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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Foursquare Touchstone vs Sassafras vs Dominus

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

22nd release of Foursquare's highly acclaimed Exceptional Cask Series, and only the second to be aged in ex-cognac casks. A much anticipated rum and one I'm thrilled to be reviewing.

As is usual with my reviews, I prefer to compare against similar rums for context. In this case I have chosen two other Foursquare ex-cognac cask aged rums - the legendary Velier Sassafras, and Dominus; the only other ex-cognac aged rum in the Exceptional Cask Series. Sadly a sample of Velier 2006 is now renamed unobtainium!

So, a trio of molasses based Foursquare pot & column blended rums, all fully aged in Barbados. As you would expect, these are presented without chill filtration, in their natural colour, free from sweeteners & other flavours.

20ml of each, left to open up for 20 mins, nosed first and then tasted. The lower abv Dominus first, followed by Touchstone and Sassafras. Assisted today by John Coltrane. A sublime pairing for the rums.

Left to right: Dominus, Touchstone, Sassafras

Foursquare ECS Dominus, 10yr, 56%, 12,000btls

Released back in 2018, just the 7th released of the Exceptional Cask Series, and the first to be aged in ex-Cognac barrels. Dominus is a single blended rum (a blend of pot still and column still rums from a single distillery). It was aged for three years in ex-bourbon casks and then seven years in ex-Cognac casks.

The lightest colour of the three. The colour of your wee after a big night when you forget the pint of water before bed.

Nose: I've previous found this a little thin on the nose, not so today! A big, beautifully balanced aroma. The anticipated dry roasted, vanilla infused nuts & spice are complimented by a mouth-watering jammy, plummy caramel fruit. No fire from the 56% - a perfectly balanced and integrated nose.

A good selection of old fashion sweet shop favourites, courtesy of the cognac casks, complete an impressive nosing.

Mouth: The start is amazingly light and fruity for 56%. Soon the spicy depth comes to play and you're left with a warming and tasty finish. Decent balance - the sweet caramel & plum fruit is offset by the spicy roast nuts. Overall it's definitely a crowd pleaser, just maybe a touch disappointing on the finish, not delivering quite the depth and richness I was promised on the nose. Very good [86pts]

Foursquare ECS Touchstone, 14yr, 61%, ??btls

An unusual blend of blends. This rum is the combination of two pot & column blends! The first being the result of a the Camus Caribbean Expedition - unique collaboration between Camus and Foursquare... 10 casks of Camus cognac took the slow boat to Barbados before spending a year aging in Foursquare's tropical climate. Following disgorgement and bottling the casks were refilled with 12yr ex-bourbon rum which benefitted from an additional 2 years in these very special casks.

The second element of Touchstone's blend of blends is another 14 year aged rum, this time the pot & column blended rum spent 5 years in ex-bourbon casks followed by 9 years in ex-Cognac casks.

A stunning, gleaming, light gold.

Nose: After 20 mins it's a touch lighter, with less rounded fullness, when compared to Dominus. Another 20 mins and it's really opening up. Very spicy and quite zesty. Unsurprisingly a more heady nose - the 61% abv is very apparent, yet without being fiery or aggressive. An exciting raft of fresh plum blossom and plum candy, lots of spice & caramel. The very fragrant profile is maybe lacking a little on the balancing dry, oaky, nutty backbone.

Mouth: Start is very fruit forward, the cognac influence is unmistakeable. I'm waiting for the mouth filling deep oak but it's not quite happening. There's clear oak influence but it's lighter and more fragrant.

Delicious natural fruit candy sweetness from the ex-cognac barrels, almost perfumed, just lacking that second wave of rich deep dry flavours to balance things.

Good acid and tart zest precede a long and tasty finish but somehow it's lacking the deep bass notes that would complete it. [87+pts]

Velier Foursquare Sassafras, 14yr, 61%, 6000btls

The 2020 collaboration between Italian uber-bottler Velier and Foursquare. Sassafras is a pot & column blend, first matured in ex-bourbon casks for 3 years before spending a massive 11 years in ex-cognac casks.

As with Touchstone, this is also 14 years and 61%. I'm very interested to discover whether the differencing in blending & ratios of aging (and other unrevealed differences eg: the ratio of pot to column) will result in significantly different rums.

The darkest, and yet also brightest, of the line-up, a beautiful golden amber. Very inviting.

Nose: A super rich yet really fun nose. Immersive. Stunningly deep and complex. Again the heady 61% makes itself known, but again this is not fiery or aggressive. Clearly a very well made rum. Lots of candied, almost sweet shop notes.

Although not what I would describe as a funky rum, there is a surprising (and delicious) level of varnish and sweet chewy esters. Feels like there is a significantly higher proportion of pot still in this.

Deep cherry, raisin and plum are marrying perfectly with rich spicy, almost leathery, tannic oak.

Mouth: A huge mouthful of flavour. Ticks all the boxes and really makes me smile. Outstanding. Sharp tannic bitterness, rich spicy vanilla oak and sweet plum candy all playing together perfectly.

Pleasant creaminess and some toasted coconut take us into a long, signature Foursquare, absolutely delicious finish. Impressive stuff [92pts]

In Summary - Touchstone is a nice step up from it's younger brother (Dominus) but is not hitting the same level as the likes of Isonomy or Empery, and certainly a step behind Sassafras. (At retail price) It's a delicious rum, and an excellent addition to the ECS line-up. I highly recommend picking one up.

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