Foursquare Distillery is always praised for its Exceptional Cask Selection limited releases, but sometimes it overshadows their main continuous brand, Doorly’s. I have previously reviewed Doorly’s bottlings at various points in time so I decided to revisit the whole range and write a comprehensive review about their expressions.
Doorly’s is an important brand in the history of Barbados rums and it’s made by R.L. Seale & Company Ltd at Foursquare Distillery in Barbados.
It all started in 1906 when the Rum Duty Act changed the way the rum was sold and distributed across Barbados as the distilleries had to have a license and were required to sell rum only in bulk quantities of 45 or more litres at a time. That was too much rum for the regular consumer to buy and (probably) consume so a middle man was required.
That’s when the blenders entered the picture – they were traders that dealt with things such as rice, potatoes, textiles and much more, but they were also skilled in the art of rum blending. Thanks to the 1906 legislation their profession as blenders was better established as they were able to purchase rum in high quantities, blend it and sell it under their own label. Such blended brands were Martin Doorly & Co, E.S.A. Field, Old Brigand, Alleyne Arthur & Hunte and more.
The aforementioned brands were acquired over time by another well established blender at the time, R.L. Seale’s whose company was founded in 1926. While I’m sure it was a business decision as well, one of the reasons for incorporating all these labels under the R.L. Seale’s umbrella was to keep their names as well as their history alive. In 1996 R.L. Seale’s built a distillery on the site of an old sugar factory, known nowadays as Foursquare Distillery and all those rums are now produced there rather than sourced from other distilleries.
Martin Doorly’s company was registered in 1908, 2 years after the Rum Duty Act, and their Doorly’s Macaw Rum was the very first rum from Barbados to be exported pre-bottled rather than in a cask. In 1993 they were bought by R.L. Seale’s who kept the tradition and made Doorly’s their main export brand – they even kept the signature colourful macaw on the labels.
Here I will review almost the whole Doorly’s range available at the moment one by one, the only exception being the 40% ABV 3 Year Old.
This is the “white”, or Daiquiri rum of the range. Originally there was only the 40% ABV, but for a few years now a dialed up version that clocks at 47% ABV is also available.
This is aged and filtered to remove the colour and, while when it was launched it was completely water-transparent, over time the carbon filtration was reduced leaving it with a pale golden hue liquid. They use old casks that impart less colour in order to diminish the need for a more aggressive filtering as that can remove some of the flavour as well – therefore Doorly’s 3 Year Old can retain both the “white” look and the body of the rum.
Doorly’s 3 Year Old is molasses based, pot and column distilled, aged for 3 years in old ex-Bourbon casks and filtered to remove most of the colour. This expression is bottled at 47% ABV with no additions – its label features Blue and Gold Macaw.
On the nose it actually reminds me of a faint Falernum. Almonds, cashews, lime peels, crystalised ginger and coconut. White cacao liqueur, vanilla biscuits and white pepper. It seems to have some moreish flavours balanced out by a sharp, citrusy layer. Some cane juice, marmalade and a pinch of ground turmeric. Nutmeg and single cream as well.
On the palate it feels creamy. Single cream, coconut milk, biscuits and white pepper. Cashews, almonds, lime leaf and white chocolate. The extra ABV points give it a velvety and pleasant mouthfeel. Nougat, oaky vanilla and green bananas. Has a faint anise note alongside some cloves. The finish is medium with coconut and oak spices.
This is one of the best white rums out there, especially if you’re looking to make a Daiquiri – has a great amount of body and flavour alongside a very pleasant, creamy mouthfeel – I drink this neat whenever crave something coconuty (without any actually coconut added).
Doorly’s 3 Year Old (47% ABV) score:
Value for money: 15/15
Doorly’s 5 Year Old
This is meant to be their main aged rum for mixing and cocktails, but sipping it wouldn’t be frowned upon either. It’s the direct “descendant” of the original Macaw Rum bottled by Martin Doorly.
Now before I carry on I’ll mention that all the rums in the Doorly’s range are chill filtered and, besides the 3YO, have caramel colouring added (E150A) for visual consistency – this type of caramel is added in small amounts and does not affect the taste.
Doorly’s 5 Year Old is molasses based, pot and column distilled and aged for 5 years in ex-Bourbon barrels. Bottled at 40% ABV free of sweeteners – the label sports the Scarlet Macaw, same as the Martin Doorly’s Macaw Rum bottling.
