Overrated. Apologies to lovers of the rum, but it’s a mediocre ten year old in a cool bottle.
The R.L. Seale 10 year old is a sort of old stalwart in the pantheon of Barbados hooch. Sooner or later everyone passes by it, and it’s considered a benchmark against which, in the past, many Barbadian rums were rated, one of the basket of rums that defined the entire Bajan style. In this day of independent bottlers and full proof offerings, to say nothing of FourSquare’s own tinkering and varied expressions, it starts to show something of its age. And I’ve never been entirely won over by it…not then, not now.
Before you all spontaneously combust, please put down your electronic pitchforks and burning i-phone torches, and hold your emails, FB posts, twitter feeds, hashtags and any other forms of online vituperation. I’m fully aware I’m swimming against the tide on this one — just try to find a negative review of a FourSquare rum online…I dare ya — but perhaps a review that goes against the grain should be considered just because it does that, not be thrown away with yesterday’s fish.
Years ago, in 2010, I wrote a distinctly unflattering portrait of the Doorley’s XO (I have yet to try the 12 YO). In subsequent years I always and uneasily thought it was the surety (maybe the arrogance?) of a beginner that made my opinion what it was (I called the Doorley’s the “Prince Myshkyn of rums”), and given the critical plaudits and encomiums Mr. Seale has gotten since then, to say nothing of his remark to me that I just did not appreciate pure, unadulterated rum (in other words, the added sugar of other, higher-scoring rums had skewed my perspective)…well, let’s just say I was curious what a gap of several years’ experience would do, and so ran a bunch of Barbadian rums past each other to see how this and the Rum66 and the 2015-2016 editions stacked up.
The darkish gold rum, bottled at 43% was light, almost delicate, redolent of delicate white flowers and too much fabric softener. There were thin hints of caramel, salted butter and vanilla coiling around underneath that, with some cider, cinnamon, nutmeg and crushed nuts following that. And dry, surprisingly so. So once again, taste wasn’t the issue for me, the understated nature of it was – the whole was just too damn timorous, like it was too shy to come out and actually make a statement (the very issue I had with the Doorley’s).
Things improved on the palate, where the 10 year old proved somewhat sharper and spicier than the Rum 66 I was trying alongside it, but at least displayed something more than vague whiffs and promises without delivery. It was sweet and salt at the same time, fried bananas in olive oil, peanut butter spread on warm French bread — for originality the rum sure went off in some strange directions, to its credit — with faint tar and oak and vanilla undertones mixing it up with apples and maybe some more nuts, ending up with a finish that was short, flirty and faint, that gave nothing original to remember it by.
All in all, it lacked punch and heft and compared poorly against the five controls I had in place to rate it. The much ballyhooed honesty of the rum was beyond question – it was clearly not adulterated in any way, which was great, allowing the core profile to come through, but it just didn’t have that emphasis and clarity, the overall integration of complex flavours making their statement, which I preferred and continue to prefer. For its price and intended audience, it’s a good buy (which is why it sells well and continues to receive plaudits to this day) — all the same, I contend that FourSquare has shown in 2015 and 2016 what they’re really capable of when they try. Their port cask, their white and the spectacular 2006 10 year old, are all miles ahead of this one. They address all my issues with firmness, power, clarity, integration, assembly, balance, and are just plain better rums than the R.L. Seale’s 10 YO.
And that’s why those rums will absolutely get my money in the future, while this one simply won’t. I’ve had better, both from Barbados, and from FourSquare.
Other online reviewers don’t share my indifference, and love this thing. To be fair, I include their reviews here so you can get other opinions: