I had one of those days where you have a genuine excitement to what was ahead. A schedule of ‘El Dorado Masterclass’ is always a highlight in any bartenders calendar, as was seen when over 30 rum enthusiasts from all over Manchester ascended once upon Kosmonaut, one of Manchester’s bars on Tariff Street.
With Stef Holt heading up the show, the International Brand Ambassador at the time brought with her a line-up that truly rivals any portfolio – with a surprise or two along the way.
But before we come onto the rums themselves, how did El Dorado become close to many a bartender and indeed consumers heart?
To truly understand the story of El Dorado rum, we start with the idea of a single introductory process of sugar cane. Brought over to Guyana by European settlers in the 1640’s and used in the art of distilling in the 1650’s, the building blocks of Demerara Rum production had been laid down. With the popular process taking off, the local sugar cane producers formed an exporting co-operative meaning by the 1700’s there were over 300 independent estates producing their own rums.
A little earlier though, in 1677, the Royal Navy decided to issue an official daily rum ration. When 1732 rolled around, the Port Mourant Estate Distillery – one of the oldest in the world – was established and chosen by the Royal Navy for its extra character and depth due to its method of using a double wooden pot still.
In 1814, the three Guyanese colonies were handed over to the British and merged as British Guiana. By the second half of the 18th century, sugar estates were closing and consolidating resulting with only 180 remaining. Each remaining estate produced its own distinctive rum which was given its own mark or Marque identifying its origin (eg. SWR, ICBU, PM, EHP, LBI, AN). These rums were shipped to England, establishing the worldwide trading name of Demerara Rum. Rum was now established as a polite middle class drink – even replacing gin.
In 1992, the El Dorado range launched itself to both the local and international market and became the first rum producer in the world to market a premium quality aged rum – El Dorado 15yr Special Reserve.
Unfortunately, more of the distilleries merged during the early 20th Century culminating in the combining of stills, equipment and expertise. In 1998, the last remaining estate, Diamond, held the Demerara Distillers Ltd on the East Bank of the Demerara River.
So they set the trend for age statement rums, but did you know they also continue to produce their rum from some of the worlds oldest stills?
Demerara Distillers is in a unique position as it still uses the original production stills used on three of the sugar estates of the 18th and 19th centuries. They are as follows –
The Wooden Coffey Still –
The last fully working example of its kind in the world today. It is similar, if not identical, to the very first continuous still constructed and patented by an Irish excise officer, Aeneas Coffey in 1832, after whom the still was named. This still is the original and last surviving one from the Enmore Sugar Estate founded nearly 200 years ago by Edward Henry Porter.
The Wooden Pot Stills –
Demerara Distillers benefits from being able to operate the last two original Wooden Pot Stills (one Single and one Double) in the world. Over 250 years old, and originally used to produce the Demerara Navy Rums in the past, they are nowadays often referred to by their old names of Demerara Vat Stills. The Double Wooden Pot Still originated from the Port Mourant Estate, founded in 1732.
The French Savalle Still –
Demerara Distillers continues to use the original four-column metal French Savalle Still inherited from the 18th century Uitvlught Estate on the west coast of Demerara county. The modern version of this still is versatile enough to produce nine completely different types of rum ranging from the very light through to heavy bodied.
So how does the range of the El Dorado portfolio fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on each –
El Dorado 3yr – 40%
Designed for the UK market. Rather soft on the nose with slight aromas of tropical fruits, banana and vanilla balancing well. A soft experience on the palate with a slight kick near the end. Quite an oil and silk texture with a little spice and coconut flavour.
El Dorado 5yr – 40%
Dry nose of tropical fruits leads to caramel and coconut with hints of vanilla at the end of a long offering.
El Dorado 8yr – 40%
The latest offering in the portfolio. Dark aromas of caramel on the nose with hints of toffee following slowly. Smooth on the palate however with a long mellow flavour of honey and a slight smokey wisp.
El Dorado 12yr – 40%
Tropical fruits on the nose with a small hint of spice lingering around. The spice is more known on the palate with rich fruits complimenting to a dry finish.
El Dorado 15yr Special Reserve – 43%
Soft on the nose but hints of burnt sugar develops. Coffee, chocolate and vanilla burst out a little near the end and continue onto the palate creating a soft offering. Sweet with slight smoke and spice flavours lingering.
El Dorado 21yr – 43%
Bold on the nose with spice and tropical fruit balancing well and rounded off by sweetness. The dark sugar flows onto the palate with oak flavours dominating. The spice and fruit develop nicely and mellows on a long finish.
El Dorado 25yr, 1986 Vintage – 43%
Dry honey notes on the nose, with subtle oak and vanilla butter coming through. A light cherry flavour hits the palate, with a bold manilla and marshmallow profile. A slight bold pot-still character arrives, but moves to a soft, dry finish of butter.
A fantastic and varied range on offer to us, with a special treat too –
Light with a marzipan and dried fruit aroma with a hint of citrus following on the nose.
Enmore – The Wooden Coffey Still
Light on the nose with aromas of fruit and spice blending well. Slight spice on the palate with a short offering and slight sweetness.
Port Mourant – The Wooden Pot Stills
Bolder on the nose with oak wood aromas coming through. Smooth on the palate however, a little harsh with flavours of banana.
The three notes above are the three single barrel rums used in the El Dorado 12yr – the perfect chance to see how each barrel performs before being combined to create one of the most well-known years in the portfolio.
On my travels around St Lucia recently, I did come across two expressions that are currently unavailable here in the UK –
A blend of aged Demerara rums and natural spices. Light, thin spice notes on the nose, hints of citrus blending with powdered cinnamon. Thin on the palate too, with the citrus creating a sharp kick of spice, with the cinnamon dominating over a dash of clove. Vanilla flavours on the lingering fresh finish.
El Dorado Cream Liqueur – 16.5%
A combination of El Dorado 5yr, dairy cream and natural flavours and spices. A good combination of toffee, light cinnamon spice and fresh cream on the nose. Thick fudge notes on the palate, with dry spice, butterscotch and toffee flavours creating a smooth finish.
El Dorado can be found in most bars in some form or another. It is becoming increasingly popular with bartenders with cocktails (specifically the 3, 5 and 8 yrs) as well as being marketed as a sipping rum with its Luxury Cask Aged range of 12, 15 and 21yr. Personally, the 21yr is my favourite, however this is a very close call – something which I rarely say when experiencing such a range in one go.
Grab yourself a bottle for your collection, and I know for a fact that it adorns the shelves of many a non-bartender consumer.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.