What does a perfect spirit taste like?
The perfect spirit is complex, challenges your senses and causes tingling sensations. On the nose, no matter the category, greatness is as much as what it is–bakery, earth, fruit or floral notes, e.g.—as what it isn’t—rubbing alcohol, varnish or burnt vegetables. For the palate, all spirits strike similar, 40% ABV and above, flowing across until it’s down the hatch. If it’s alcohol forward, too sweet or too bitter, the spirit tends to stick on one part of the palate, while the more nuanced trickle down the jawline, tingle the roof and sometimes make your neck hairs stand up. The more your olfactory and tongue awaken, the better the spirit. But the perfect spirit is extremely rare.
Up until my Rum Curious journey, I had only tasted three absolutely perfect spirits: an 1806 Cognac from a demijohn inside a Cognac Ferrand cobweb-filled warehouse; 1964 Laphroaig, a gift from the “Laphroaig collector” Marcel van Gils to celebrate Whiskey Women; and a 1960s Old Crow Chess Decanter piece that sent chills down my spine (I’ve yet to find a chess piece that matched its quality, as these decanters are hit and miss.) And now, I can add a fourth: Velier Foursquare 2006, a collaboration between bottler Velier and the Foursquare Distillery.
Barbados-based Foursquare Distillery makes the world’s best rum. And I will regret telling you this in the same way my 2011 Tasting Panel column revealed the greatest value in spirits was Weller 12-year-old, a bourbon that now draws hundreds in the secondary market due to its scarcity. I tasted more than 400 rums for Rum Curious and judge them at San Francisco World Spirits Competition, which Foursquare does not enter, and there’s a consistent complexity in Foursquare unfound anywhere else. Its limited edition releases completely dominate the palate, each one offering its own unique cadre of flavor orchestrated by the technique of blending of the pot and column rums, and the maturation in wine, bourbon, sherry and Cognac barrels, among others. Even the more entry-level Doorly’s and merchant bottled The Real McCoy present the unique Foursquare richness.
Foursquare’s greatness is not just my opinion; the IWSC named Foursquare rum producer (R.L. Seale & Company winner on record) of the year. Furthermore, I’ve yet to meet a spirits lover who didn’t mouthgasm over a nip of Velier Foursquare 2006, 2004 or Criterion (read my Robb Report thoughts on Criterion), the limited releases that are the Pappy of Rum—so coveted and tasty some would pay 10 times the MSRP for a bottle.
Although the 2006 is not in the U.S. (I brought back a bottle from Barbados), the 2004, $60; Criterion, $55; R.L. Seale 10-year-old, $24; and Do0rly’s 12-year-old, $24 are here and affordable, as are The Real McCoy rums.
So, if you’re looking to find one of the best flavors in all of spirits, go find Foursquare. Perhaps, you, too, will find delightful complexity.
Velier Foursquare 2006 Single Blended Rum (These notes appeared in Rum Curious.)
Double Maturation, 3 Years Ex-Bourbon Barrels and 7 Years Ex-Cognac, 62% ABV, Barbados
Aroma: One of the most-amazing rum noses you’ll ever come across. Complex and spine tingling. Nuanced caramel, rich banana, vanilla, pineapple, passion fruit, dried apricot, dried orange peel, cigar box, rose petal, dark cherry, roasted nuts, and a hint of smoke.
Palate: So velvety and creamy. Hard to believe it’s barrel strength, but the oily notes just jump right out, leading with butterscotch, custard, crème Brulee, dates, raisons, roasted almonds, pecan pie, tobacco, dried apricot, black pepper; and slight hints of molasses, orange peel, and mustard seed. This finishes extremely long, up to four minutes, with a hint of cinnamon. It’s flawless and perfect in every way.
Fred Minnick is a spirits critic and author. His books are available wherever books are sold.