Origin: Foursquare, St. Philip, Barbados
Still: Pot & Column Blend
Age: 12 years
In the first Sample September review, we take a look at Foursquare Plenipotenziario, a bottling from Velier that was exclusively available in Europe. We have touched on Velier in a few different reviews, such as #007, #020, and #027, but since the company is integral to this particular bottling, we'll dig a little deeper.
Founded in Genoa, Italy, in 1947, Velier started off as a small family-run operation focusing on the imports of wine and spirits. For over 30 years, this was the state of the Velier, until Luca Gargano– now a well-known rum expert– acquired shares in the company in 1983. Throughout the next decade, Velier expanded in size and scope to import high-end wines, import wines from the Americas, Africa, and Australia, and eventually develop bottlings of single malts and rums in collaboration with the distilleries that created them.
Further down the road, Velier released bottlings of rum sourced from the forgotten rum stocks of the Caroni distillery in 2004, launched Rhum Rhum in 2006, and in 2016 co-founded Le Maison & Velier (LM&V) alongside Paris-based Le Maison du Whisky. Also in 2016, Velier started partnering with Richard Seale and Foursquare, which leads us to the rum we have today.
Foursquare Plenipotenziario (definition: "with full power") is one of a handful of the aforementioned Velier and Foursquare collaboration releases, yielded 6,000 bottles, and produced for and exclusively sold in Europe. A special "thank you" goes out to Andrew Hinton, a friend of mine and integral member of Friends of Rum Tennessee (FORT), for providing this sample for me.
This rum was distilled in 2007, stored in ex-Bourbon barrels, and bottled in October 2019 at 60% ABV, making this a 12 year old rum. Although the details of the age and aging vessel are identical to the Exceptional Cask Series vintages, this is sure to be a bit different than the ECS 2007.
As the Rum Diaries Blog– and the bottle's back label– points out, the rums used to blend Plenipotenziario are made up of small batch distillate from Foursquare's pot still, as well as both "light" and "heavy" rums originating from their Coffey still. That isn't to say that we have not perhaps unknowingly enjoyed "heavy" column still rum in other ECS releases, but it's worth pointing out this fact is explicitly stated on the label.
Without further ado, here is Plenipotenziario.
Orange-brown, high clarity, low viscosity
Vanilla, butterscotch, coconut meat, nail polish remover, pre-ripe mango, milk chocolate, ethanol, sea salt, tobacco
Vanilla, dark cherries, honey, oranges, caramel, cardamom, touch of cigar smoke
Medium-long, tannic, fruity, sweet, and warming; plenty of vanilla, bourbon oak, walnut, cherries, bitter dark chocolate
Well, "full power" is right; Richard Seale is not pulling any punches with this one. This is a high-proof yet absolutely beautiful rum. The nose features the Foursquare signature notes, while leaning into some fruit, chocolate, and even some savory notes like sea salt and tobacco. The palate is unique but also noticeably Foursquare, and the finish is a roller coaster of notes that starts sweet but ends a bit bitter.
In the glass, Plenipotenziario is a nice orange-brown color, with high clarity and low viscosity. It has a real nice texture to it as I swirl my glencairn.
On the nose, I get notes of vanilla, butterscotch, coconut meat, nail polish remover, pre-ripened mango, milk chocolate, ethanol, sea salt, and tobacco. Woof, quite a lot going on there. The initial sniffs yield the classic vanilla/butterscotch/nail polish remover notes that Foursquare is known for (especially their ex-Bourbon cask vintage ECS releases), but also some fruity elements in coconut and mango. There's a sweet, somewhat creamy note that reminded me of milk chocolate, and a whole lot of raw ethanol; this could be because I've had this sample sealed up for a number of months. Once poured and rested for a few minutes, the ethanol recedes and some more subtle notes of sea salt and tobacco join the bouquet.
Tasting Plenipotenziario, I get notes of vanilla, dark cherries, honey, oranges, caramel, cardamom, and a touch of cigar smoke as the finish arrives. Don't let the somewhat short list of notes fool you: this is packed with flavor, helped out by way of the 60% proof. Before going into the individual notes, I need to emphasize how amazing it feels to just experience the rum: upon sipping, the rum and its flavors seem to glide over my tastebuds, almost angelically, before precipitating at the back palate to provide the wonderful flavors. This is truly a unique experience that I haven't had in a spirit yet. The signature vanilla, cherries, and caramel notes are joined with a light and slightly floral honey, oranges, a slight touch of well-constructed cigar smoke, and the unique flavor of caradmom.
The finish is medium-long, tannic, fruity, and sweet, providing plenty of warmth as well; vanilla, bourbon oak, walnut, cherries, and bitter dark chocolate are the prevailing notes I get at this point of the experience. It's a relatively quick transition from the end of the initial palate's flavors to the more bitter parts of the finish, but in the initial phases the finish is very pleasant, with sweet vanilla and cherry notes. The more bitter elements of bourbon oak, walnuts, and dark chocolate follow up with some haste, while also providing a lingering warmth.
Wrapping up, this is a wonderful rum, and I can see why Europe wanted to keep it to itself, for the most part. It's been a while since I've tasted my Foursquare ECS 2007, but I can say from experiencing Plenipotenziario even in sample form, that there is quite a difference between the two releases; if I had a bottle of this release on hand, I would love to test the two side-by-side. Velier and Europe definitely got a special release in Foursquare Plenipotenziario, which is a tour de force in what you can accomplish with simply excellent rum and a keen eye for barrel aging (even if it's "just" ex-Bourbon barrels). I want to thank Andrew for sharing this sample with me, which has made me jealous of all those who have a bottle of Plenipotenziario at home.