El Dorado 25yo 1980 (40%, Guyana)

Here is El Dorado Number four. After the more affordable and pretty sweet 12yo, the proper 15yo and the poor mans mid range premium 21yo, here is the true official Premium version. Just look at the decanter and the big knob on top. This is a 25yo distilled in 1980, so released somewhere around 2005. The previous, and first 25yo, was the millennium edition, released in 1999. El Dorado is the go-to-Rum when looking at Demerara Rums. However, the owners do get some slack for adding sugar. Many very good or even stellar Demerara Rums are released by independent bottlers offering expressions without added sugar, or less added sugar. Velier, Bristol and Rum Nation come to mind, but there are a lot more. Lately DDL themselves are now in the business releasing Demerara Rums as if they were an independent bottler with the release in 2015 of an 1993 Enmore, 1999 Port Mourant and a 2002 Versailles (with some added sugar). In 2017 another Port Mourant (1997) and Enmore (1996) were released. For me, Demerara is one of my favourite styles of Rum, together with the funk of Jamaica and St. Lucia and lets not forget about Rhum Agriciole, fantastic stuff in its own right. There are many wonderful Rums to be found. (Just opened my first bottle from Reunion, actually). Nice, and again different from the rest.

Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Sweet hints, with nice woody notes. Woody acidity and spicy. Slightly tarry, wood polish and plain old dust. Notes of clear glue as well. Compared to the 21yo, this does smell more distinguished, like entering an old mansion. Priceless antiques, beeswax furniture polish and so on. Definitely, some industrial notes with petrol, unlit tobacco and licorice (Enmore), but also (again) the whiff of fresh air, burnt caramel and brown sugar. How is that even possible with all these heavy aroma’s? It tells me the nose isn’t very clogged up, and roomy. It lets its treasures out in layers. Honey, cough syrup and more beautiful wood (and more licorice as well). Very, very nice. Amazing how well aged Demerara’s can smell. In fact this does smell a bit like an old Agricole (but less so than the 21yo). Next, another layer opens up, caramel, burnt caramel and vanilla, but not in a (sweet) way, gluing the aroma’s together, similar to the 21yo. This is the better smelling of the two. It’s there but not as much. Slightly more influence from the wood.

Taste: Good lord almighty! (no offence intended). Fruit syrup, definitely raspberry. Very dissonant and unbalanced. It sits on top of, and maskes, the rather brittle Rum, overpowering it massively. This seems like Jekyll and Hyde appearing at the same time, quite a feat. Underneath an overly dry Demerara. (I have a bone-dry 1964 Port Mourant locked away, so I know). This has that underneath, but quite another and strange fresh and fruity layer on top. Doctored! Messed with!! Ruined!!! Fruit syrup. Raspberry syrup for sure. Liquid sugar. Candied oranges. Where did that fruit fly come from? The second time around, trying this on another day, it didn’t take the fruit flies long to find me and my Rum. Amazing. This came from the bottle depicted to the left? Yes it did. Guyana Rum. No way they did this! Yes the reports are true, the consumer has been saved from old, heavy, over-the top, over aged, dry and potentially aggressive Rum by sugar of the added kind. This fruity sweetness should be very interesting for mixologists I guess, as Don Papapapapapapa can be called interesting as well and which will vanillin you long time. Both shouldn’t be sold as Rums, but rather as liqueurs, as which compared to “other” liqueurs, they aren’t bad at all. As Rums: stop! ban! forbid! just don’t! Short finish but and an aftertaste very similar to that of PX-Sherry. Get PX in stead, much cheaper than this El Dorado. Some amazing decisions were made in Guyana a long time ago…

Burnt sugar and burnt wood in the aftertaste. Very fruity. PX. Actually a very strange aftertaste: the insides of my cheeks are full of cloying sugar that won’t let go by itself, and the aftertaste is more sugary as well. Not nice. Only the wood seems to maintain itself well into the finish. Sugary aftertaste, which is also quite short. Although there is a lot of the greatness still around, I can imagine it was originally bone-dry, but to shoot it in the back like this, is a bit cruel don’t you think? I will savour the nice bits this displays, but the whole is quite well ruined (as a Rum). Not really a sipping Rum for the discerning consumer, but if you make a lot of money and are not a discerning Rum-drinker, this has nice packaging, nice bottle, oozing “success” and “because you can” and is rather excellent in cola! Go for it! Us poor people will buy the occasional cherry-coke and a bottle of PX instead. ’nuff said.

