Foursquare Isonomy Rum Review
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Today, a quick 'trip' to the beautiful island of Barbados. To review the 20th release of Foursquare's multi award winning and hugely anticipated Exceptional Cask Series (ECS). I can't believe we've reached mark XX already. And the oldest release to boot!
17 long tropical years - the magnitude of this cannot be emphasised enough. With an angel's share (or devils cut) of over 65% this is clearly a very expensive process. Tropical aging not only accelerates the angel's share (loss through evaporation) but also accelerates the maturation and barrel influence - in very rough terms these 17 years in Barbados are the equivalent of 60+ years of continental spirit aging!
Back in 2018 Foursquare master distiller Richard Seale set the standard for the future of Bajan rum, and rum generally, when his release of ECS VI '2005' (aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels) was the first rum ever to be awarded Supreme Champion at the International Spirits Challenge (ISC). It's no coincidence that I picked this rum as Bajan representative in my '90pt rums' benchmarking article earlier this year (here).
Plenty of this same vintage (2005) was left aging in barrel at Foursquare. And happily 2005 rum aged solely in ex-bourbon casks has since been bottled for 2 subsequent ECS releases (Nobiliary - 14 years aging and Shibboleth -16 years). [reviewed here]
These 3 rums from 2005, aged in just ex-bourbon barrels, are now joined by a 4th. Isonomy - 2005 pot & column blend, aged 17yrs in ex-bourbon!!
When the Shibboleth was released last year I tasted and reviewed this side by side with the other 2005 purely ex-bourbon ECS rums - 12yr (2005), 14yr (Nobiliary), 16yr (Shibboleth) - in my 'catchy' titled article (2005 v 2005 v 2005).
I went into some detail back then to explain how the barrel choice and duration of aging are just 2 of many 'levers' available to the master distiller when producing and aging rum - which I won't repeat but is linked here.
Today I'm going to pour two of these pure ex-bourbon ECS releases (2005 & Shibboleth) to taste Isonomy against. Lucky me :-)
25ml of each, left to open up for 15min. Nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order.
Re-reviewed blind to avoid any bias and validate my tasting. This was a really fun and hugely valuable new addition.
Assisted today by Led Zeppelin IV - pure indulgence
Foursquare ECS XX - Isonomy, 17yr, 58%, £90ish
Eyes: Surprisingly little difference in colour between the three, all with a stunning golden amber. If anything the Isonomy is marginally darker as one would expect.
Nose: Leather, anise, furniture polish, dried cherries, cigar box. Incredibly rich, deep and comforting. A hint of spicy pimento dram. It's making me salivate. Over time the oak influence develops more and more. At 17 years I was concerned this could be over oaked and too tannic, but on the nose it's well balanced and very enjoyable. The rum has plenty of freshness and good splash of menthol.
Compared to the other two, Isonomy is the 'softest' and most approachable on the nose, with beautifully integrated alcohol and incredible depth.
Mouth: Surprisingly lively. A fresh fruit-forward start. Fresh cherries and dried currants. A gorgeous fat texture. A super long taste - menthol, chocolate, vanilla caramel and dried fruit all coming and going for at least a minute. A touch of orange late in the finish.
Blind part -
Isonomy - menthol, sweet mint chocolate, dark chocolate but a lower cocoa level. A little floral. And orange zest. Dark chocolate orange. Long caramel finish. [91+pts]
Shibboleth - chewy dark cherry and 75% dark chocolate. Very chilled and moorish. Driest and most leathery of the three. Lots of anise. Longest finish [92pts]
2005 - a shake more mint, sweet and caramelly, less leather, less dried currants. [90pts]
When comparing rums of this stature we're looking at fine margins, and very much personal preference. Isonomy is outstanding, one of the top few of the ECS ranges, but for me - the drier Shibboleth is very marginally more enjoyable. 2005 - Happy to continue benchmarking Bajan rums against this classic for years to come. Buy any of them - incredible rums, incredible value rums!