Review: El Dorado Rum
Nestled between Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname is the only member of the Commonwealth of Nations of Nations to be located on mainland South America. Guyana is it’s name, and it is responsible for the production of some of the worlds finest rums. To be frank I’d be disappointed if they delivered anything less as they have had plenty of practice; rum has been produced here since sugar cane cultivation was first introduced by the Dutch settlers in the 1640’s. Originally every plantation had their own still, but cosolidation over time has means there is now just a single distillery, Demerara Distillers located at Planation Diamond on the East Bank of the Demerara river.
Demerara Distillers produce a range of products; most notably the range of El Dorado rums, which boasts some of the rarest stills in the world. The wooden continuous Coffey still is the last fully working still of its kind, as are the two wooden pot stills. A French Saville still completes the set, and enables them to produce nine different marques of rum. Molasses (boiled sugar cane juice) is the base of all the rums and provides the characteristic flavour that prevails throughout the range. Aldi are currently selling the 8yr and 15yr expressions for frankly ridiculously low prices.
El Dorado 3yr
Nose: Absolutely jam-packed with tropical fruit aromas of pineapple, guava, mango and banana. The barrel-ageing has added a pleasant hint of vanilla, but the heavy oaky notes are absent and mean that this still smells light and fresh with a touch of citrus to enliven. It’s not a sweet-smelling as its molasses provenance might suggest, with just a whiff of burnt brown sugar.
Nose: I’m struck first by how soft this is on the palate, sweetness always helps here but as with the nose, the molasses origin does not dominate. The tropical fruit flavours are more subtle than on the nose and are a little fleeting in their appearance. Coconut ends the fruity palate before moving on to a combination of bruised mint, grass and petrol in the mid-palate. It is soft again on the finish with more of those grassy flavours combining with buttered vanilla.
The abundance and range of flavours from light and fruity to deeper almost nutty notes make this one of the best white rums for mixing I have encountered. The result is a huge versatility, making this an excellent rum in cocktails with a range of flavours and styles. From the fun and fruity such as a Pina Colada, to the light and refreshing swizzle, the classic Daiquiri or the sophisticated El Presidente. With it’s character always shining through, this rum is equally at home in a short and boozy libation where it is the star of the show, or something long and fruity where it is just one of several strong flavours. Indeed, it is not until mixing this rum that its hidden beauty can really be appreciated. The tropical fruit flavours that were understated when tasted neat, suddenly come alive with a bit of sweet and sour ‘seasoning’; the petrol-esque notes on the mid-palate smooth out and give the cocktail body; and the grassy and citrus elements offer a delightful top-note to many cocktails to give layers of flavour that you just can’t help exploring.
Signature Cocktail – Passionfruit Swizzle
50ml El Dorado 3yr
20ml lime juice
15ml sugar syrup
30ml cranberry juice
Contents of 1 passion fruit
Add ingredients to a highball glass and fill with crushed ice. Swizzle (churn), top with crushed ice and garnish with a lime wedge.
El Dorado 8yr
Neat: Intriguingly light on the mouthfeel initially, but building with time, although never hitting the viscosity of the older rums in the range. Not that this impact on the depth of flavour, which is characteristically plentiful. Butterscotch, molasses fruit cake and vanilla are enlivened by orange oil. Notes of tobacco, leather, and smoke are present, but very much as supporting flavours, for this is an approachable rum that sits neatly between the velvety smoothness of a sipping rum, and the characterful edginess of a mixing rum.
Mixing: This is a true crossover spirit in that it delivers both sufficient smoothness and depth of flavour to cope with the demands of rums answer to the Manhattan, the Palmetto, and the unaged raw character that makes rum such a great friend of fruit juices. Twists on such aromatic cocktails, as is the signature Yacht Club (recipe below) which makes use of Apricot Liqueur to bring out the fruity notes as very enjoyable indeed. Only occasionally does the barrel-ageing influence feel too much, the classic Daiquiri being an example of too much wood not being a good thing. Generally however, the feeling is of a rum that treads the thin line between a sipping and mixing rum exceedingly well. This rum really comes into its own when combined with some fruit where it has both the complexity of flavour not to be overpowered, and also sufficient youth to ensure there is not jarring of flavours. The City of Spice with its use of passionfruit and pimento dram delivers sweet, fruity, sour and spicy notes to please all and is worth the effort of seeking out the necessary ingredients. Easier to make, and an example of a much underused style of drink is the Queen’s Park Swizzle with its minty freshness. It is however, not until you try mixing this rum with pineapple that you really understand its capabilities. The Abacaxi Ricaco (like a daiquiri with pineapple) is simply extraordinary.
Signature Cocktail – The Yacht Club
50ml El Dorado 8yr
30ml Sweet Vermouth
15ml Apricot Liqueur
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
El Dorado 8yr is available from Aldi for £19.99
El Dorado 15yr
Nose: Mouth-wateringly good. Base notes of treacle and molasses are accentuated by plenty of fruit; BBQ’d banana, raisins, cherries and other stone fruits. Hints of PX sherry, clove, cacao, whispers of smoke and top notes of orange oil. The sort of aroma that words can’t begin to describe.
Neat: Outstanding, world-class. The complexity of flavour here is so great that a written description can’t begin to do it justice. Despite the clear molasses base and wood influence, this is a rum of unexpected lightness of touch. None of the flavours are out of kilter, and nor is it too sweet. Dark chocolate, cherry juice, coffee, vanilla, clove, vanilla, sherry, dates, raisins, orange marmalade and tobacco are all discernible and sit together harmoniously. The incredible length is characterised by dark fruits and a gentle spiced dark chocolate.
Mixing: Despite this being a sipping rum of frankly epic proportions it would be a great shame never to mix with it, for doing so can reveal a whole raft of flavour previously unseen. The Old Fashioned is a particularly good example, where the selection of bitters offers an opportunity to highlight a range of flavours, from fruity, to spicy, to aromatic, this rum has it all. The result will be remarkably smooth, and it is inevitable after such careful distilling and ageing that the rough edges that bring some cocktails alive will not be present. Although tasty, this is probably not the most appropriate rum for creamy drinks such as the creamy Steel Drum Milk Punch or Roosevelt Cocktail with its use of orange juice and dry vermouth; it just feels a bit crass. Sticking with a presidential theme, the signature Kennedy Manhattan (recipe below), with its smart use of maple syrup highlights both the sweet and aromatic notes of this rum to delightful success. For a contrast, the bite of a Sazerac made with a generous amount of absinthe makes barely a dent in the bold unctuousness of this rum, a wonderful combination.
Signature Cocktail – Kennedy Manhattan
50ml El Dorado 15yr
20ml Dry Vermouth
4 Dash Boker’s Bitters
5ml Maple Syrup
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
El Dorado 15yr is available from Aldi for £35.99
El Dorado rums are some of the very best you will find. Complex, yet easy-going, they are cram-packed with flavour and quite simply category-leading.
El Dorado Rum is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.