything is just in the right place. All that was missing was a carousel and parade! There is also a small heritage museum to cruise through.
Gayle very kindly walked us through the grounds, and shared with us the history of this humble yet powerful distillery. Built in 1996 on an old sugar factory, it is one of only 4 rum distilleries on the island. They use a proprietary yeast from South Africa, which I believe covers all of the rums produced here. Despite being on an old sugar factory, and in sugar cane country, 20% of their molasses is imported. As we walked through, we made our way to where the stills are housed. They have one wee copper pot still with double retorts that has been modified over the years to the liking of their Master Distiller, Richard Seale and is the only one of its kind. They also have a twin column still, of which the first column runs on a vacuum that allows the molasses wine to boil low and slow. The vapor created from the first column is used to heat the second column, keeping their energy savings high.
All Foursquare Rums are blended both BEFORE and AFTER they go into a cask. There is ZERO added sugar, ZERO coloring added, just LOTS of love and water, yeast and molasses. Their barrels mostly hail from Jack Daniels, but Richard does like using wine and fortified wine casks too! Gayle mentioned to me that they don’t rely on what was inside of the barrels, but on the actual quality of the wood. Their casks are stripped down and re-charred upon arrival, to pull out all of those juicy notes INSIDE of the wood. They have even started their own re-charring program, done on site, which is pretty rad. They are currently sitting on more than 40,000 barrels of aging rum just bathing in the moist and warm Bajan heat!
I dont want to spoil too much of the tour, because it is worth taking! You will learn so much about the history of rum, the island, and the process as well! Here are a few more videos and photos before we get to the rum…
Bottling is done on site too!
After the tour is complete you can stop by the shop where you can sample some of the rums, and purchase any bottles if you wish. I HIGHLY recommend purchasing your rums here, as they are at a much lower price than any other rum shops or duty free. We had the honor of sitting in with Gayle for a private tasting of some truly phenomenal rums. It went a little like this:
We met inside of a room, right off of the bottling facility and were greeted with an array of rummy treats. We started with some of the Doorly’s bottlings. Doorly’s is a rum, a pure rum (all of the rum made at Foursquare is pure, meaning no added bullshit) , and is on the stacked cast of many other rums made on site.
We started off with the Doorly’s 3 Year, their authentic aged white rum. After aging, it is charcoal processed to get it to the almost white wine color it is. At 40% ABV, it is packed full of banana, coconut and mint! It tasted NOTHING, AND I MEAN NOTHING like the overly marketed white rums on the market. It has lovely depth of flavors and honestly, I would be happy to sip this neat any day of the week!! Oh, and I think we paid $11 US bones for a bottle.
We then moved on to the Doorly’s XO, which is a blend of 8-10 year rums from bourbon casks that then went to be double matured in Oloroso Sherry casks. Fun fact about Foursquare: they do NOT finish rums, they only use double maturation! On the nose you get those sweet bourbon notes, almost fooling you into thinking it is a bourbon. The palate is sweet and malty, like a chocolate malt shake with faint bursts of sherry nuttiness. I actually would love a boozy milkshake made with this!
Last of the Doorly’s was the 12 year, which hails from all bourbon casks. More vanilla and oak heavy, this has a lovely mouthfeel and would be a great rum for any bourbon lover looking to get into rum!
All of these rums are in the $25 US range, depending on your location. If you are even thinking about making the leap into rum, these would be a great starting point. They are beautiful, deep in flavor, and pure, honest rum. You wont have an overtly sweet smack to your palate with globs of glycerin added in, but instead a well balanced, truly viscous, damn good rum to sip on. There is also a 14 year to be released very very soon, so be sure to watch for that!
After we whet our palates, we moved on to my loves, the cask strength rums from the Exceptional Cask Series! We started off with Premise, a blend of both pot and column stills, double matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. At 46%, this is super easy to drink, and was bold, yet very creamy and nutty. Not overly sweet, at all.
Next came Dominus, which we ended up buying 2 bottles of. Again, a blend of pot and column stills, this was double matured in ex-bourbon and ex-cognac casks! At 56% , this went down like an intense, full bodied, chewy cherry coke! Absolutely divine, and would be amazing over ice cream! Rum float, anyone?
Criterion came in at 56% as well, but WAY WAY more viscous, I’m talking legs for days, legs that stretch down your throat and into your belly. Double matured in ex-bourbon and ex-madiera cask, this had almost a more savory element to it. It would pair lovely with a charcuterie and cheese board!
And last came the 2005, which also came home with us. It bathed for 12 glorious years in all ex-bourbon casks, and clocks in at 59%. This is a bourbon drinkers perfect rum. The Whisky Fairy is a big bourbon lover, and this was his baby. And it doesn’t drink like a 59% spirit AT ALL. Its not overly hot, its rather perfect. So perfect that it won the ISC Supreme Spirit Champion Award, making it the first rum in history to win the award! If you see this anywhere, BUY IT!!!
