RumFest 2016: Day 1, Part 3 [Richard & Luca]

Richard Seale – Foursquare

  • In the 1920’s, Reginald Leon Seale founded RL Seale & Co. Ltd as a blenders & wholesaler.
  • Decades later in 1995, Reginalds son David Seale & grandson Richard Seale bought the Foursquare sugar factory in Barbados and turned it into a distillery.
  • The Seale family learned the hard way that they could not compete as a high volume, mass-market rum producer, focusing thereafter on high-end rums [BB].
Richard Seale
Richard Seale in Barbados
  • The Foursquare distillery is held in high regard among rum enthusiasts due to their integral belief in quality & authenticity.
  • Richards views on the widespread misuse of additives & sugar-doping by rum producers resonate strongly with the ever-present E150a debate in whisky. From the perspective of a whisky enthusiast, Richard appears to be the John Glaser of rum, with his staunch campaigning for greater transparency within the industry.

 

Doorly’s is a pot/column still blend and one of Foursquare’s most well-known brands. Other brands of theirs include Rum 66, R. L. Seale & Real McCoy. Distilling & ageing at the distillery is overseen by Richard himself, who has an innovative wood policy akin to many whisky distilleries – of which Glenmorangie, Bruichladdich, Benromach may be fair examples. Richard was inducted into the Rum Hall of Fame at RumFest in 2013.

 

Doorly’s 3yo Fine Old Barbados Rum Ob. Foursquare 40% WF80

Doorly's 3.jpg

  • N: Back to the white stuff, which as a malt drinker i generally find rather un-eventful [Clairin however!]. This one however smells, honest.
  • T: Light cane & candy sweet.
  • F: Clean /neutral. Witch hazel at the death.
  • C: Desirably neutral juice. Let’s step up to the 5yo.

Scores 78 points

 

Doorly’s 5yo Fine Old Barbados Rum Ob. Foursquare 40% WF80

Doorly's 5.jpg

  • N: Vanilla cane juice and subtle sparks of vegetation.
  • T: Vanilla/sugar [cask/spirit] – thats a definition of a balanced [if rather simple] rum isnt it? Subtle development with various tropical hints.
  • F: ,……. cane sugar.
  • C: More honesty, but not quite a sipper for me – and surprisingly I actually prefer [only just], the clear spirit. Ill skip the 8yo and see if the eldest 12yo can give something more.

Scores 77 points

 

Doorly’s 12yo Fine Old Barbados Rum Ob. Foursquare 40% WF85 RR78[39] TFRP

Doorly's 12

Alongside bourbon casks, Richard uses Port, Madeira and other wine finishes for his Foursquare blends, some or all of which are likely to have been deployed here.

  • N: Pretty much the 5yo on oak, so a distillery-identifiable spirit with whisky leanings [malternative], given the cask action.
  • T: Dry woody sugars and tropical fruits.
  • F: Finishes with a waxy mouthfeel and vanilla with a little earthiness.
  • C: I find all three Doorly’s share a distillery character.

Scores 80 points

 

Whilst we are talking of greater transparency within the industry, its as good time as any to talk about Luca Gargano.

Luca Gargano – Velier

Luca Gargano.png
Luca at RumFest

Luca was brand ambassador for St. James’s rum in the 1970’s before buying Velier in the mid 1980’s when he was only 27. During this time, Luca was on the hunt for exceptional rums [and other spirits], including the legendary St. James rum [distilled in 1885 & bottled in 1952], which he ended up tracking down and subsequently buying the entire remaining stock. He went on to do the same with Caroni in Trinidad – much the same story as Ichiro Akuto buying Hanyu & Kawasaki blog.

Luca is striving for a standardised classification for all rum production, much like the SWA’s vehement regulation of Scotch single malt, single grain, blended malt etc,.. As has been widely reported, Luca’s proposed categories for rum are as follows:

  1. Pure Single Rum – 100% pot (i.e. batch) still
  2. Single Blended Rum – a blend of only pot still and traditional column still
  3. Rum – rum from a traditional column still
  4. Industrial Rum – Modern multi-column still

Both Luca and Richard [Seale] are determined to protect & promote the value, authenticity & intrinsic quality of traditional/craft rum against what the Velier team referred to as, ‘the rest’. ‘The rest’ refers to industrial-volume, multi-column still distillation of vodka-ethanol, mixed with flavour enhancers and packaged as ‘premium’ juice – which represents around 97% of rum production world-wide.