Points: 74 (hard to tell really, since it doesn’t seem to be a Rum)

P.S. Just to wash away the sugary aftertaste, I picked the El Dorado 21yo. That one now seems bone dry in comparison… (it isn’t, in case you’re wondering).

P.S.II. The second time around in stead of following it up with the 21yo I mixed the two together. 60% of the 25yo with 40% of the 21yo. The 21yo still managed to take over the end result, but, and you might have guessed it, this new concoction was way better than the 25yo by itself. Quite dry in the nose, but sweet on the palate, with less of the raspberry syrup. Not bad with a way longer and dryer finish. I actually like this mix very much, seems very balanced and somewhat “bigger” than the 21yo by itself.

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El Dorado 21yo “Special Reserve” (43%, Guyana, 2006)

After reviewing the 12yo (in 2013) and the 15yo (in 2015) from the El Dorado premium range, now the time has come to move up one step of the ladder again and have a look at the 21yo. Just like it’s two younger brothers it has been blended together from Rums made with several of the many stills that have survived. I call the three, “brothers”, since the three aren’t simply older versions of the same kid, but the DNA between the three has some variation. Related but different, like brothers. This 21yo has been blended together from the Albion (AN), a French Savalle still, the Versailles (VSG), a single wooden pot still and the Enmore (EHP), a wooden Coffey still. Where in the 21yo, the Albion is the dominant one.

I have read somewhere that, 35yo Rum was used, but by now, because the 21yo is around for some while, that might not be the case anymore. I’m sure the Rums used, have different vintages where the youngest Rum has to be 21yo. A rule adopted, from Single Malt Whisky, by the English-speaking Rum world. This is completely different from the practices of Solera type Rums. The Rum has aged exclusively in the carribean and since the climate is hot and dry, Rums this age can get very easily over-oaked, since water, instead of alcohol, is the first to evaporate. Speeding up the ageing process, as compared to the more mild European climate. Cadenheads and Bristol come to mind, when thinking about Demerara Rums that have (partly) aged in Europe, but there are many others.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Thick Demerara style. But with a breath of fresh air. Sharp wood, spicy wood. Tar and oak. Lovely. This is how a Rum should smell, one that has been in cask for a long time. Are you paying attention Don Papa? Oh, wait a minute. Caramel and toffee comes next. Somehow the nose seems glued together with sweetness now. Hints of petrol and melting plastic to balance things out. Yes again an aroma that sounds hideous, but really isn’t. Well it is, but not in this Rum. Dry crushed leaves and molasses with a return to the more woody notes. Green and (dry) grassy. Hints of lavas, but darker and more brooding. Tar covered lavas then? Black tea and hot toffee (again, slightly deep burnt sugar-toffee). Dry, dusty and now I get more than a fair share of licorice (and warm caramel), whilst I revert to smelling it like a Dyson would. Vortex snorting. (I must remember this expression, and use it more often, since it is revealing). Nice stuff. I have a feeling there is some fruit to it as well, but since the Demerara style is strict and fierce it doesn’t let it out. Very appetizing but also I fear some added sugar was used on this old Rum. Let’s taste it.

Taste: Thick (for a brief moment) and sweet, but not too much, and never cloying. Lots of licorice again, but also a slight nudge towards the style of Agricole. Unmistakable, I get it every time. Excellent aged brown sugar aroma, but with lots of soft wood notes to balance this out. A nice burnt (sugar) note, toasted oak with vanilla, combined with bitter oranges. Cold black tea and ear wax, but with less bitterness than both. This one is about wood. So here the number 21 does mean age. Very balanced, it tastes exactly like it smells, less sweet maybe and “thinner” in structure. Since this is an old one, because in Caribbean weather, 21 years in wood is almost a lifetime, the sweetness is broken down and surpassed by the effect the wood has on this Rum. Hints of freshly sawn oak even. It’s not as big and shows some delicacy of the old, especially towards the finish. In the finish some soapy and definitely bitter wood stay behind and some honey as well. The aroma’s are brittle and hardly a problem though.

This is geriatric Rum, I love it, sure in many ways it is over the top, as if aged for too long, gaining too much of the benefits of wood, making it less easily drinkable, than the very sweet 12yo and the very nice 15yo. This is why of the whole series people tend to prefer the 15yo as a sipper, and the 8yo as a daily drinker. But this 21yo has its moments and when it time, this delivers, warts and all. Granted this may be for experienced drinkers to really appreciate it, and so be it. If you are not one of those, you might want to stay off this one for a while for you to become of age and try it again. And if you do, it will be clear this was (today), fairly priced as well.

