Foursquare Port Cask Finish – ECS Mark II
Stats: This was the second release from the Foursquare Exceptional Cask Series, and the first one I ever purchased. It was distilled, blended, and aged in Barbados for three years in ex-bourbon casks followed by six more years in ex-port casks before being bottled at 40% ABV. 30,000 bottles were produced and split evenly between the US and EU several years back.
Background: I’d been consuming rum for a good ten years before this bad boy entered my life. I had gotten into rum through tiki and cocktails and considered myself pretty well-versed with an array of mixing rums from a multitude of regions in my arsenal, plus my “premium” sipping rums that (unbeknownst to me at the time) ALL contained dosage of some sort.
This bottle here single-handedly changed my whole outlook on the category of rum. Like many consumers back then (and still now), I didn’t know about adulteration and how the practice of adding sugar was so commonplace in the industry, and often used to mask poorly made and/or young distillates. It’s pretty funny looking back now that my gauge of quality relied so heavily on a perception of “smooth,” often attributed to appalling amounts of added sugar, post-distillate. I didn’t care about character or complexity, I just wanted it to go down easy and not taste like hot liquor.
My, how things have changed! If it’s not cask strength, high ester, additive-free, I’m wholly averse to it! OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but honestly for me now, things hovering around 40% typically taste like water and generally bore the crap out of me. So why was this one so influential? Well, it was priced around $40 and was truly delicious, with no additives. It completely raised the bar as to what other rums should aspire to be and helped me become cognizant of just how dynamic and special rum could be. I’ve been chasing that discovery ever since.
Back 5-6 years ago, I knew nothing about this distillery or Richard Seale or how limited the release was. I bought a bottle on a whim… loved it… eventually got a second… soon realized I needed more of it in my life… went back for a third… and they were gone. Forever! It was devastating! I was kicking myself for not buying a case or more.
But an interesting thing happened. Foursquare kept putting out a few new releases each year, and I loved each and every one of them. To the point that after I would pour my first glass and verify that I liked that particular bottle, I would go back to the store and buy multiple back ups to ensure I didn’t make the same mistake I did with Port. But the ironic thing is, Port kept getting pushed further and further back on the shelf until it was all but forgotten. So it’s interesting revisiting Port years after it held such an important place in my rum exploration. Does it still stack up? Do I wish I had that extra case?
Mission: I believe I’ve purchased every ECS release available to me up until Redoutable. I plan to go through them all, mark by mark, and share my impressions with you all.
Condition: Sampled neat in a Glencairn over the course of four sittings.
Nose: Dark chocolate, mocha, pencil shavings, florist shop, vanilla frosting, cocoa nibs.
Mouth: Chocolatey richness, oily mouthfeel, maple syrup, tar, pepper, rotten pineapple, tea, burnt coals, bitter cocoa, flat cola.
Final Thoughts: This is an excellent rum that is very easy to drink. While I still see the merits and appreciate the influence this rum once had on me, I no longer find it essential. These days I much prefer rums at higher proof with more complexity. That said, I think it would appeal widely to whiskey converts, folks dipping their toe in the rum category, and those who are drawn to things like Plantation XO, Zacapa, Kirk, and others that have a reputation of being “premium” while containing exorbitant amount of added sugar. Unfortunately none of the ECS are priced at a comparative $40-50 mark anymore to catch that market which is a shame as I believe this is just the kind of gateway spirit that can lead the general public to respecting and appreciating rum.
My rating: 4
1 – I don’t want this in my mouth ever again
2 – Best used for mixing
3 – Decent sipper
4 – Very enjoyable
5 – I’m buying a back up bottle