Velier as official bottler, independent bottler & distributer are driving home these standards & values with their own rum releases, as indeed are Foursquare. The Velier stand at RumFest 2016 offered rums that were exclusively 100% pot still, all bottled at cask strength with no added sugar and distilled & matured in the country of origin. I tried some earlier in the day. Lets get stuck into some more.

 

Worthy Park 10yo 2005/2015 10yo ‘Forsyths WP’ Velier 57.8% WF92

You can tell which stands are offering the ‘serious juice’ when Sukhinder Singh turns up to try the juice. This next Forsyths blend is a mix of pot still rums from 6 Jamaican distilleries.

Forsyths WP 57.8%.jpeg

  • N: Daiquiri vibe once again in that the nose is readily suggestive of the lime & the sugar. This is comparable to the best ive had today – much activity.
  • T: Fruity [malternative] intensity on the palate. Not for the faint-hearted thats for sure.
  • F: Becomes oily/dry with salted peanuts on the finish.
  • C: As a rum-virgin, I feel ive ‘arrived’.

Scores 90 points

 

Worthy Park 2005/2015 Forsyths WP151 Velier 75.5%/151 proof

Forsyths WP151.jpg

  • N: One of the strongest spirits ive never encountered, certainly as an officially packaged product anyhows. Weirdly though [on the nose at least], it appears light and ethereal. Descriptor-wise all I’m getting from this superb spirit is [red] tutti-fruity ice-cream sauce. [Needed more time, obvs].
  • T: Now the abv shows and yikes it nips! The spirit is ever so clean.
  • F: ,…. stays super-clean.
  • C: Super spirit certainly. Score? – no idea. A demonstrative bottle perhaps?

 

Worthy Park 2005/2015 Forsyths WP502 Velier 57%

This is a unique high congeners release. Congeners: 502 gr/laa

Forsyths WP502.jpg

  • N: Brilliant & strong funky nose with a fruit-sugar complex of toffee apples & flapjack – more Tracker bar than flapjack actually with raisins, faux-leather [plastic] belts and a metallic note.
  • T: Tastes now like new-make spirit, very clean new-make and yet stupidly soft [57%!] to drink – yet there is a crispness also.
  • F: Metallic raisins.
  • C: Good good.

Scores 83 points

 

Hampden 2010/2016 6yo Jamaica Pure Singe Rum Velier 68.5% WF92

This is a high esters expression. Esters: 550 gr/laa. Angels share >40%

Hapden 2010.jpg

  • N: Non-aggressive, full-bodied CS rum with fruity/tomatoey & pot-still cologne notes –  after all, the perfume industry is as reliant on distillation as the spirits industry, and spirits such as Cognac are being used for perfume.
  • T: Unbelievably intense & concentrated. Fabulously ‘different’ juice.
  • F: Citrus<sweet [candy=toffee], the spirit clinging on to the palate for a long finish.
  • C: Just the kind of rum i came to find at [my first] RumFest. Great first day!

Scores 90 points

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

In Richards words [thefloatingrumshack]:

‘Enthusiasts need to ask themselves what do they want from the category [rum]? Real value and authenticity or seduction with sugar and nice packaging for Industrial scale products. If the latter is sufficient to attract premium pricing, then traditional rum production may go extinct. It is already an endangered species. The large corporate brands will fight this classification. They prefer to sell perceived value, as it is far more profitable’.

With different rum rules specific to each individual country and/or island, in reality its unlikely we shall see standardised classification across the board.  With so much profit being made within the status-quo, change will be made [slowly & gradually], by people like Richard & Luca continuing to lead by example  – much like Gandhi’s maxim ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. It took the whisky industry decades to recover from its image crisis of the 1970’s with mass-produced bland branded blends doped with E150a, leading to a drop in consumer demand coupled with over-production, resulting in plummeting sales & ultimately the closure of many dozens of distilleries. Three decades later, the whisky industry is booming aided significantly by the influx of small craft producers.

 

RumFest 2016 was like watching a spirits industry trying to sort itself out in real time – in one conference hall. It’s hard not to see this struggle as a battle between the few/small producers verses the numerous/large corporations & conglomerates. Of course the big players could all turn to pot-still production overnight, [like the supermarkets who cash in on the organic, free-from & super-food markets for example] – but even if they did [which they wont], it wouldn’t be a level playing field and they wouldnt play fair. I cant wait for next year, and there’s still another day tomorrow to come!

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