Guyana’s Gold: El Dorado Rum
While it may be a case of a day late and a dollar short, Prime Minister Justin “Sunny Ways” Trudeau has finally made it virtually impossible for most Canadians to enjoy any fun in the sun – a least as far as travelling to the Caribbean goes (unless, of course, you have the cash to take advantage of the loopholes…). Well, JT can restrict our travels, but he can’t steal our dreams, right? With some imagination – and a decent snifter full of Caribbean rum – we can enjoy a virtual visit south.
Guyana might not be the country that immediately jumps to mind when you think Caribbean. It might not even be the first country that jumps to mind when you think rum. However, the country is home to Demerara Distillers LTD., which crafts (in my opinion) one of the finest line of rums available. Sold under the El Dorado brand, the distillery fashions a diverse portfolio of rums spanning a gamut of age statements and wood finishes. And one series that had me particularly interested. But first, I chatted with Shaun Calleb, the company’s Master Distiller, about the rums of Guyana and what makes them unique.
“Demerara rum has very unique characteristics in terms of its aromas, its flavour profile, and its mouthfeel,” he reveals. “There’s a heavy presence of fruity and floral aromas and flavours. The floral aromas cover a very wide spectrum, from blooming green shrubs to a lush green garden. On the fruitier side, the aromas and flavour can vary from berry to a stone fruit to a tropical fruit with a bit of a citrus hint.”
Calleb also notes that the Demerara terroir, shaped by the Demerara River, also contributes to the unique nature of the area’s rums. “It is a highway for industry, a source of water and ecological life,” he explains. “The history of its surrounding soils and the influence of an equatorial climate create an atmosphere for distilling that achieves flavours unattainable anywhere else in the world.”
One of the most interesting features of Demerara Distillers LTD. is its use of very old wooden stills. In its arsenal, the distillery employs two Wooden Pot Stills (single and double), and a Wooden Continuous Coffey (or EHP Wooden Still). Some of these represent the last fully working examples of their kind in the world today.
Typically, rums from each type of still are blended together before the final aging process, but you now have the ability to experience something truly unique: El Dorado’s limited line of vintage-dated, single still rums. These unique stills in turn yield rums of distinctive character
“In the case of the Wooden Pot Stills, these unique copper-necked stills produce heavy bodied, flavourful and deeply aromatic rums – the ancient greenheart wood of the stills playing a major role in the development of these distinctive characteristics,” Calleb notes. “The Wooden Coffey Still, produces a medium-bodied rum, with a mild, fruity aroma; its unique flavour is attributed to the wooden structure and interconnecting copper pipes of this tall still.
“Our Wooden Pot Stills are very volatile, and produce rums possessing fresh grass, fresh cut hardwood and fresh leather notes. On the other hand, the Wooden Coffey Still produces fruity type notes such as green apple, orange and a bevy of floral type notes.”
These are some of the most unique rums I have tasted. All are exceptionally aromatic and flavourful, with distinctive character and complexity you won’t find in the “big brand” commercial rums.
El Dorado Single Still Enmore Rum 2006
Produced from the original EHP Wooden Continuous Coffey Still that was first constructed at the Enmore Estate in 1880. This Still is based on the original design of its inventor, Irishman Aeneas Coffey, and today is the last and only surviving one still operating in the world.
Aged for 12 years, it sports captivating nose showing up-front butterscotch aromas combined with undertones of roasted coconuts and apple. An initial taste of baked peach and coconut segues to a smoky, cedar finish. Supple, silky, seductive.
El Dorado Single Still Versailles Rum 2006
The 18th Century estate at Plantation Versailles was one of the smallest distilleries producing both uncoloured and golden rums. Despite its diminutive size, the distillery, situated on the west bank of the Demerara River, was famous for its golden rums (marque REV, a reverse of VER for Versailles). Distilled in small batches on the Single Wooden Pot Still, the rums were coloured with caramel prior to long ageing in oak barrels.
This heritage continues with the 2006 distillate – the first from the refurbished wooden vat after its relocation to Plantation Diamond. Caramel-coloured, as traditional, and aged for 12 years, this 2018 Single Still release of REV celebrates the smooth, chocolatey, cigar-box-infused palate of a fine aged rum. Perfect for savouring by the fire on a crisp fall evening.
El Dorado Single Still Port Mourant Rum 2006
The El Dorado Single Still Port Mourant Rum is produced from the Double Wooden Pot Still – the only one of its kind still in use today. Constructed in 1732 on the Port Mourant Estate, this still was later moved to the Uitvlugt Estate, and then to Diamond Estate in 2000. Since then, the Double Wooden Pot Still has been maintained and operated for almost 300 years to produce small batches of this El Dorado heritage rum, and today is the only such still in operation anywhere in the world.
Expect to find robust flavours. ushered in by aromas of sweet baked apples mixed with slight vanilla and cinnamon suggestions that give way to notes of flambéed banana and coconut, with some unique peat smoke traces that appear both on the nose and on the long, sensual finish.