I thought we had finished the tasting until the very generous Gayle pulled a wee trick out of her bag. The trick is called Destino, and it was hands down one of the most magical and glorious things I have ever tasted in my life. I wanted to bathe in it, and absorb its sultry magic. Foursquare has partnered with Velier , an Italian distribution and import company to bottle some of their finest rums exclusively for their Habitation Velier project for the Italian market. From their website: ” The idea behind the Habitation Velier project is to educate consumers and to promote artisanal distillation and the distiller’s art and techniques. Each expression, with its unique features, embodies an original project, a “world premiere” for each distillery. The range includes white Pure Single Rums, which although still not widely known, are the quintessence of sugar cane and its by-product, molasses.”
I didn’t even write down my tasting notes because my senses were in the midst of this orgasmic, fireworks moment, that I hope to someday re-live! While not available in the US market, if you ever find yourself in Europe, and happen to stumble across one, trust me when I say you’d be a fool to pass it by.
After tasting through these remarkable rums, I found myself asking the question “Why don’t more rums taste like this?” And the answer to that is “Richard Seale”. The master distiller of this special place has made it his mission to bring real, honest, pure rum to the surface, which has been overly saturated with sugar filled factory style rums we see on every back bar.
Richard is the great grandson of Reginald Seale, who founded R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd, which started in 1926 as a rum trading business of sorts. Reginald would buy rum from Barbados distilleries and blend them himself and then sell them under his name. Richard is the first in the family to be distilling, and has been on the forefront of “Doing It Right”, with keeping all of his products free of any additives and junk. He focuses on quality of ingredients, how those ingredients are distilled, and the quality of the wood. While we were tasting through the many rums, Gayle gave us a good tip to see if a rum is of good quality, with no added sugars or glycerin for mouthfeel. Rub a little on your hands and if it dissipates, you know you have honest rum. If there is a sticky layer left on your hands, you know there has been sugar added.
Another big contribution Richard has made to the world of rum is promoting the Gargano Classification. Luca Gargano, who is now at the helm of Velier, began importing authentic rums into the Italian market in the 90’s. He now is taking the lead on research and has been bottling authentic Caribbean rums straight from the distiller. The Habitation Velier Project focuses on the stills themselves, with Pure Single Rum, which is 100% pot still rum from a single distillery. The Gargano Classification simply is “ based on distillation method, the only exhaustive method to include all types of rum. It is not a way to understand quality but rather an objective method to classify, giving credibility and value to the whole category of rum.” I strongly urge you to click the link and read more about this, as I believe it is a good basis to start from and gives you a great foundation on how to approach the many different rums out there . It is giving rum the standards and classifications it has been missing. We see these classifications in whisky and in other spirits, but not in rum. Keep in mind that Gargano is not an independent bottler, but as Kate Perry, the North American Market Manager of LM&V stated in a Bitters & Bottles interview “but instead a dependent bottler, acting strictly as the liaison between the distiller and the market, where everything is done in partnership. “
At then end of the day, I believe it’s just giving this wildly beautiful spirit a level of respect it deserves, to have standards of ethics and of care for those creating it honestly.
Richard and Gayle span the globe to host seminars, rum conferences and to spread the word of Foursquare, along with the other rums created under their roof. They don’t have a team of ambassadors, or a any marketing tactics. I didn’t even see one single advertisement the entire time I was in Barbados. Their focus has always been on doing the right thing, and making rum the way its meant to be made. Richard crafts something honest and beautiful and they let the spirit do all of the talking. Gayle informed us that nothing is ever rushed. All rum must be crafted “In Due Course”. Please trust me when I say that when the time comes for a Foursquare rum to hit your lips, you too will be running out and telling the world about the best rum you have ever tasted.
I wish I had known about these rums 10 years ago, and valued honest, quality spirits. I wish I had known that rum was this beautiful, this diverse, and this damn good. But luckily I do now, and I have no plans of stopping my desire to continue to understand them, appreciate them, and drink them!
MASSIVE MASSIVE thank you to the lovely Gayle Seale for taking myself and Jorell and giving us a strong rum foundation, and for teaching us with the world’s best! And to Kris Chau, co founder of the Toronto Rum Festival for being so rad!
If you ever find yourself in Barbados, PLEASE do yourself the favor and go visit Foursquare! Its free! And if you happen to see one of their rums in a shop or bar, please give them a go!
FOURSQUARE RUM DISTILLERY,
FOUR ROADS, ST. PHILIP, BARBADOS
*The fine print: All opinions and photos are my own. All bottles were purchased by me.
This is only the beginning of my rum journey, and I am willing and excited to continue to learn more about this beautiful spirit. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org