I became aware of this rum in early September after receiving a press release and I admit I was intrigued, as I appreciate anytime someone steps into the world of private bottling with the vision the brand owner has. Eric Kaye, owner of the Holmes Cay line created the brand for the market in the United States. Like many of us who live in the states, he was frustrated by the lack of accessibility to the many fine rums produced and released for the European market and decided to create a line of private bottling from Caribbean distilleries he respected. With that metric it is no surprise to me that for his first bottling he selected a rum created at the Historic Foursquare Distillery of Barbados.
This rum, like the majority of rums created at Foursquare, is a blend of copper pot and column still distillation in 2005. The rum was aged for eleven years in Barbados, three additional years in the UK in once used American White Oak Bourbon barrels. The rum was transported to New York and bottled at 64% ABV with no color, additives, “not even water” in 2019. 504 bottles total were created for Holmes Cay Barbados 2005. To my surprise, mid September I received a sample of the rum and decided to review it for this October issue. It is rare to be able to review a product the same month it is being launched so I decided to share my impressions with you.
The sample I received was not in the bottle in which the product will be released. I will let the coordinating image tell the tale and focus instead on the liquid.
In the bottle and glass the rum maintains the same dark golden amber color with a green tinge around the perimeter of the glass. Swirling the liquid forms a thick band around the glass that thickens up and drops equally thick legs before beading up. Evaporation and beading of the band happen quickly, leaving a few large beads in its wake.
After pouring the rum, I let it rest for a few minutes in the glass to let the alcohol vapors clear and then nosed the liquid discovering the aroma of brown sugar, caramel apple, and subtle butterscotch, black pepper, punctuated by charred oak.
The heat and intensity of the rum did not surprise me, but the density of the liquid certainly did. The first sip delivered a swirl of charred oak tannins with black pepper, allspice, cardamom, and cinnamon which together formed the foundation of the flavor profile. Sweet Madagascar vanilla, and dark toffee, with a touch of orange marmalade carry the mid and high notes of which combine and balance well with the other flavors. As the rum begins to fade the oak tannins take over adding a touch of acidity to a long complex finish.
As I have explored rums over the years, it is always interesting and dare, I say fun to explore barrel proof rums. I went in with the baseline that it would have an aroma and flavor profile like other Foursquare rums. While I noted some common factors, this rum had its own clear identity and perhaps distinguished itself as a distant cousin of other products from that distillery. Saying that, Holmes Cay did not disappoint, and I personally enjoyed sipping it neat. Some might be tempted to add a touch of water or a single ice cube to it, but I felt I was sampling it in the way the owner wanted.
Eric Kaye has promised to produce vintages of Holmes Cay from other islands and I hope they all measure up in flavor and complexity of this release. This is an excellent product that I see attracting the attention of not only rum enthusiasts and collectors, but Scotch and Bourbon aficionados. At this time it is set to launch October 1st and recommend those so inclined to track it down to follow Holmes Cay on their website and social media.