Review: Foursquare Principia vs Foursquare Empery

With World Foursquare Rum Day on the way (17th of November) I decided it would be appropriate to write about Foursquare (again?), this should be a close one.

Principia is one of those fairly rare bottles nowadays, a collaboration between Richard Seale and Luca Gargano, and, if my memory serves me well, the very first sherried rum launched under Foursquare name.

Molasses based, blend of pot and column still, (double) matured in Barbados at the distillery for 3 years in ex-Bourbon casks followed by 6 years in Sherry (Oloroso) casks and bottled at 62% ABV with… nothing else.

Empery is one of those fairly new bottlings, part of a trio of sherried releases in the recent months (a review on one of them, Patrimonio, can be found here). This one is more available and will be for a while as all the Exceptional Cask Selections have more bottles on the market, where the Velier ones are very limited.

Also molasses based with a blend of pot and column still. One component in the blend was aged for 14 years in ex-Bourbon casks and the other component went through a double maturation in ex-Bourbon casks for 10 years followed by 4 years in Sherry (also Oloroso) casks. Bottled at 56% ABV, period.

So the “showdown” looks like this:

– Velier vs Exceptional Cask Selection
– Old vs new
– Ex-Bourbon and Sherry vs ex-Bourbon + ex-Bourbon and Sherry
– Younger vs older

Foursquare Principia

On the nose is very rich and fruity. Blackcurrants, cherries, prunes, raisins, sweet red apples, fresh raspberries and mango balanced by some citrusy lemon and orange zest. Toasted oak, cocoa nibs and earthy notes. Cinnamon, cloves and hints of ginger. Shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s lot of sweet fortified wine aroma upfront and paired with the spices give it like a mulled wine profile – which fits well in the season to be fair.

On the palate is rich again with dark and dry fruits. Prune jam, raisins and blackcurrants again. Dark chocolate, ripe bananas, nutmeg, walnuts, Luxardo cherries, red grapes, hints of coriander and mildly oxidised port wine. The texture is oily and velvety, I can almost chew on it but it’s not sticky. Orange zest again, old leather, strawberry puree and hints of bubblegum. “Only” 62% ABV but I could definitely have a wine glass full of this. The finish is long with rich red wine, toasted oak and earthy notes.

Foursquare Empery

On the nose this seems brighter. Dusty cardboard, sour cherries, banana bread and blanc vermouth. White cacao liqueur, pear eau de vie, vanilla ice cream and burnt matchsticks. White oak spices, candied orange, a little bit of white vinegar and hints of lavender. Smells a bit sharper than Principia.

On the palate this seems drier, more spice forward. Pink peppercorn, custard, plenty of vanilla and sweet white wine. Juicy apricots, milk chocolate, peaches, sponge cake, cinnamon and white grapes. Creamy oak with a lot of lemon zest. It feels like the sherry impact is minimal compared with the Principia, it’s more the ex-Bourbon cask doing the heavy lifting here. There’s a certain acidity to it that feels slightly off. The finish is again long with citrus, oak spices and white wine.

To compare these two is like comparing red wine (Principia) with white wine (Empery). Even color-wise Principia is darker even if it’s 5 years younger than Empery, most likely from having more sherry influence in it.
Obviously they are both delicious, but I do prefer red wine therefore Principia is a definite winner and a very good example of sherried rum that still shows the ABV on the label when you stick a hydrometer in it.
Empery is also delicious and for the price is a steal, I just prefer the richness that the Principia offers. Regardless it will be tough to not finish it in one day.

Fun (for me) fact: I prefer Patrimonio over both.

Foursquare Principia score:
Flavour/taste: 60/70
Value for money: 11/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 86/100

Foursquare Empery score:
Flavour/taste: 58/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 88/100


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