Cigar Review: Foundation Charter Oak

Cigar Review: Foundation Charter Oak

I’ve made note lately of a few boutique cigar makers having introduced a lower-priced stick to their line. This appears to be Foundation’s offering, and it is superb! At roughly $5.50 (mid 2019 full retail) this cigar is full of great flavors and only occasionally presents some construction issues.

I link two other reviews below that will also tell you about the name “Charter Oak” (hint: there is a certain 900 year-old oak tree growing in Connecticut) and some more about the history of the stick. I’ll stick to the basics here..

I am reviewing the 4.25″x42 “petit corona” in the maduro wrapper. There are 3 other vitolas: a 6″x52 Toro, a 6.25″x46 Lonsdale, and a 4.25″x50 Rothchild (classic Robusto size). We are not told much about the composition of this cigar.

Rolled at the AJ Fernandez factory in Nicaragua

Filler/Binder: Nicaraguan, no other specifics given
Wrapper: Connecticut broadleaf

Construction: Some imperfections in the wrapper, a bump here and there, some vein, but well rolled. Medium firm pack, medium density. Closed foot, self-toasting when lit. Draw is light to medium but gets a little tighter as it goes. I’ve smoked four of these now. One plugged after being lit producing thin smoke and no amount of cigar tool really helped for long. Other three very rich smoke on a good draw all the way down. The stick has a tendency to canoe when first lit, but after one correction burns pretty straight. Construction is not bad for the price. Hoping the rest of the box is mostly better-constructed examples.

Cold aroma: I get barnyard, manure (sometimes called “earth”) and a strong note of black tea. A very rich cold aroma.

Cold flavor: Salty, leather, barnyard

Smoking experience: Little pepper, nice sweet wood, flowers, hay. A half inch in flowers, mint, leather, sweet wood smoke, cedar, barnyard and leather. There’s a lot of flavors in here, even something like a Melba toast sweetness on the retrohale. No pepper to speak of (tiny bit) at this early stage. Most of the flavor in this cigar is in the retrohale.

Second half.. a caramel sweetness and more Melba comes forward in the retrohale, maybe wintergreen. Still getting leather, cedar, nice sweet wood flavors and aromas.

In the last few inches flavors dial back a bit but still all there. Pepper comes up in the retrohale but not to painful levels. Nice smoke all the way to 1/2″.

Pairing with a Foursquare pot-still Bajan rum brings out the sweetness in the cigar. Coffee works well too. I am very impressed with this stick. Not as rich as Foundation’s Tabernacle blend, but damned good for half the price! Highly recommended!

Here are two more reviews. One from Stogie Review, and the other from Leaf Enthusiast.

Review: Habitation Velier-Foursquare 2013 Single Pot Still Rum

Review: Habitation Velier-Foursquare 2013 Single Pot Still Rum

I’ve tried a lot of Foursquare rum in the last year. Starting with the Port and Zinfandel cask bottlings, on to the 2004, Premise, then the 2005 (not yet reviewed), and now this collaboration with Habitation Velier on another “single rum” which in this case means it was made at one distillery and one particular pot still. The Back label on the bottle says:

“Foursquare 2013 Single Rum is the result of a collaboration between Richard Seale and Luca Gargano. This is the first time that Foursquare has bottled a rum distilled entirely in the pot still built by Green Engineering and Forsyths. Aged in prime-quality ex-cognac barrels. A world premire.”

The front label says a lot too. I have included a larger picture so the detail can be appreciated. Foursquare has been doing a lot of these special bottlings from special barrels. Port, Zinfandel, Sherry (the Premise) and now Cognac barrels. Each one is spectacular and so far every one I’ve tried has been better than the last!

Not only great barrels, but this offering is “cask strength” bottled at the alcohol percentage as it comes from the barrel after two years (clearly stated on the label) having experienced 15% evaporation (the “angel’s share”) in tropical aging. The note about the tropics is important because rum ages (and evaporates from the barrels) faster in the tropics. Two years of aging in the tropics would be equivalent to four or five years in a temperate climate. The rum comes to us from the cask at 64% ABV, a potent offering.

Let’s have a look..

Color: Light to medium amber with orange notes. This is a very pretty rum.
Legs: Swirrled in the glass the rum shows thin to medium fast running legs.

Aroma: OK, now to something more important. I expected a two-year-old rum to be a heavy on the alcohol, acetone, or varnish notes especially at 64%, but not so. There is alcohol there, but it’s clean, refreshing, and sets off otherwise deliciously deep aromas of raw sugar, light caramel, prune, raisin, and tobacco. Wow! Fabulous dark aromas from a relatively light rum. There is no vegetal or fruity funk in this aroma. Lightly sweet, but not overwhelmingly sweet. Dark fruit, but no over-ripe notes. I take this to be characteristic of a “Bajan rum”, and I don’t mind a little funk now and then, but this is so much more friendly.