Points: 87

Cadenhead Demerara Rum 12yo (46%, Green Label, Laphroaig Cask Finish, Guyana)

First of all I’d like to start telling you that this review won’t be about the Cadenhead 15yo Demerara Rum that’s in the picture. It’s actually about the Cadenhead 12yo Demerara Rum, and not just any 12yo, but one that was finished in an ex-Laphroaig cask. Laphroaig being one of the most famous of peated Islay Whiskies. Of course Ardbeg and Lagavulin are equally as famous, but that’s beside the point. I couldn’t find a suitable picture of the bottle (I don’t have it here), so I put in this one, since it looks pretty similar. The 12yo has an additional sticker over the neck and cork, starting this is from an ex-Laphroaig cask. The 12yo Rum is even lighter in color, than that of the 15yo in the picture. Cadenhead of course, is an Scottish independent bottler whose main business is bottling Single Malt Whiskies, who also bottle some pretty good Rums as well. I’m sure, more of those will feature on these pages in the future, especially the cask strength ones.

Cadenhead Green Label 15yo DemeraraColor: White wine. Very pale gold.

Nose: Sweet and funky. Thick and unmistakable Demerara. I know peated Whiskies very well, but I can’t detect any peat in this yet. Distant hint of yellow fruits, white peach. The fruit interacts very well with a mystical hot dry wind note. Sweet peach yoghurt (not the acidity, there is no acidity in the nose whatsoever) and sweet black tea. Creamy. Small hint of nice smelling paper, which adds to the wonderful balance this Rum emits from my glass. All aroma’s go together very well. At this point I have to stress that this Rum has had plenty of time to “settle” with air. Maybe one to decant as well. (I’ve written about the benefits of decanting Whiskies earlier). Still no peat, nor smoke, but I do get some toasted wood. A more than wonderful nose that seems to go on and on. Exceptional. Just give it time to breathe!

Taste: I get the tea note first. Starts sweet, but the sweetness is quickly gone, to be replaced by a prickly woody note, which strips most of the sweetness out of my mouth like it’s been done with sandpaper. This makes room for the strange combination of acidity from unripe berries, milk chocolate and earwax. Wow, this is getting strange fast. Is this the effect of the peat? It still doesn’t remind me of peat though. Lets take another sip. When the dryness takes over, the balance deteriorates a bit. Not everything seems to be in check, and the aroma’s feel a bit uncomfortable. Something new moved into the building and the older residents don’t know yet what to make of it. More toasted cask now, with even some bitterness from one, or both casks. The finish seems short at first but when it turn into the aftertaste a smoky prickly sensation starts to happen mixed with mustard and the typical aroma’s of Demerara that were pushed out of the body and finish of the Rum. The Laphroaig cask did have an effect on this Rum, just not as I expected.

Maybe you Rum buffs don’t know this, but Laphroaig is actually a very sweet Whisky underneath. It’s sweetness is just well hidden underneath heaps of peat and iodine. Well, Laphroaig used to taste like that. More modern Laphroaigs are more obviously sweet, and the peat became more accessible, and the iodine, well, you can get that at your local pharmacy. How strange it is then, that a sweet Whisky with a sweet and heavy Demerara Rum make for such a dry Rum?

I always passed on the Green Labels when buying Rum from Cadenhead in favour of the dumpy bottles with Cask Strength Rum’s in them. Somehow a dumpy bottle with 36yo Uitvlugt (PM Mark!) Demerara Rum from 1966 bottled at 69.3% ABV, had more appeal to me than a 12yo Laphroaig finished Demerara. It still does, but this Green Label is no punishment to drink either. Maybe a bit unusual but also a very interesting experiment. I like it, and its even better than I thought it would be. Beyond the obvious, I’m not sure what the Laphroaig cask did for this Rum, but I do feel that the Demerara Rum, before it was finished, was already good to start with. I’m pretty sure it is Enmore (VSG Mark).

Points: 86

El Dorado 15yo “Special Reserve” (43%, Guyana)

Almost three years ago I reviewed the 12yo El Dorado, and it’s time to move up a bit. This 15yo “Special Reserve” is not simply a three year older version of the 12yo, no, it’s a different product altogether. A long time ago Guyana had lots of distilleries, but today only once remains. It’s called Diamond. Every time a distillery closed, it’s still(s) were carefully removed and placed at another distillery. This went on for some time untill only Diamond remained. Diamond thus has lots and lots of stills from distilleries that are closed, and they are not the least known names in Rum, with Enmore, Uitvlugt, Versailles and Port Morant among them. This gives Demerara Distillers Ltd. (DDL) a lot of possibilities in blending their Rums.