On the nose it has that signature coconut flavour along with some wood spices. Cola, allspice, black pepper, coconut cream and mango. Roasted cashews, cinnamon and dried figs. The wood influence is quite obvious, but also well integrated. Sandalwood, pencil shavings and golden syrup. Yellow apples, burnt vanilla and sultanas.
On the palate it tastes balanced and woody. Ripe apples, golden syrup, biscuits and allspice. Marmalade, black pepper and vanilla. It seems quite complex for the age, but the 40% ABV makes it a bit thin mouthfeel-wise. Canned peaches, cinnamon, ginger ale and green tea. The finish is short to medium with citrus and burnt oak.
This is a party rum, you can equally use this in a fruity punch or for an Old Fashioned and it won’t fail you. It is quite layered, but as I said the finish is a little short, which is fine, this is meant to be mostly a mixing rum, and it fulfills its purpose perfectly.
This is priced at around £30 (Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange) a bottle which is just a little over the budget for a 40% ABV rum this young, but, given all the flavours you get, it makes sense to a degree.
Doorly’s 5 Year Old score:
Value for money: 14/15
Doorly’s 8 Year Old
This is more like a bonus review as the rum is not even available in the UK – it seems like the neglected child of the range, but thanks to Peter Holland I managed to secure a sample or two. For that the same reason I couldn’t take a photo of the bottling, but the branding is the same as the 5YO.
This was aged for 8 years in ex-Bourbon casks and from what I could gather it used to contain a small amount of 8 year old cognac matured rum – no idea if that’s still the case, I’m happy to update the review if someone has more information.
Doorly’s 8 Year Old is molasses based, pot and column distilled and aged for 8 years in ex-Bourbon casks with, potentially, a component that was aged in former cognac casks for 8 years. Bottled at 40% ABV without any sweeteners – also has the Scarlet Macaw as part of its branding.
On the nose it feels woody and a little herbaceous. Cardamom, cocoa biscuits, cassia bark and some fennel seeds. Red apples, sour cherries and unripe peaches. Has a nice, aromatic profile. Allspice, black peppers, roasted coconut and dusty old books. A dash of ginger beer and mango puree.
On the palate it’s a little sweeter than the nose leads to believe. Bounty chocolate bar, biscuits, honey and allspice. Peaches, mango and woody vanilla. Feels like a fruitier bourbon. Raisins, dates and black pepper. Maple syrup and Earl Grey tea. The finish medium with dried fruits and charred oak.
This is an upgrade from the 5YO, I’m enjoying the dried fruits notes and the spices. It’s well rounded, not too thin or boring, but not too exciting either. It’s not available in the UK, but from I could tell its pricepoint was at around £35 which is quite good.
Doorly’s 8 Year Old score:
Value for money: 15/15
Now we’re getting in the realm of complex sippers. The XO is the flagship and is the first and only rum in the range without an age statement. It was originally bottled at 40% ABV, but since 2020 the bottling strength was upped to 43% ABV.
This a double maturation rum, first one being for 5 years in ex-Bourbon casks and the second one going up to 3 additional years in former Oloroso casks – hence the lack of a number on the label, as I don’t think a “6 years old” in its branding would do it justice. As a fun fact, this is the first commercially available blend that Richard Seale, the current Master Blender and Distiller of Forsquare, created himself – the previous releases were inherited from the companies acquired by R.L. Seale Company.
Doorly’s XO is molasses based, pot and column distilled, aged for 5 years in ex-Bourbon casks and up to 3 more years in ex-Oloroso sherry barrels. Bottled at 43% ABV without any sweeteners added – the Hyacinth Macaw is the parrot of the XO.
On the nose it’s a bit sharper than the previous ones. Roasted coconut, smoked almonds, passion fruit and cola. Orange peel, yellow apples and ginger. The Oloroso maturation gave it some nutty and acidic notes. Blackberries, green apples, raisins and bananas. Burnt match sticks and agave syrup.
On the palate it tastes nutty. Almonds, coconut cream, walnuts, charred oak and green apples. Marmalade, Demerara sugar, dried figs and ground cayenne pepper. Feels creamy with a lovely dose of warm spices. Cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Dry white wine, cacao nibs and blueberries. The finish is medium to long with dried fruits and acidic notes.
Now this is how you play with sherry maturation. One of the best continuous rum bottlings that use sherry casks, absolutely beautiful – nutty, fruity and spicy with a nice, velvety mouthfeel.
Doorly’s XO is available for around £37-£39 (House of Malt, Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange) or even cheaper sometimes on offer on Amazon which is a fantastic price for what you get. It can be easily sipped, but it’s also quite affordable for mixing in classic cocktails.