Flavor and texture: Amazing! A rum with no additives this is immediately rich and creamy. How can that be with this much alcohol and only two years old? I imagine the tropics, and maybe the quality of the ex-cognac barrels makes all the difference. Despite its richness the rum comes off at first as crisply clear and dry, but the sweetness of it sneaks up on you. Raw sugar, caramel, not dark but light. Raisin, prune, and tobacco. I can’t remember another rum in which the flavor and aroma profiles matched so well. The finish is long and sweet, no bitterness here not even at its full 64% ABV. The heat sneaks up on you too. It never gets harsh, but it does get pretty hot! I added a little water to one glass taking the alcohol down to about 55% and the rum gets sweeter, the raw sugar a little stronger with green grape making an appearance. But this rum is easy to drink even at its original ABV. Like the aroma, there is no sort of funk in the taste.

At $75 the price is a tad steep for me, but it is the same price (roughly) as the 2004 and 2005 all well worth their cost. Velier has released almost a dozen collaborations in this series, not all with Foursquare. Of them all, this offering is the least expensive! I haven’t dared try the others ranging in price from $90 to $120! What if I like them??!! If you click on this link, you can see images of all the other offerings in this line. Good luck making a choice. My guess is they will all be outstanding examples of their types.

The Fat Rum Pirate and The Rum Project have reviewed other of the rums in this set. Have a look. These folks know their rums better than me.

Enjoy…

Review: Foursquare Premise Rum

Review: Foursquare Premise Rum

Another offering from Richard Seale. Premise is one of those special barrel bottlings released in the last few years by Foursquare Rum and available in American brick and mortar stores (with good rum collections) for about $55. A tad more than the earlier “Port Cask” and “Zinfandel Finish” releases. Although it isn’t in the name I’m told to think of this as a “sherry cask” rum. As in all the other releases, these are supposed to be dry ex-sherry casks, and the rum contains no additives.

The rum is a medium amber, not pale, but by no means dark. More brass than copper colored. When swirled in the glass it forms medium thick legs that flow pretty fast. Bottled at 46% ABV a good down the middle strength given the present fashion for “naval strength” rums. Smooth and delicious as it is, it had enough fire going down to convince you there is real alcohol present. The rum is aged 3 years in ex-bourbon wood and then 7 more in ex-sherry wood. More detail can be found here at the fatrumpirate site.

On the nose there is intense Caramel, toffee, brown sugar, raisin, even apple or green grape, and maybe light ripe pineapple. Also enough alcohol to push it all out, I don’t get any petrol or varnish notes. This is one sweet and slightly bright-fruity aroma with a little oak thrown in.

The flavor is surprisingly sweet maybe sweeter than the port and zinfandel bottlings. Lots of brown sugar, light caramel, maybe a little tobacco, sherried oak. The sweetness is a little less up front on subsequent sips. Finish is long and sweet, there is no bitterness here. Not a lot of fruit in the flavor for me, but what there is isn’t dark but light. The body is distinctly creamy, a little thick.

You know I always drink rum paired with a cigar. It so happens that the only wine I really like paired with cigars is sherry. Needless to say a “sherry cask” finished rum from foursquare was going to hit the spot. It does. Goes well with every stick I’ve tried, 5 of them at this point. A little expensive yes, but if you have developed a palate for unadulterated rums lately you’re going to want to try this one.

Happy sipping!

Comparing Foursquare Port to Zinfandel Cask Rum

Comparing Foursquare Port to Zinfandel Cask Rum

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Rum Review: Real McCoy small batch 12 year old rum

Rum Review: Real McCoy small batch 12 year old rum

Back in the days of prohibition in the U.S., the spirits sold in the speakeasies (or maybe from the back of a truck) were frequently watered down. The story goes that one particular rum runner, Bill McCoy, loaded a boat with rum in the Caribbean, and sailed it up to New York where he remained in international waters (the 3 mile limit) and passed his rum on to boats that came out to meet him making I would think a tidy profit in the process. Bill McCoy gained a reputation for moving only honest unadulterated product into the black market channels for distilled spirits. “The real McCoy” became American idiom for “honest whiskey”, and soon after for anything genuine.

