Learning from my torturously long Foursquare vertical review, I will attempt to do a series of shorter reviews dedicated to topics that I think don’t get discussed much in Malt. The 1st series will be on Demerara rum.
What inspired this series are a mix of my growing Demerara rum collection and The Lone Caner’s posting of Key Rums of the World. Who is The Lone Caner? To make it short, he is a well-known and long-time rum blogger/reviewer. He is also someone I consider a kindred spirit, friend and mentor. To find out more, visit his amazing blog.
What is El Dorado rum? El Dorado is an export market rum brand under the only operating distillery left in Guyana, Diamond Distillery. This distillery is owned by Demerara Distiller’s Limited (DDL). So, yes, all Demerara rum like Hamilton’s Demerara rum and Lemonhart are sourced from DDL.
The early 90s seemed to be a dark time for rum. The stigma of rum being a very sweet spirit that was only good for mixing. The Tiki renaissance had not started yet, as Jeff “Beachbum” Berry had not yet released his books. According to the long-time rum geeks I regularly converse with, El Dorado 15 was the first El Dorado to be released back in 1992. El Dorado 21 came out in 2002. El Dorado 15, from what I gather, is considered to be the catalyst for the premium rum category we are now seeing more of. DDL was called crazy for coming out with El Dorado back then. Selling a premium sipping rum, in a market that does not sip rum?
DDL had the last laugh. El Dorado rum eventually won awards and became highly regarded in the rum scene. Rum drinkers and bartenders expressed their love for the El Dorado line. It was a rum brand that a whisky lover could turn to. These were actual 15 and 21-year-old rums, unlike some brands that use fake age statements, like average age statements or “solera age” statements.
Then people started finding out a lot of rum, including El Dorado, are sweetened. That companies weren’t being open about it. This prompted some bloggers to send samples of rum to be tested in labs. The news spread like wildfire in online forums.The reactions were mixed. It didn’t matter to some rum fans. Some moved away due to the dishonesty. Some returned to it after a while. But it’s still highly recommended to rum newbies until today. Fatrumpirate’s blog has a hydrometer test page if you want to see which rum are sweetened.
Are the rums in the El Dorado range just older variations of each other? Luckily, that’s not the case. They’re a blend of different rums, from different stills, which make up the different “marks” of DDL. The marks come from the different designs of stills in the distillery. A lot of stills were moved to the Diamond from closed down distilleries. Aside from making good rum, the rum geeks flock to Demerara rum due the different types of wooden stills. If rum and whiskey can do single cask bottlings, DDL can bottle single still Demerara rum. I plan to talk about more on these wooden stills in the succeeding reviews. Some marks are named after both closed distilleries and existing stills. It gets very confusing. I think they’re quite unique with that aspect. I don’t know of any other distillery in the world that has wooden stills.
The wood is called Greenheart and only grows in Guyana. Guyana distilleries used it as an alternative to copper. The wood is said to be able to strip the distillate of sulfites, which is one of the major uses of copper in stills. The wood is said to last 8 years. So staves are replaced from time to time to maintain the stills.
The 15-year-old is £53.45 from the Whisky Exchange, or £52.95 from Master of Malt, or £49.60 from Amazon. Expect to pay £94.25 for the 21-year-old expression via the Whisky Exchange, or £94.06 from Master of Malt, or the same price via Amazon.
El Dorado 15 year – review
On the nose: This immediately reminds me of an afternoon abroad where I like to have coffee or tea with some cake or other forms of dessert. Smelling this gave off welcoming scents of mocha, dark cacao nibs, raisins, banana syrup, chocolate cake, cinnamon, hints of dandelion root tea and hints of earl grey tea.
In the mouth: Now, this makes me think of dessert after dinner. Unmistakable flavors of cinnamon syrup, mocha and chocolate. Followed by notes of candied orange peel, muscovado sugar and figs.
El Dorado 21 – review
On the nose: This makes me think of Chinese medicine poured ever chocolate cake. There are these sweet, bitter, wood furniture and root notes. Followed by raisins, wooden furniture, a bit of smoke, chocolate, mocha and banana syrup.
In the mouth: Like the nose, there are these sweet and bitter notes. Raisins, chocolate, hints of sulfur, mocha, banana syrup, hints of smoke, maple syrup and cinnamon.
After not drinking from my bottle of El Dorado 15 for a few years, I’m reminded why this is a rum I fell for. I stayed away after finding out that it was sweetened. It’s not very complex, but also not subtle. It’s expressive enough to show off what solid aromas and flavors it has. I understand now that the mouthfeel is most likely from the 31g/L of sugar in the rum. Despite that large amount of sugar within, it doesn’t taste as overly sweetened, as some Plantation, or the Don Papa 7. I used to think this had some ex-sherry cask matured rum in it due to the chocolate and raisin notes. But after learning more about what DDL’s different stills can do, and it being sweetened, I stopped wondering.
I remember the El Dorado 21 being funkier. The wooden furniture note seems weaker now. But I guess that’s because I’m more used to funkier stuff. What you smell is also what you get in the mouth. Oddly, despite having less added sugar measured at 22g/l, this one tastes sweeter than the 15.
The scores may be the same but I like the El Dorado 15 better now. Because of the funk, I used to like the 21 over the 15. Now it’s reversed. These are rums I’d like to try unsweetened. Are they really that bad without the added sugar? It is too bad the marks that make up this blend are kept secret. It’s like having bourbon mashbills being kept secret. If the information was out there, it would be easier for one to find out which DDL mark one would like. But alas, all the info out there regarding the make up of these blends is just speculation.
There are commission links within this article but as you can see, they don’t affect our judgement. Images kindly provided by the Whisky Exchange.