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

Advertisements

W.L. Weller 7yo Special Reserve (45%, OB, Circa 2007)

Just like the Old Fitzgerald, W.L. Weller is a Wheated Bourbon that used to be made at Stitzel-Weller Distillery.  When that closed down, the Old Fitzgerald brand was sold to Heaven Hill and W.L. Weller was sold to Sazerac, owners of Buffalo Trace. The W.L. Weller 7yo “Special Reserve” is no more. After this one, a similar looking bottle was released, but without the 7yo age statement. Later the look was altered altogether. It’s still called “Special Reserve” and it still lacks an age statement. Other Wellers that are still around are the W.L. Weller “Antique” bottled at 53.5% ABV. and a 12yo, which is bottled at 45% ABV, just like our 7yo. Finally there is a William Larue Weller that is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC), which is bottled annually at barrel strength, something in between 65 and 70% ABV.

W.L. Weller 7yo Special Reserve (45%, OB, Buffalo Trace)Color: Medium orange brown.

Nose: Lots of cream and toffee, very appetizing. Honey, vanilla and wood, nutty and dusty. Again toffee and warm runny caramel. Nice spicy wood in the distance even reminiscent of a dry (salty) meaty aroma, beef jerky or polish kabanosy. Sappy charred oak. Savvy and supple. Sawdust, perfumed caramel and chocolate bonbons. A hint of sweet corn and charred cask, and dare I say it, minute amounts of smoke and ashes, probably from the toasted cask. This smells like it owns it. Very well made, interesting and nice. Love how this smells.

Taste: Sweetish, nutty, fresh and well-balanced. Quite some wood influence as well as paper. Sawdust I would say. Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts and lots of vanilla ice-cream with caramel sauce on top. Small hint of dry bitter wood trailed by some, but not much, vanilla sugar sweetness. This works well and gives the Bourbon some backbone. Again, this is a very appetizing Wheated Bourbon. This is a perfect example where all the aroma’s come together nicely, but having said that, this doesn’t seem to be your most complex Wheated Bourbon. It’s very tasty in an almost simple kind of way, but I don’t consider this a daily drinker. It pack a wee bit too much for that and it deserves to be savoured.

Who said that Wheated Bourbons are light and dull? After this one I’m curious if the new “Special Reserve” comes near this one, because this 7yo is quite the winner for me. I like it a lot. I compared it to the Old Fitzgerald 12yo I reviewed earlier, but that one almost seems soapy compared to this one.

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

Kopke Special Reserve Tawny (150th Anniversary in Holland)

And finally the third and last of the trilogy of Kopke Ports I had open on my lectern (not counting the Moscatel that is). The Trilogy started off with Kopke 10 Years Old Port (Matured in Wood), continued with Kopke Christmas Port (Reserve Ruby) and now finishes off with this Kopke Special Reserve Tawny (150th Anniversary in Holland), which just like the 10yo matured in wood Port is a Tawny Port.

Tawny Port is named for its tanned color, which occurs when Port matures (oxidizes) in barrels for several years. Tawny Port mostly consists of Port wines from different vintages blended together. Cheaper examples are made by blending Ruby and White Ports, a method which surpasses the time the Port would need to age to become a Tawny port, and as we all know time = money. Having said that, even by blending Ruby and White Port together, nice results can be achieved. Blending isn’t necessarily a bad thing you know!

Kopke Special Reserve Tawny (150th Anniversary in Holland)There is a little back label on this bottle that explains why this Port is “special”: We specially selected this Kopke aged tawny Port to express the pleasant cooperation between Kopke and our eldest client, the Dutch importer J. van Ouwerkerk, founded in 1860. 1860 -2010, 150 years in the wine trade.

Color: Sparkling light red with a brown hue, actually more pinkish red than tawny. Long legs in my glass.

Nose: Smells extremely sweet, not very different from (the sweetness of) a PX Sherry sweetness. Very fruity, sugary and it has a lot of red wine notes. Smells fresh (young) and full on summer. A kind of happy Port. It also shows a little depth with a balanced woody and vanilla (ice-cream) note. Do I detect some sort of minty freshness? Nice and not too complicated Tawny.

Taste: Thick lemonade, due to its youthful fruityness. Small hints of chocolate and licorice. Not heavily sweet and the half-sweetness it has, is nicely counteracted by good acidity. Good balance but with a short finish though. A light Port.

A decent and fruity, happy Port. Actually not very Tawny If you ask me. I can imagine drinking this with ice cubes on a terrace in the summer. Especially since it has lemonade written all over it! Don’t analyze this one, just enjoy. This Tawny has an ABV of 20%.

Points: 84

Glenfiddich 12yo “Special Reserve” (40%, OB, Circa 2003)

Looking back I’ve reviewed here a lot of old, priceless or impossible to have malts. Let’s counterpart that decadence a little bit with some malts that are interesting when crossing over from blended whiskies or other types of distilled drinks. The first that comes to mind of course is Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich is up there with their Single Malts since 1964. Already in 1964 they have sold 48.000 bottles of Single Malt Glenfiddich and today they still outsell anybody. Today they sell around 12.000.000 bottles annually. That’s a share of about 20%! Lets have a go at this Glenfiddich 12yo. A bottle that was bought ten years ago. Today the “Special Reserve” doesn’t exist but it is replaced by a normal 12yo in the same colours. It’s probably the same.

Color: Gold

Nose: Very malty and grain alcohol. Grass and lemons. Hay with mocha. If I had done this blind I would have said that it’s almost like a blend or a Lowlander. In part very clean, but sometimes also some hints in the depth that make it a bit dirty, syrupy and waxy. Soap-like perfume. Fresh apples and light peppermint. Not very complex, but it has its balance.

Taste: Green and grassy. Grainy again. Hints of tarry toffee and apple compote. Very light and fruity. Easy drinkable. Finishes a little bitter. Altogether the finish is short. There is more to the nose than the palate.

Perfect start for people wanting to cross over from blended whiskies into Single Malts. The transition will be a smooth one and no shocking differences will emerge. People who scoff at this are wrong. This is not a bad whisky. I have tasted far worse than this. It’s completely inoffensive and yes, not a high flyer. But it isn’t here to fly high. It’s here to get you there…  Often the only single malt whisky in a bar, but easily the best drink available. An honest product.

Points: 80