Feb 192010


First posted Feb 19, 2010 on Liquorature.

Deep, smooth, elegant, complex, affordable. Brilliant rum catering to all my tastes.

It seems to be a cruel irony that I always find the rums I desperately want to buy and take a taste of when (a) my frugal better half is casting baleful glares in my direction, (b) my friend The Bear is unavailable to assist in the sampling and (c) cash is shortor at least, pay day is nowhere in sight, which amounts to the same thing. All three were in evidence this Friday, when, for reasons we shall not get into here, I was in the Calgary Airport liquor store. Now why they would have a store in a place that does not allow you to bring the good stuff aboard except in checked luggage (at which every West Indian I ever met would blanch, shudder and mutter thatdem peepl nah gat sensis where else me go drink it?”) escapes me, but I ended up snagging one of the three bottles I was after: the Demerara Distilleries El Dorado Special Reserve 21 Year Old.

For those unfortunate souls not from the West Indies, or the even sadder ones who know nothing about Guyana, let it be said that two mighty local spirits outfits vie for control of the local and export market: Banks DIH (a blender and beer maker) and Demerara Distilleries (a true distillery). There isn’t a Guyanese alive, of this I am convinced, who does not recall the sniff of fermenting sugar as he passes Diamond Estate to or from the airport. This is where DDL has its base of operations, and this is where they blend the elite little package that I prepared to sample some thousands of miles away.

For a rum costing close to a hundred, the packaging is surprisingly cheap printed thin cardboard, but okay. It’s what was within that I was after. DDL matures this baby in used oak whisky and bourbon barrels, and the aroma of the cork bears this out. The aroma was a pungent mix of burnt sugar, spices, soft and thick, chopped fruit in a black cake, butterscotch and caramel, molasses and smoke and I dunnoperhaps some oak, all blended very smoothly and almost inseparably in there. A first taste neat and then another on the rocks made it clear that DDL put some effort into making this a somewhat dry rum (more so than the 15 year old), but it developed on the palate very nicely, and I think The Bear would agree that it was enhanced by the whiskey notes, the same way he really appreciated the Renegade 1991. The sheer amount of tastes coming through was astounding: chocolate, coffee, mocha, truffles, raisins, dates, black currants and blackberries, anise, licorice, molasseseach flavour chased its way genteelly up one side of my palate and down the other.

Very very smooth, hardly any bite on the way down. And a long finish, where those sweet highlights come out and almost, but not quite, overpower all the other spices.

Good stuff this. At 40% it is like caramel velvet going down, and it’s one of those like the English Harbour 25, that I would not tamper with, it’s that goodno coke for this baby. It can’t class with the English Harbour all the way (at half the price, that would have been practically a miracle), but I’ll tell you thisit gives similar price point rums like the Appleton Master Blender’s Legacy a run for its money. It may disappoint on a second tasting, but thus far, for me, it’s one of the better neat rums I’ve ever tasted, and it wasn’t wasted money. Too bad the Club was not meeting this weekI would have loved to bring it along for an introduction.

Update: three weeks later the Bear and I sampled this together for my second go-around on the bottle. While his tongue had already been desensitized by the English Harbour Five we’d been sipping for the previous half hour (he agrees this is one of the great SDRs around), he was clean-bowled by the sheer quality of this 21-year. Unlike me he took no umbrage at the cheap packing, since, in his view, it does not add to the price and what you get is what you pay for. An interesting point. But after he wiped his misty eyes dry, he said that this was such a smooth, well-balanced rum that it might even be better than the EH-25. Looks like I’m not the only one to think this way.

(#015)(88/100) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Update October 2017

  • I have done a complete re-tasting and re-assessment of the ED21 and appreciated it the same way, noted the failings more clearly (mostly to do with strength and additives), scored it slightly lowerand named it one of the Key Rums of the World.
  • As a completely irrelevant aside, Grandpa Caner likes the El Dorado 15 Year Old better and refuses to cede pride of place.

  7 Responses toEl Dorado Special Reserve 21 Year OldReview

  1. Good day,

    Quick question if I may. Do you have any experience with the ED 21 bottled @ 43%. My local has both the 40% and 43% version stocked, and I was wondering if there is an appreciable difference between the two. For what it is worth they’re the same price ($75!!)

    Thanks for any info you can provide.

    Great resource you’ve created by the way.

    • To some extent this depends on whether you drink strong spirits neat or not, or prefer cocktails andsofterdrinks.

      The 43% variation delivers a slightly enhanced and more intense flavour profile. It’s a shade more heated (or spicy, depending on your terminology), but also deeper as a consequence, and so this is the variation I personally would go for.

  2. Thanks for the timely reply. Makes sense, and aligns with what I thought would be the difference. I’ll opt for the 43% version.

  3. Bonjour,
    Je souhaiterais avoir un conseil si possible.
    Je recherche un Rhum dans un style adouci (sucré), vanillé, fruit, pas astringent mais avec la meilleure qualité de savoir faire possible mais exit les Zacapa, Milonario etc… Après chacun ses goûts ils en faut pour tout le monde.
    Lequel parmi ces 4 Rhums me conseilleriez vous dans le style adouci (sucré), vanillé, fruit, pas astringent que je recherche avec la meilleure qualité possible: Le Rhum Clément 15 ans, le Rhum Appleton Estate 21 ans, le Rhum Nation 21 ans Panama et le Rhum El Dorado 21 ans ?
    Si vous pouviez me donner un classement dans le style que je recherche plus mais avec la meilleure qualité de savoir faire possible s’il vous plaît.
    J’attends votre réponse avec impatience.
    Merci beaucoup


    I would like to have advice if possible.
    I am looking for a Rum in a softened (sweet), vanilla, fruit, not astringent style but with the best quality of know-how possible but exit the Zacapa, Milonario etc… After everyone’s tastes there is something for everyone.
    Which of these 4 Rums would you recommend in the sweet (sweet), vanilla, fruit, not astringent style that I am looking for with the best possible quality: Clement Rum 15 years, Appleton Estate Rum 21 years, Rum Nation 21 years Panama and El Dorado 21 years old Rum?
    If you could give me a ranking in the style I’m looking for more but with the best quality of know-how possible please.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you.
    thank you so much

    • Rhum Nation 21 ans Panama et le Rhum El Dorado 21 ans. Les deux autres ne correspondent pas à votre profil, bien qu’ils soient également assez bons.

      • Donc en premier vous me citerer le Rum Nation 21 ans Panama et en deuxième le El Dorado 21 ans 43% ?
        Mais pour vous lequel des 2 serez le plus qualitatif ?
        Savez vous combien de g/l les séparent au niveau sucrosité ?
        So first you quote me the Rum Nation 21 years Panama and second the El Dorado 21 years 43%?
        But for you which of the 2 will be the most qualitative?
        Do you know how many g / l separate them in terms of sweetness?

        • 1. Yes / Oui
          2. That’s up to your opinion, when you taste them / Cela dépend de votre opinion, lorsque vous les goûtez.
          3. Other websites can give you that information, not mine / D’autres sites Web peuvent vous fournir ces informations, pas les miennes.

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