Doorly’s XO score:
Value for money: 15/15
Moving onto the high-end, this is the 2nd oldest rum in the range.
This is not just a 12 year old rum, it’s a blend of rums that have been aged separately for 12 years in ex-Bourbon and ex-Madeira casks before being blended together. I don’t know the ratio of the blend, but that’s pretty much the beauty of it, you’ll just have to taste it.
Doorly’s 12 Year Old is molasses based, pot and column distilled and aged for 12 years in both ex-Bourbon and ex-Madeira wine casks. Bottled at 43% ABV without any sweeteners – its branding features the Spix Macaw.
On the nose it’s considerable fruitier. Red apples, Luxardo cherries, rich tobacco and pomegranate juice. Raisins, fresh coconut and shoe polish. Plenty of red fruits and spice. Allspice, black pepper, ginger and sweet chilli. Dried apricots, dark chocolate and dusty old books. Some Demerara sugar and cloves as well.
On the palate it’s quite dry. Raw cocoa nibs, Luxardo cherries, plums and ginger. Cloves, blackberries, raisins and black pepper. It has some lovely dark flavours along with dried red fruits. Red wine, aromatic tobacco, charred oak and just a touch of Fernet. The finish is long with red fruits and allspice.
A great example of what Barbados rum and Madeira influence can provide in terms of complexity. This is on the woodier, drier side but it works beautifully and I will sip this on any occasion, preferably neat.
Doorly’s 12 Year Old score:
Value for money: 15/15
This is it, the last of the Doorly’s range. This is the oldest and strongest continuous expression in the Foursquare Distillery portofolio. It can even be on par with some of the Exceptional Cask Releases.
On paper the 14YO and 12YO have similar specs, as this one also contains rums that have been aged in American Bourbon casks and former Madeira barrels for 14 years, but that doesn’t mean this is just the 12YO amped up. The “freshness” of the barrels, the blend ratios between pot-column distillates and Bourbon-Madeira aged components (and not only) can easily change the profile of the rum.
Doorly’s 14 Year Old is molasses based, pot and column distilled and aged for 14 years in both ex-Bourbon and ex-Madeira wine casks. Bottled at 48% ABV without any sweeteners – this one has the Blue Throated Macaw as part of its presentation.
On the nose it already feels more complex. Aromatic tobacco, Luxardo cherries, nail varnish, new polished shoes and plum jam. Cacao nibs, cloves and black pepper. I can see similarities with the 12YO, but has much more going on. Stout, cooked red apples and raisins. Pencil shavings and some liquorice.
On the palate the wood influence is considerably dialed up from the previous expressions. Plum jam, mandarines, treacle and a touch of strawberry syrup. Black pepper, allspice and Luxardo cherries. It reminds me of a sweet vermouth. Angostura bitters, dates, cola and fennel seeds. Nail varnish, cayenne pepper and a little cardamom. The finish is long with red fruits and tart oak.
Yes, it’s quite woody, but the Madeira cask rum really balances that out by giving it plenty of red and dried fruits notes. Spice galore along with rich tobacco as well, this is easily my favourite of the Doorly’s – would love it in a Sazerac.
The pricepoint of Doorly’s 14 Year Old is in the bracket of the Exceptional Cask Selection releases – around £70 (Amazon, The Whisky Exchange). For that price you get a 14 year old tropical aged rum with some Madeira wine cask influence at 48% ABV – not bad at all!
If you’re a fan of the ECS then you’re going to love this one, just be aware it’s fairly oaky. In my opinion this is one of the best non-limited edition rums on the market.
Doorly’s 14 Year Old score:
Value for money: 15/15
To round it up my highlights of the collection are:
Doorly’s 3YO (47% ABV) – makes a killer Daiquiri and that should be more than enough;
Doorly’s XO – the most versatile of the range, can be used for a number of cocktails such as Corn ‘n’ Oil or sipped neat or on the rocks;
Doorly’s 14YO – simply a fine spirit that can be enjoyed by itself at any time while it still works very well in classic drinks such as a Manhattan or Sazerac.
I feel like Foursquare Distillery’s Doorly’s expressions are quite underappreciated. It’s the most versatile range of rums from Barbados and not only – if you think about it Doorly’s is one of the most diverse brands in the rum world (limited editions not counting). The use of different cask influences, tropical ageing and various ABVs make the rums in this collection a must have in any bar or home-bar.