Review: Foursquare Clifton Hall Great House 12 Year Old – 40% ABV vs 46% ABV

Someone emailed me asking if I would consider reviewing the new Foursquare Clifton Hall and frankly I couldn’t resist. This might be the first time I’m writing a requested review and I’m happy to do more if anyone has any other rums they want to see on the blog.

The Clifton Hall Great House is one of Barbados’ touristic attraction and its history dates back to at least 1656 according to a recorded mortgage paper. At the time it was owned by Prince Ferdinando Paleologus. He immigrated to Barbados after fighting for the Royalists during the English Civil war in Cromwell’s time and he brought the name Clifton Hall with him from his birthplace in Cornwall, England.

According to the Clifton Hall Great House website Ferdinando Paleologus was “a descendant of the last Emperor of Byzantium, Constantine XI Paleologus, whose family was driven from the throne of Constantinople by the Turks. Ferdinando died in Barbados in 1678, after being a resident here for over 20 years.” His remains can be found in the Parish of St. John, more exactly in a Gothic church that was built in 1836 (replacing the previous 17th Century church which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1831) in the district of Overcliffe.

In order to preserve this historic site, Massimo Franchi, the current owner of the Clifton Hall Great House, decided in 2009 to begin restorations of the old plantation house. He also selected rum from the nearby Foursquare Distillery and bottled it as a tribute to the estate’s rum making heritage – they don’t make rum nowadays, but the Great House definitely had a plantation and distillery as most Barbados estates did in the 1600s.

The first Foursquare Clifton Hall Great House release was available exclusively in Barbados and was clocking at 40% ABV, but it seems like the current one is bottled at 46% ABV and is now exported outside the island too. The packaging changed as well, from using Foursquare’s signature bottles to a more stubby, simplistic version, now with a cork rather than a screw cap – also the label puts more emphasis on the Clifton Hall Great House moniker rather than highlighting the Foursquare Distillery part, probably in an effort to differentiate itself more from the Foursquare Distillery’s releases.

I did a review of the first Clifton Hall rum in 2019 and I still have some left so now I will compare it with this new one. My bottle is a few years old and not particularly full, so I’ll try to take oxidation into account, but this is more like a rough comparison – here we go!

Foursquare Clifton Hall Great House 12 Year Old – 40% ABV

This is molasses based, pot and column distilled and aged for 12 years in ex-Bourbon casks at the Foursquare Distillery. Bottled at 40% ABV without any sweeteners.

On the nose seems quite oaky. Old leather, Luxardo cherries, toasted wood, dried figs and ripe plums. Vanilla, red apples, raisins and maple syrup. Only 40% ABV, but the flavour is still quite intense. Damp cardboard, cloves, blackberry jam and nutmeg. A touch of ginger, lime and coconut as well.

On the palate it’s a little softer than the nose led to believe. Vanilla custard, toasted biscuits, dried figs, coconut cream and sour cherries. Dark chocolate, caramel, raisins, blueberries and cinnamon. The fruity flavours are a bit more dim on the palate. Some ground coffee, dry red wine, black pepper, ginger and earthy flavours. The finish is medium with charred oak spices and cherries.

It’s more aromatic than I recall, it probably opened up more due to the time spent in the bottle. It’s profile isn’t too intense, but the flavours marry up well making it quite drinkable.

Foursquare Clifton Hall Great House 12 Year Old – 46% ABV

This is molasses based, pot and column distilled and aged for 12 years in ex-Bourbon casks at the Foursquare Distillery. Bottled at 46% ABV without any sweeteners.

On the nose it’s pretty similar to its previous version. Old leather, cacao nibs, allspice and Luxardo cherries. Ginger beer, lime peel and some cola. It seems a little more intense and layered. Cooked red apples, blood orange peel, canned plums, blueberries and red wine.

On the palate once again, the difference in flavour is not large. Vanilla custard, ginger beer, raw cacao nibs, sour cherries and some burnt orange zest. Port wine, raisins and cinnamon. I feel like the ABV might be the only difference between these two versions. Strawberry jam, pink pepper and a touch of cayenne pepper. The finish is medium to long with red fruits and wood spice.

This seems a touch more woody, but then, unlike the first version, it didn’t have as much time to breathe. It’s a little more intense therefore making it a more enjoyable experience. If someone told me this has a wine cask influence, I would not doubt it, it has some tasty layers of red fruit.

It might be the oxidation of the liquid in the bottle, but the old Clifton Hall is even better than I remember. I enjoy the 46% ABV a little more as well, they are both great expressions of Barbadian rums. Dried fruits, oak spices and a great balance for both, but the higher ABV takes the lead for me – at least by flavour.

Now I’m a little conflicted price-wise because I scored the old Clifton Hall based on its price-point in Barbados, since it wasn’t exported, but I have to score the new Clifton Hall based on its export price by default – and while it is a tasty rum, I would much rather have a Doorly’s 14 Year Old which is a stunning drop and it can be purchased for even less money.

The new Foursquare Clifton Hall Great House 12 Years Old can be bought for £72 from The Whisky Exchange.

Foursquare Clifton Hall Great House 12 Year Old – 40% ABV score:
Flavour/taste: 53/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 83/100

Foursquare Clifton Hall Great House 12 Year Old – 46% ABV score:
Flavour/taste: 54/70
Value for money: 12/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 81/100


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