For instance. The 12yo contains Rum that was made predominantly in a Two Column Metal English Coffey Still (SVW), a still that was originally at Diamond. Added to that is a Rum made in the Enmore wooden Coffey still (EHV).

The 15yo also has predominantly SVW with an addition of EHV, but the 15yo has more, it also has a large amount of Rum made with the double wooden pot still from Port Mourant (PM) and little bit from the Versailles single wooden pot still (VSG). Doesn’t that sound like a match made in heaven?

El Dorado 15yo (43%, Guyana)Color: Caramel copper orange brown.

Nose: Less sweet and it has more oak than the 12yo. The sweet part also has more depth to it. Caramel and toffee obviously with a tiny hint of latex paint. Cloves. It may sound crazy but the sweetness seems drier and has a slightly burnt note to it. Tarry maybe or even meaty. Smoked dried meat and salty and dusty Caribbean winds. On top a wonderful elegance. Add to that the spicy and vegetal note of oak and we have a winner here, well wait, I haven’t tasted it yet, but the nose is wonderful.

Taste: The oak and spiciness are the first aroma’s you’ll encounter. Burnt Sugar, slightly tarry and a faint hint of sugar itself, but yes, it’s sweet. Silky sweet. Cask toast and reminiscent of Cognac. Give it some time and the oak is not only dry, spicy, vegetal with wet wood, no, it also releases the aroma of waxy vanilla pods, which emerge like the sun coming up in the morning. Wonderful combination of flavours. Complex and entertaining. Long finish with a wonderful balanced aftertaste, with a shift in time towards vanilla. Before the vanilla aftertaste, the finish gets a bit of the fruity acidity that reminds me of the Abuelo 12yo, which I don’t care for too much. It distorts the balance a bit, but in this case the rest of the components are so strong, this El Dorado knows how to deal with that. Just sayin’. Sure, this has added sugar and it is too sweet (it dominates the finish and aftertaste). Luckily the Demerara Rum, this is, knows how to deal with it, making this 15yo a Rum worth your time and money.

No, this surely is not an older version of the 12yo. This 15yo is so good it makes the already great 12yo and simple entry-level Rum. Not true. If you want a sweet and supple Rum, get the 12yo. If you want a more woody and spicy Rum, get this 15yo. Or better, get both! This must be one of the secret hidden gems of the Rum world. This is something I will have around as long as its available and tastes like this. Excellent. Don’t get it, please leave everything for me!

Points: 88

Port Morant 15yo 1992/2007 (46%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Islay Cask, Guyana)

This Demerara Rum from Port Morant was bottled by Berry Brothers & Rudd and somewhere in its life came in contact with a cask that once held Islay Whisky. The label doesn’t state from which Islay distillery the cask came…

BBR Port Morant 1992 Demerara RumColor: White Wine with lots of viscosity.

Nose: Very aromatic with lots of petrol and tar, paper and cardboard and you know we like this in a rum. Vanilla, caramel, Demerara sugar. Industrial at first and not very fruity, Solvents, but not the usual stuff. Small hint of mint and a good body of wood, but nowhere near the amounts of wood that can be found in aged Rums. Fantastic balance, but wait. A lot more is happening here after a while. The wood opens up and the whole becomes more floral and adds notes of dry leaves. That’s a first for me with Demerara’s. Next are some spices, cardamom, white pepper and it finishes of in great funkiness. Actually it never ends, put it away and pick it up again and you smell new things. Wonderful stuff. Although this comes from an Islay cask, meaning peat I guess, I can not detect any peat at all but there is a tiny, tiny hint of smoke. Can’t imagine they would use an unpeated Malt Whisky cask for this.

Taste: Yes there is the peat! Very up front and comes sailing in on a wave of restrained sweetness. Nice. Fits the toasted wood note that comes next. Mocha, toffee and chocolate (not the darkest kinds though), hints of cucumber, can it get any crazier than this? The wood and the peat give off a slightly disturbing kind of bitterness to this not-so-sweet Demerara. The jury is still out if it actually fits the Rum. Sometimes this note resembles an electrical fire. Still, it oozes character and proves again that Demerara’s are a force to recon with. Alas, most distilleries are closed by now, luckily most stills have survived…

It reminds me a bit of a Cadenhead Enmore, also a Demerara Rum from Guyana which will be reviewed in the future. Talking about Cadenheads, also a Scottish independent bottler, that also used some Islay casks, but from them we know they were Laphroaigs, one of the most heavily peated Islay Whiskies.

Points: 87