Foursquare seems to come up with an endless variety of good rums. I discovered the Port Cask Finish last year, and then found a retailer who also carried the Zinfandel Cask Blend. I’ve reviewed each of these separately and also the Foursquare 2004. But these two in particular seemed so similar I wanted to see what they were like side-by-side.
As goes information concerning the production and aging of these rums I can do no better than to quote the blog site of the fatrumpirate. The links following the quotes will take you directly to his reviews of these two rums as my own are linked above.
“The Port Cask Finish is a blend of pot and column distilled rum all distilled, blended and bottled at Foursquare. The Port Cask Finish is actually a bit misleading. Many producers would rate it as “double aged”. The rum is aged for 3 years in Bourbon Barrels and is then re-casked into 220 litre Port Casks for a second maturation of 6 years.”
“[The] Zinfandel Cask Blend is a mix of Pot and Column distilled rum which has been first aged in Bourbon casks before being finished in Zinfandel casks. In total the rum has been aged for 11 years.”
Both rums are produced at the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. The Port Cask comes at 40% AVB and the Zinfandel Cask at 43%. This isn’t much of a difference, but it is noticeable on the swallow. I am operating on the assumption that both of these rums start out in the same distillate and the whole of their differences comes from the aging process, 9 years for the Port and 11 years for the Zinfandel. The above linked website does not say for how long the zinfandel version ages in ex-zin barrels, but I have to believe that it is for many of those 11 total years.
Both rums come without additives, no extra sugar or coloring. “Honest rums” as this phrase is used on all the blogs these days. I have read that the ex port and zinfandel barrels used were dry. There was no wine sloshing around as is often the case with other wine-finished rums. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing by the way. I suspect there is a little bit of Spanish sherry in Dos Maderas 5+5 (review linked) and that is one delicious rum.
I’ve been through one whole bottle of the Port Cask at this point, but so far only this (pictured) bottle of the Zinfandel Cask. As a result, this particular Zin version has evolved for about 3 weeks in its opened bottle, but the Port Cask only a week and as you can see I’ve had only 3 or 4 glasses from the pictured bottle. So to some extent I am comparing apples to oranges, but I hope the comparison will still be useful.
I’ll not go into all the swirling legs business here I did that in the earlier reviews linked above. But I do want to call attention to the color of these rums which you can see from the photos is as nearly identical as it can be. I sometimes think the Port Cask is a tiny bit darker, but some photo experiments suggest this is just a trick of the light.
On the nose, the Zinfandel Cask is sharper, there is more alcohol. There is also raisin, grape, some burnt caramel and light brown sugar, more than a hint of tobacco and oak. There isn’t a lot of sweetness in the aroma and only the barest hint of “pot still funk”. Oak is more prevalent but the aromas are nicely distinguished. By contrast the Port Cask is much more mellow and melded. It’s harder to tease out separate notes, but they are definitely sweeter. No oak to speak of in the Port Cask, some dark fruit, molasses, a little vanilla, and maybe almond. I don’t notice any tobacco or funk, but something like a hint of milk chocolate. I don’t think of rums as smokey compared to bourbon, but between these two, the Zinfandel has more burnt notes.
The flavors are as different as the noses. The Port Cask is smoother with less fire on the swallow and a short to medium but sweet finish. There is dark plum and raisin, brown sugar, black cherry, and chocolate, but like the aromas, they are more melded than the flavors of the Zin. The Port gives very little alcohol taste on the tongue and no funk. The rum is creamy and gets creamier as you go through the glass. I don’t detect any oak in it.
The Zinfandel Cask is less sweet and less creamy but it has some of both. It has a much longer after taste carrying a bit of oak bitterness as does the initial flavor. It is a little less smooth and the alcohol makes it hard to find distinct fruit notes, but I do get burnt brown sugar notes even without any sweetness. There is no funk I detect in the flavor. Although less sweet and more distinctly oaky than the Port Cask, the Zinfandel Cask is bolder, a more manly rum. It carries a forceful flavor kick compared to the subtlety of the Port Cask which is more rounded and nuanced. At least this is so at their bottled strength.
I did try an experiment, adding just enough water to a half ounce of the Zinfandel Cask to bring it down to 40% ABV. As expected there was less alcohol on the nose and a little less fire on the swallow, but still not as smooth as the Port Cask. The water maybe brought out a little raisin in the flavor of the Zin, and there was some funk there too, but way in the background. The Zinfandel Cask was still more oaky and not as creamy as the Port Cask though. The two remained quite distinct so it isn’t only the ABV making these two good rums different.
These are both excellent rums and both on the distinctly drier side of the rum world. In some ways they come out the way you might expect. Port is sweeter and less acidic than Zinfandel and this comes across in the noses and the flavors. Both in the mid $40 price range near me, I will certainly be keeping them around as long as I can. As I understand it both are generous (thousands) if limited bottlings. Once they are gone, well, you know…