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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Foursquare Criterion - Madeira Cask side by side

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

A big one today. Three Foursquare ex-Madeira cask aged giants side by side.

Foursquare Distillery, Barbados. No. Introduction. Required.

I particularly like tasting and reviewing these incredible rums alongside their natural bedfellows. Over the last few years, I've reviewed:

  • Touchstone and ex-Cognac aged releases (here).

  • ex-Port cask aged rums (here).

  • Incredible ex-Sherry cask aged bottlings (here).

  • ex-Zinfandel aging (here).

  • And the 4 releases of the 2005 vintage, aged solely in ex-Bourbon for 12, 14, 16 & 17 years (here & here).

And today one I've been looking forward to for ages. Madeira cask. Let's get stuck in.

A healthy pour of each, nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order. Assisted today by the awesome Counting Crows.

Left to right as per the lead photo, Criterion, Diadem, Redoutable. Incredible natural colour on all three - 100% from the cask aging. No artificial colour or flavour is added to ECS rums.

Foursquare ECS V, Criterion, 10year, 56%, 4000 bottles

Released back in 2017, just the fifth iteration, and the first ex-Madeira cask aged rum, of the Exceptional Cask Series.

Aged for 3 years in Bourbon, followed by 7 years in very old Madeira casks.

By a country mile, Criterion has the smallest bottle count of this widely collected, award-winning series. At just 4000 bottles (1/3 of the next smallest release) it's no wonder this is an incredibly prized and sought-after bottle. Is the taste worth the hefty price tag...?

Nose: Absolutely captivating. Rich deep wine notes, not too tannic, bursting with fruit and old grape must. The nutty wine notes take pretty much all my attention on the nose, with just a touch of spicy caramel from the bourbon sitting in the background. Amazing alcohol integration. A little glue - suggesting a decent amount of pot in this pot & column blend? Super soft yet complex. Mouth-watering stuff.

Mouth: Indulgent, deep rich wine leads you into tingling warm spice. Perfectly balanced. Velvety texture. Intense yet so drinkable, spot on at 56%!

Sweet, mouth-coating fruit and caramel. Lively, uplifting stuff. A decent oaky core holding it all together. And a long long delicious finish. Near faultless. So moreish, no wonder there are not many bottles left. [92+pts]

Foursquare PCS, Diadem, 12yr, 60%, 2000 bottles

A 2020 private cask release for Whisky Exchange in London.

Aged at the distillery for 12 years in ex-Bourbon and ex-Madeira casks.

Nose: Prunes & orange zest. Less grape/wine when compared to Criterion. Spiced vanilla caramel of the bourbon very much in the fore. Noticeably more fiery than Criterion but still super approachable. Lashings of spicy ginger & pineapple.

Mouth: Spicy, powerful stuff. Predictably aggressive at 60%. Tasty full-bodied rum. Roasted spice, bitter marzipan, and a touch of polish. Starts with some sweet vine fruit then quickly shifts to a delicious long dry toasted vanilla finish. Overall very tasty but a little too much sharpness and bitterness drops this under the 90 mark. [89-pts]

Foursquare ECS XV, Redoutable, 14year, 61%, 12000 bottles

The final rum in today's lineup was also released in 2020.

Fifteenth release in the series. As with all 3 - a blend of pot & column stills. This rum was aged, in the tropical Bajan climate, for an incredible 14 years. In a combination of ex-Bourbon and ex-Madeira casks.

Nose: A touch less aggressive than Diadem, those extra 2 years have done wonders to tame this beast. Still a massive nose.

Heady stuff! Sharp lime and pineapple, light wine notes, and warm spicy vanilla oak.

Mouth: Plenty of zip at the start. Lively fruit-forward stuff. A touch sharp in the mid palate. Coconut, orange, nutmeg and a touch of tobacco. Outstanding rum. Although not quite as polished, and not as 'unstoppably smile making' as Criterion. [90pts]

Conclusion: Richard Seale goes to great lengths to source the highest quality used casks and this is reflected today in these outstanding rums. An easy win today for Criterion - a perfect example of Madeira aged Bajan rum. Outstanding.

Criterion was released prior to the addition of the neckties. They look a bit like medals. I've awarded it appropriately...

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