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The Real McCoy rum series (there is a 3 year, 5 year, and 12 year) is the creation of Bailey Pryor who did a documentary on Bill McCoy and in the process met R. L. Seale of Foursquare rums. The Real McCoy is a result of their collaboration, a “Barbados style” (it says so on the label) rum mixing pot and column still distillates. According to the website (linked here) a good part of the idea was to keep the rum honest. Each of the age statements represent the youngest rum in the standard blended product. It is also made without added sugars or anything else.

A picture of the standard 12 year blend (black label) appears at the end of the review. There are reviews of the standard 12 year on several well known rum sites like Inu Akena and The Fat Rum Pirate. It appears to be a very good rum, but alas I have not tried it…

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What I have tried, pictured here, is a special “small batch” 2016 release aged in both charred American bourbon, and Portuguese Madeira casks for a full 12 years (total). I assume it is a blend, the label makes no mention of a single barrel. The white label sets it off, bottled at 46% ABV (as compared to 40% for the production blend). The price of this special product is about $50, while the standard blend is about $40. It comes in a nice old fashioned sort of bar bottle, with a plastic-capped cork stopper that gives a satisfying pop when pulled. Let’s get to the rum…

Color: Medium amber, slightly red. Very appealing.

Legs: When you swirl the rum in the glass the tiniest droplets form and take forever to coalesce into very thick drops that run very slowly down the glass.

Aroma: Apricot, burnt sugars (treacle), molasses, raisin, some alcohol, tobacco. As always there seems to be something different in every whiff. Good smells though. Want to keep breathing it in.

Flavors: Very creamy from the beginning. There is the burnt sugar from the nose, but also a distinctly cinnamon note, some chocolate, tobacco, ripe grape, apricot again, and a little touch of oaky bitterness. The finish is long, smooth, and sweet. Some heat comes up but gets spread out over the finish and never burns. Very nice. The Foursquare pedigree is notable in the creaminess and depth of the flavors. Very nice.

For the price ($49) at my retailer this is close to as good as the slightly less expensive ($42) Foursquare Zinfandel and Port cask products. Purely a matter of taste here, I think the Real McCoy is a little more complex perhaps but less cleanly refreshing. In any case it is a very good rum and I know I will have to pick up a bottle of the standard black label 12 year on my next visit to my local retailer so I can review that one too.

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The cigar pictured above is a Rodrigo “Corona Project” house blend I reviewed before over here. The rum goes well with every smoke I’ve tried with it. If there’s a little roasted nut or sweet woodiness in the cigar, this rum will bring it out a bit.

Drink up me hearties!

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Rum Review: Foursquare Zinfandel Cask Blend

Rum Review: Foursquare Zinfandel Cask Blend

In the closing months of 2016 I discovered 10 delicious rums all new to me. Three of these were from Foursquare distillery of Barbados under the direction of R. L. Seale. I reviewed two of these, the “2004” and “Port Cask Finish” last year calling them possibly the best rums I’ve ever had. At the time of their discovery I learned about this third member of the group but until recently couldn’t find any. That changed a few weeks ago and this offering is even better than the others!

So what do we have here with this Foursquare Zinfandel Cask Blend? Aged 11 years in bourbon barrels and then [dry] zinfandel wine casks, bottled at 43% ABV. The label says clearly that there are no additives in this rum just like its cousins.

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Color: A beautiful medium amber
Swirled: Forms tiny droplets a few coalescing into thin and slow running legs.
Aroma: Brown sugar, maple syrup, raisen, and only a little alcohol. There are no burnt notes in the aroma, only sweetness. This perhaps the best smelling rum ever!

Sipped it is very smooth and creamy. There is a nice warmth going down the throat, but it comes up gradually and never burns. Every sip has hints of brown sugar, dried apricot, coffee, raisen, and maybe a little chocolate (or I imagining that?) along with the maple syrup I noted in the aroma. The finish is a bit short, but still sweet with no bitterness. Like the aroma the flavors have no burnt notes in them.

As I finish the glass the creaminess grows richer, the sweetness and other flavors fade back a bit, and the aftertaste gets a little longer. All in all this is one hell of a rum and with no sugar or other additives must get its sweetness from its time in the zin barrels. It is my understanding that these are dry barrels too imparting flavors only and not mixing the rum with a little zinfandel remaining in the barrel.

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At $45 here in California, this has got to be one of the best rum deals in the world! I cannot recommend anything more than this. It isn’t always easy to find R. L. Seale’s work here in the U.S. and this group of three rums seems to have popped up in California fairly recently. Seale is a well known name in unadulterated rums these days and I’m very glad to have discovered his work at last.

Zinfandel cask blend, as good as rums get!