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

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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

Rum Week – Day 4: El Dorado 12yo (40%, Guyana)

Next up a true Demarara Rum from Guyana. Guyana is a south-american country next to Surinam. Guyana had a lot of great Demerara distilleries. One by one they got closed, but most of the equipment was saved and moved to the next distillery that was kept open for a while, and when that one was closed this all happened again. Today, all the stills that survived are in one place. Diamond. So rums distilled in a few of these stills find their way into El Dorado Rum. In this 12yo, I’m happy to report, are Rums made in the original wooden Enmore Coffey still and predominantly, the original Diamond two column metal Coffey still. All the El Dorado Demerara Rum is aged in American Bourbon barrels.

Color: Copper.

Nose: Very perfumy and very mature. Hints of caramel and burned sugar. Leafy and tarry. Heavy organics and crude oil. Wow, such a lot of character and so thick. A stunner this! Licorice all sorts. Lots of it! It takes a while to let the wood take a little spot in the whole. Utter balance in the nose which keeps on developing. If the taste will be anything like the nose, we’ll have a winner!

Taste: Well this is pretty sweet, but not as sweet as I seem to remember. At first opening this was extremely sweet and I didn’t like it for it. It’s more or less the nose in a toned down version, with added sweetness. Cough Syrup and syrupy altogether, with a very nice acidity that comes through the sweetness. For me this is a bit too sweet.

Again we have a rum that has a fantastic nose, but doesn’t seem to put that quality into the taste as well. Still this is a very good rum, and compared to a lot of Single Malts, this is dirt cheap. Having said that is this a replacement for overpriced Single Malts? No, not really, this is a completely different kind of sport. It should be added to your palate not to replace something else.

Points: 85