Thanks to a couple of late cancellations, we got our spots at Richard Seale’s History of Rum presentation and tasting at The Whisky Exchange in Covent Garden. We’d been to the London Bridge branch a fair amount, but had only stopped for a browse in this new, replacement branch on Bedford Street. Upstairs is full of a range of spirits, including wall to ceiling shelves of rum, plus a barrel-aging section to fill your own bottles of whisky, rum and cognac oaked in store.
Downstairs is full of the eponymous spirit – another impressive span of old, rare and global whiskies, and it’s also where the tasting events take place. We found this to be well organised and presented, with the tasting glasses set out on a numbered mat (common to most tastings), water and crackers to cleanse the palate, and something we’d never come across before at a rum tasting, glass covers that looked like a spectacles lens to keep in the aromas until you’re ready to nose the glass.
There were six rums listed to taste, along with special pricing for purchases on the night. We tried:
- RL Seale’s 10 Year Old (43%)
- Foursquare Port Cask Finish (40%)
- Foursquare 2004 (59%)
- Foursquare Zinfandel Cask Blend (43%)
- Black Tot Last Consignment (54.3%)
- Mystery Rum
We were encouraged to nose and taste during the presentation as we wished, whilst Richard Seale took us through, as the title suggests, a brief history of rum, including methods, blending, pot stills, column stills and Coffey stills, with a focus on how to get quality in rum recognised.
Without the enforcement of rules as in whisky, it can often be difficult for a consumer to know if they are getting the quality that the label and price tag suggests. This results in a new type of classification, away from the basic, and meaningless, classification by colour we’re so used to in rum (white, gold, dark, spiced): the Gargano classification. I’m sure this will be the subject of a blog at a later stage, but it proposes that rum can be classified based on its production method. There’s a (long-ish) description here, by Richard Seale himself.
All six rums were a strong offering, as you’d expect from Foursquare. The ‘mystery’ rum turned out to be the Foursquare 2006, to be brought out in a collaboration with Luca Gargano (of Velier and creator of the Gargano classification). It’s 100% pot still and has three years ageing in ex-Bourbon barrels and seven years in ex-cognac barrels. It’s cask strength at 64%, but was the most sippable of the night for us: demerara on the nose, and despite its strength, soft, sweet, smooth and warming in the mouth. No details on pricing yet ahead of its full launch, but it’s a quality single blend rum that’ll be hard to say no to.
And a quick word on the Black Tot Last Consignment: most people left this one until the end to taste, given its history, rarity and price (over £650). However, it was also the one nobody finished. We found it too oaky, of course reflecting how much contact it has had with wood over the years, which was a taste prolonged in the finish too. A privilege to taste, and it would be great to have in the collection, but as a piece of rum history only.
Until next time, keep rumming!