As long as you like a darker, heavier profile of fruity and dark sugar notes, this is a rum that gets better and better as you compare more and more rums to it.
First posted Feb 4, 2011 on Liquorature
The median of the el Dorado range exhibits a schizophrenic character, in line with its uncertain position as neither the entrance level rum (that honour belongs to the five year old), or its other bastard brother the single barrel, or any of its two superior sipping cousins, the 15 or 21. It’s kinda left alone to sink or swim on its own merits.
Those merits aren’t half bad, I should note. Readers might as well be warned, however: I have a weakness for dark rums of slight sweetness and age, and therefore I regard El Dorado’s as particularly good specimens of the type, never mind that they come from a country I spent many years in and of which I still retain fond memories…and where I was able to pass through many of the sugar plantations – Port Mourant, Diamond and others – where DDL gets its raw materials and stills.
I had the 12 year the same night I meant to sample all the other rums in the range, but as noted in the 15 year old review, I was tired, irritated and feeling crabby after a particularly loathsome day at the office, and therefore limited myself to retrying the 12, and then moving upscale.
The thing is, as a rum in its own right, the 12 isn’t half bad. Made from molasses in the Enmore and Diamond coffey stills and blended with a lead spirit from the Port Mourant double pot still (the only wooden one still in existence, and which also makes the Single Barrel, and several European specialist makers) and then matured in used bourbon barrels, the 12 is not quite the equal of the 15; however, DDL have taken steps in 2006 to rejig the blend, so that now it seems to be right there on the ladder leading up to the premium sippers above it.
The nose is a bit sharp, but you can see where the progression is leading: molasses, fruit, some toffee, caramel and burnt sugar assail your nose in waves of olfactory harmony. The blend is rich and mellow and it comes out in the smell, in spite of the sharper tannins from the oak barrels making themselves felt early on.
The rum is a dark tawny colour (not as dark as the subsequent older iterations, but getting there), and of a medium heavy body; it hugs the sides of your glass as if reluctant to seep back down, when swirled. On the palate, it reminds me somewhat of an untamed horse: not entirely sure where it’s going, it bucks and kicks you some, scrapes across your tongue, but you sort of forgive that, because the overall blend of flavour and texture is so good. There is a deep flavour of dark sugar and spice, mixed in with the tang of citrus, softness of toffee, all mixed around with a lush caramel (and I’m a sucker for that, as my purchases of ice cream will attest).
The 12 fails on the backstretch, I judge – it’s a bit too harsh for a good twelve year old rum, and one expects better (the 15 more than makes up for that, I should note). This does not invalidate is as a sipper, just makes you want to run out and buy the next one up the line, or add ice, maybe a splash of chaser. But on it’s own terms, with the balance of sweet and spice and burn, with a mellow finish that lasts a pleasantly long time and oils the back of your throat for longer than you have a right to expect…well, what can I say? It’s a success for its age.
Having written all the above, what would I recommend? Truth to tell, I’d use this as a high end mixer for sure, and if looking for a premium sipper, just go up to the 15, or blow a hundred for the 21. But as a general all rounder for a lower price, this one is hard to beat – it deserves a place on your shelf for all those visitors to your rooms or houses or apartments who want to try something a bit richer than Bacardi, Appleton V/X, Lamb’s or Mount Gay (those standard staples of the young), but don’t want to bust the bank doing it.