A Visit to Foursquare Rum Distillery
Foursquare Rum Distillery Tour
Founded in 1920, R.L. Seale & Co. are the owners of Foursquare distillery, located in St. Philip in the southeastern part of Barbados. A family company, it is now helmed by Master Distiller Richard Seale, who represents the fifth generation of leadership. Foursquare makes many marques including its own Doorly’s and Old Brigand brands, and produces rum for others including Real McCoy, Mahiki, and Rum 66.
Master Distiller Richard Seale is known as being a bit of a purist when it comes to rum making, so it should come as no surprise that his rums contain no additives of any kind, and the age statements on his bottles always represent the youngest rum in the blend. Let’s take a look inside the distillery and learn how this delicious rum is made.
Foursquare is nestled into a sugar cane field, but most of their molasses comes from elsewhere. Like most rum distilleries these days, a large portion of its molasses comes from Guyana. The fermentation process takes forty-four hours on average, and produces a wash (or wine) of 9-10% ABV. The yeast they employ is a standard dry distiller’s yeast sourced from South Africa. It’s Richard’s opinion that despite other distillers’ persistent claims of employing “proprietary yeast strains” the yeast actually used are all very similar, and he prefers to leave the yeast creation to the yeast experts.
The fermented wash is fed into either the two column still or the pot still depending on the rum being produced; the pot is run in batch, and the column is run in continuous mode. The pot still has two retorts, and is likely the best place to “capture the soul of the raw material” as Richard puts it.
The double retort arrangement allows for small heart cuts, and enables Seale to go 82% ABV in a single pass. The column still yields a 94% distillate. Despite distilling to a reasonably high proof, Seale maintains that ABV and flavor of the spirit are not related in this context, because the resultant flavor of the rum is an average of different proofs reached throughout the 1,750 liter run. That is true for both pot and column rums.
The rum moves from the stills to stainless steel tanks, and then to wooden barrels—mostly bought used from Jack Daniels in Tennessee. Foursquare also uses fortified wine barrels including Port and Madeira. Richard has also recently experimented with Zinfandel casks. Foursquare does not re-char the barrels or disassemble them as is done in some other distilleries. Wine casks are steamed prior to re-use there, but whiskey barrels are not.
Foursquare blends its distillates before aging, and the rum goes into the barrels at 65% ABV. In all, Foursquare has some 40,000 barrels in its aging warehouses—an impressive but necessary number considering the number of ten and twelve year rums they’re producing (the evaporation rate averages 6%-7% a year there).
In addition to its standard marques, Foursquare has recently begun releasing limited edition rums. The first in the series was the well-received Port Cask finish (review here) and it is to be followed up by a Zinfandel cask finish (2,000 bottles in each market). 2016 will see Foursquare release a barrel-proof rum at 60% ABV and another expression at 43%. Velier will also be releasing two Foursquare rums bottled at 65% (2005) and 62% (2006). Interesting times ahead for us rum nerds!
Many thanks to Richard Seale for the tour and tasting. It was a sincere pleasure to visit the home of one of my favorite rums.
Editor’s note: This trip was sponsored by the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) under the auspices of the Authentic Caribbean Rum Certification (ACR) Program. After completing the free 4-hour certification course in San Francisco, I submitted an application for, and was accepted into the Full Certification program in the Caribbean. As part of the inaugural class, we visited six Caribbean rum distilleries and one sugar factory across three countries in four days. I highly recommend taking the free certification class when it comes to a town near you. It’s quite informative, but best of all, it qualifies you to apply for the Full Certification program in the Caribbean (also free of charge).