Foursquare Sovereignty! 14yr Sherry Cask Review
A cheesier (and more technically adept) reviewer would start this one with fireworks, or a gif of a Cheshire Cat.
Yes, I already have a bottle of Sovereignty. Yes, I'm aware what a stupid price I could probably auction it for. No, of course I'm not selling it ... I'm opening it to enjoy, to share and to review today :-)
Foursquare Exceptional Cask Series (ECS) release number 19! A fourteen year, distillery aged, Bajan rum. As the label states, this is a pot and column blended rum - aged in a combination of ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks for a massive fourteen tropical years!
For more background on the iconic Foursquare distillery, and previous ECS releases, see my side by side reviews of their:
Ex-bourbon cask aged rums from 2005
The 9th ECS release, way back in 2018 - Empery - is one of my all time favourites. This was also 14 year & ex-sherry cask aged! So, I have very high expectations for this new rum.
Other than the name, and the fact that we're looking at a new 'vintage', the only obvious difference between Empery and Sovereignty is the abv, a pronounced step up from 56% to 62%.
So they should be similar... what else is there to make a difference, I hear you ask? Well here's a quick-fire list of just a few of the levers that the master distiller has at his disposal, each of which have a massive impact on the end product ...
All molasses based or some cane juice? [Cane juice in the blend is something we expect to see more of in Foursquare's future]
Which yeast to use for fermentation, and how long to ferment for?
What ratio of pot to column? And where to cut the heads, tails and heart from each distillation?
What ratio of years in bourbon and sherry casks? And what's the provenance of the casks - which Sherry estate to source the barrel from - how long did they use them? Should this be the first or second time they're used to age rum?
How much sugar and flavouring to add to the bottle (just kidding - no nonsense, pure rums only here!)
So, I've made my point - there can be a considerable difference, even between two 14yr, sherry aged rums, from the same distillery! There's a reason for the title 'master' distiller.
Enough jibber-jabber fool, taste the damn rum!
Today's tasting I'm comparing the new Sovereignty to Empery & Hereditas - all 14 year bourbon and sherry releases.
*Hereditas was a 2019 private cask release from London's Whiskey Exchange.
25ml of each, left to open up for 30 mins, nosed first and then tasted, low abv first.
Assisted this Sunday morning by Mr Mark Knopfler and the Tedeschi Trucks Band (11am in Reigate, suitably midnight up in Harlem!)
All three have identical rich dark bronze colour and incredible unctuousness in the glass.
Foursquare Empery - 12,000 btls, 56%
Nose - Rich sweet caramel fruitcake! A spectacular nose. Lashings of fruit - mostly dried berries but also a good splash of fresh blackberry. Nuts, chocolate, a little sweet cigar box. A really comforting rum. Big and bold, but also soft and inviting. Caramac chocolate if you remember that. Quite a lot of sweet spice, caraway seeds, anise and well balanced vanilla oak. Bloody lovely.
Mouth - Big, deep, sweet, caramel coated raisins. An incredibly fruity rum. Vanilla forward but balanced. Zingy on your tongue without being at all fiery. Beautiful spice, ginger, fresh crushed peppercorns. And back to those big rich berries. Thick sweet caramel.
It's incredible in a taste to be able to pick out a few fresh blackberries from the background of the expected sherried raisins. For me this is a step up from the straight ex-bourbon 'vintaged' ECS (2005, 2007, 2008 etc) which I consider to be quality benchmark '90 point rums'. Foursquare Empery, still one of my favourites! [91pts]
Foursquare Hereditas - 2,520 btls, 56%
Nose - What a stunning pick. Why didn't I buy more of these. The same richness as Empery. The same juicy dried berries, Caramac chocolate and blackcurrant. A little added plum pie. Hereditas is ever so slightly drier, with a touch of bitterness that works perfectly. There's just that bit more oak influence. More dark chocolate. A touch of cherry. Spectacular.
Mouth - A taste sensation. So similar with the caramel coated raisins, big spice and rich sweet berries. I marginally prefer this to Empery. I love the extra dry spice. Is it a whole point better? Who cares. I could give this 91+ or 92- I'm just happy that these rums exist and we can spend incredible evenings tasting them and debating the merits of each. The golden era of rum. [91+pts]
Foursquare Sovereignty - ?? btls, 62%
Nose - Pow! that extra abv is immediately apparent. My first thoughts, however, are that the nose is a tiny bit muted compared to the other two. I will add a couple of drops of water after initial nosing, to see if this is tied to the higher abv.
A drier nose. If Empery is vibrant caramel fruitcake then this is spicy dark chocolate fruitcake. More cigar box, more ginger, more oak, more richness, maybe a touch less liveliness. Much more spice. And salt. Take the dry edge of Hereditas and push it another step on. Although, as I say, just a tiny smidge closed at this stage. With a couple of drops of water it really opens up and offers a raft of deep dark fruit, well worth experimenting here!
Mouth - Wow, blackcurrant, and coffee. And lots of spice. Salted dark chocolate. More than a tingle at the front of the mouth - some clementine peel joins the berries and blackcurrant. A slight gap at the slides of the mouth. But a stunning long finish starting with very bitter dark chocolate and running into that spicy blackcurrant. Incredibly, and excitingly, different from both Empery and Hereditas.
Sovereignty is much less dried fruit forward. Less typical sweet sherry bomb. Instead we're treated to a spicy, salty, dark chocolate delight of a rum. Don't get me wrong, the sherry cask influence is there - just different. It has a longer finish, lots of fruit and complexity. However, today I marginally prefer the roundedness and juiciness of Empery, with the unicorn that is Hereditas walking the tightrope between dry Sovereignty and sweet juicy Empery to sneak the win.
Foursquare Sovereignty - a fantastic addition to the lineup. [91-pts]
Three 91pt, 14 year aged, ex-sherry cask Foursquare superstars. All quite different. All brilliant. We are so incredibly privileged to be tasting and debating the merits of these, long may it last. Cheers Richard Seale!