Founded in 1926, R L Seale & Company Limited is a fourth generation, family owned, Barbadian business, whose flagship operation, Foursquare Distillery, is one of the world’s few remaining independent rum producers. In the modern era, under the stewardship of current Chairman Sir David Seale and CEO and Head Distiller Richard Seale, Foursquare has earned high regard for the integrity of its brand and the high quality of its products.
In 2016 Foursquare was named Rum Producer of the Year at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge, as well as winning the Rum Trophy at the equally prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition. These two London events are the most authoritative, respected and influential spirits competitions in the world and those two particular accolades represent a unique double for R L Seale and Foursquare.
Richard Seale: When my Great Grandfather, Reginald Leon Seale, established his distribution business in Bridgetown in the early 1900s, the Barbados Excise Law prevented distilleries from selling rum directly to consumers. So, like other traders, he would buy rum in bulk and bottle it under his own name – hence the birth of the R L Seale brand.
Fortunately R L Seale survived where many in the trade failed and, from 1962 to 1993, we acquired the rum portfolios of ESA Field and Alleyne Arthur, including Old Brigand, Taylor’s Falernum and Doorlys. Over the years, as our rum trade continued to expand, we twice had to relocate to bigger premises, until ultimately we also built our own distillery to be sure of accumulating the required rum reserves. Today all of our operations, including bottling and distribution, are centralized at Foursquare.
To consolidate the multiple brands under our banner, we decided that ESA Field and Old Brigand would focus on the local market, where they had always done well, while Doorlys would be our export brand. Our main markets are the United Kingdom, Europe, USA and Australia, and we are just starting in the Far East in Hong Kong and Singapore.
To keep our export portfolio dynamic, we release limited edition rums under the Foursquare label, sometimes in collaboration with carefully selected strategic partners. That type of collaboration works well for us as a small player, and for our partners who need top quality rum.
“We have barely scratched the surface of our potential in the export market. We want to be recognised as the best rum producer in the world.”
We learned the hard way from our early days of exports that we cannot compete as a high volume, mass market rum producer, so the only way for us to succeed is to develop high-end rums. Fortunately Barbados is to rum what Scotland is to whisky and France is to brandy, so we have heritage on our side. In most parts of the world, a lack of protection has seen rum production being corrupted, but Barbados is one of the few remaining territories with an unbroken legacy of traditional rum making. We are rum purists at Foursquare and our pot still method dates right back to the 1640s; yet we have successfully embraced innovation to do things better without changing our core philosophy. Today, while we are still a small player in terms of the global market, we have established a gilded reputation as one of the best rum producers in the world.
If we focus on exporting premium quality rums we can compete with anybody globally. While we don’t normally enter international rum competitions, we felt that 2016, the 90th Anniversary of R L Seale, was the right time to try to make an impact at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. In a remarkable endorsement of our philosophy as an artisanal, rum producer, R L Seale / Foursquare was awarded five out of a total of just nine Gold Medals presented in the Rum Category, which involves hundreds of entries from all over the world, including the Rum Trophy for ‘Foursquare 2006’. In what turned out to be a benchmark year, R L Seale / Foursquare was also named Rum Producer of the Year at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge.
We have barely scratched the surface of our potential in the export market. We want to be recognised as the best rum producer in the world. That is not a trite objective, we are pushing the envelope and competing and winning against the best of other spirits. Rum was the dominant and most desired spirit in the world in the 18th and 19th centuries and, while it is still under appreciated today, it is regaining its rightful place alongside the world’s best whiskies and cognacs.
The best of rum can compete with any spirit. We have the most aromatic raw material, the most complex fermentation, the most sophisticated artisanal distillation process, and we have the best climate to mature the finished product. No other spirit can even get close to that.