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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Foursquare Mystique & Elysium vs Empery & Sov - a blind 'sherry-off'

What better way to spend your birthday than a blind Foursquare sherry cask tasting.


Foursquare - modish, reliably delectable, Bajan rum distiller. Lover of obscure vernacular.


Mystique & Elysium - Private Cask Series (PCS) releases from Whisky Exchange, UK. Aged in ex-Bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Both are, amazingly, still available.


Empery & Sovereignty - Exceptional Cask Series(ECS) releases from Foursquare. Aged in ex-Bourbon and ex-sherry casks.


All four aged in bourbon and sherry. All fully aged at the distillery in Barbados. All are pure Barbados rum, untainted, unsweetened, uncoloured. On the surface they should be very similar - have a read here for the multitude of reasons why they may not be!


I previously reviewed Empery, Sovereignty and Hereditas side-by-side (here). All three fared very well, and very evenly, with Empery a nudge ahead of Sovereignty. This time those two bottles have been open for a lot longer, and we're going blind, so a real test.


Four rums, 20ml of each, left (covered) to open up while I walked the dog, nosed first, then tasted, in random order (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue). Assisted today by some magical old Japanese Jazz Funk from Hiroshi Suzuki.


What amazing natural colour. Left to right Red, Yellow, Green, Blue in random order. (The bottles have similar coloured dots underneath, thanks to MrsSecretRumBar, that I won't see till later)


'Red'

Nose - bright. Milk chocolate. Fresh sherry currants. Vanilla. A little varnish.


Mouth – Starts beautifully but mid-taste is hit by sharpness. Lots of acidic fruit skin zest that doesn’t leave.  The least balanced of the four.  Dominated by bitterness which overpowers the fruit and caramel.  Surprisingly different and a big step behind the others. [86-pts]


'Yellow'

Nose - More wood polish.  Older caramel. Marginally less fruit.  Drier, and with more depth.


Mouth – sparkles in your mouth without being too fiery.  Warmingly rich.  Tingles the sides of your tongue.  A long taste.  Orange caramel.  Wonderful dark berriest.  Dry boozy fruit.  The finish goes on for a good while moving from dark fruit to bitter tannins. Impressive. [91pts]


'Green'

Nose - Initially the least bright in terms of sherry notes. Digestive biscuits. Splash of polish.  Earthy.  Starts a touch flatter than the others, but builds and builds.  Lots of spice.  Caraway seeds. Caramel milk chocolate.  Morish. Possibly the best nose after you give it time.


Mouth –Lovely stuff.  Lots of menthol.  Very well-integrated alcohol.  Rich without being cloying. Buttery. Good fruit.  Creamiest of the four.   Chilled out but complex and delicious. Today a touch too heavy on the cream and menthol but lovely nonetheless.  [90pts]


'Blue'

Nose - Great depth. A big rum. Feels like it needs more time or a drop of water. Moorish, deep boozy currants. Heady alcohol which is hard to get past but rewards your patience with an incredible rich sherried, candied nose


Mouth – Whooa.  There’s that fiery alcohol.  Even a tiny sip really zings.  Good fruit.  Touch of menthol.  Fresh fruit caramel is there in the background.  Well-balanced and complex. The oak influence is just right for me – big caramel vanilla tannins but balanced with the fresh fruit. Decent long tasty finish.  Added a few drops of water (literally a couple of drops – something I seldom do but felt necessary with this one) and it’s even better!  [90+pts]



Reveal and result

There's no hiding from the fact that I love sherry cask ageing, it seems to work perfectly with Foursquare's natural rum profile. Not hindered, of course, by what I suspect are incredible quality sherry casks.

Can’t wait to see which ‘red’ is.  The other three are all excellent, as expected   On different days I might prefer the buttery ‘green’,  the sparkly dry fruit of ‘yellow’ or the boozy sherry beast that is ‘blue’.

The rums tasted were ...

'Red' - Foursquare Sovereignty, ECS Release XIX (2021), 14yr, 62%, 12,000btls

'Yellow' - Foursquare Elysium, PCS Release Whisky Exchange (2022), 12yr, 60%, 3,000btls

'Green' - Foursquare Empery, ECS Release IX (2018), 14yr, 56%, 12,000btls

'Blue' - Foursquare Mystique, PCS Release Whisky Exchange (2024), 14yr, 62%, 2,950btls


Wow - a big shock, a small shock, and some small, probably not unexpected surprises...

Empery - previously one of my all-time favourites, a touch flat at first, creamier than I remember and drops a point from previous reviews. It's been open for quite a while which could easily explain this.

Mystique - freshly opened today. Excellent rum although it felt very hot and a bit closed. Even leading to me unusually adding a few drops of water. I look forward to retrying it in a couple of weeks. There's still some available at The Whisky Exchange.

Elysium - A friend's bottle. Open for a couple of months. My first taste of this and I'm very impressed. Amazed it's still available at The Whisky Exchange. I will be ordering a bottle or two before I post this :-)

Sovereignty - Biggest shock of the night for me. I previously scored this very highly (just a sniff behind Empery) and I was left searching for answers after the reveal. A big possibility is time open - I'm not organised enough to write the date on the label when I open it so had to search back and discovered that it has been open for about 2 years! (*ungassed, not parafilmed, opened and poured regularly, kept in the van for the last few months with predictable swooshing around and temp changes). To further investigate this option a friend has generously agreed to open a new bottle of Sovereignty. Next week we will swap samples and both blind taste. As someone with over 60 open bottles, I'm eagerly looking forward to the result of this experiment. What's changed, the rum or the human...? Any guesses?


My winner today, unexpectedly, is Foursquare Private Cask Release Elysium! .

Tasting blind is a minor faff (I had to get Mrs SecretRumBar to pour and label them) but well worth it. Reminds me of the 'dining in the dark' concept, just less messy! Forces you to think clearly and objectively about what you're drinking and is something (along with tasting side-by-side) I highly recommend taking the time to do.


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