Brand: Clifton Hall
Origin: Foursquare, St. Philip, Barbados
Still: Pot & Column Blend
Age: 12 years
If you have never traveled to Barbados nor known a rum enthusiast who has visited the island, the brand name "Clifton Hall" may not be instantly recognizeable. However, the juice inside the black, white, and gold-labeled bottle comes from the stills of the ever-recognizeable Foursquare rum distillery. The Clifton Hall Great House rum brand is exclusively available on Barbados, home of the eponymous structure, as well as Foursquare's distillery.
The story starts with Massimo Franchi, a Scotsman of Italian ancestry who made Barbados his home after finding he enjoyed the island life after multiple visits. In 2008, Franchi purchased an overgrown plantation house, Clifton Hall Great House, and renovated it over the next several years. Today, Clifton Hall is a multi-purpose venue that is also available for tours, when availability permits; during my visit to Barbados, the property was rented out, which prevented us from stopping by for a tour.
Along with tours and events– and more relevant to our review, Clifton Hall is known for its private label of rum. While on Barbados, visitors can contact Franchi to purchase bottles of Clifton Hall to bring back as one-of-a-kind souveniers that cannot be found anywhere else.
The rum has gone through at least one iteration, having its proof increased from the original 40% ABV to the current 46% ABV, and shifting from the classic Foursquare bottle design, to a more rounder bottle, similar to Black Tot or Holmes Cay. No matter the proofing, the age has stayed consistent at 12 years of aging in ex-Bourbon barrels. Massimo Franchi himself personally selected this pot/column blend from the stores of Foursquare's aging bonds.
I'm incredibly excited to share that we have an interview with Massimo Franchi coming soon! More information about Massimo, Clifton Hall (the Great House), and Clifton Hall (the rum) will be shared in that interview.
Golden brown, medium clarity, high viscosity
Floral honey, blackberries, vanilla, pastry dough, caramel, black pepper
Vanilla, butterscotch, nutmeg, blackberries, lemon zest, oak
Medium-long, moist, oaky, and slightly sweet; bourbon oak, caramel, lemons, nutmeg
Clifton Hall lives up to its hype, offering some classic Foursquare notes, while providing some unique flavors as well. The body is lighter than some other Foursquare rums, such as R.L. Seale's 12 year or Real McCoy, which leads me to think there is a slightly larger column still component in this blend. Massimo did a fantastic job sorting this out, and I'm so glad I got to pick up a few bottles while on Barbados.
In the glass, Clifton Hall is a nice golden brown color, with medium clarity and high viscosity. Definitely a lot more weight in this distillate, as it rests fairly quickly after being swirled.
On the nose, I get notes of floral honey, blackberries, vanilla, pastry dough, caramel, and black pepper. No doubt the 92 proofing helps provide this really nice nose, which starts off very subtle and slowly grows as you inhale. The floral notes of honey lead into vanilla and pastry dough, while blackberries, some caramel, and spicy black pepper follow up with some savory elements.
The palate of Clifton Hall is solid as well, offering vanilla, butterscotch, nutmeg, blackberries, lemon zest, and bourbon-soaked oak. As mentioned above, the body is definitely lighter than some other aged Foursquare rums, but doesn't lack subtley or elegance. The vanilla and butterscotch notes lead the charge, followed by some nutmeg; blackberry and lemon zest provide unique citrus elements not typically found in Foursquare distillate.
A medium-long finish is found to be moist, oaky, and slightly sweet, with notes of bourbon oak, caramel, lemons, and nutmeg. A little bit of each aspect of the experience shows up in the finish, which is also subtle after the back palate is reached.
Clifton Hall is a special blend that offers some special qualities to an exquisite rum. Special thanks to our host, Larry, who went above-and-beyond to pick up our order while my girlfriend and I explored the island. The bottles I have are extra-special knowing that they are one more reminder of my special trip to Barbados, and will be another souvenir that I savor until I can return to buy more.