Last year Chris Seale and I were talking at Paris’s WhiskyLive and he mentioned that he had read some of my earlier work on the Doorly’s line of rums and thought I had been unnecessarily rough on the brand. I responded that this was very true — it’s hardly something I could pretend was not — but it faithfully reflected my feelings and opinions from more than a decade ago and of course, I’ve moved on to developing a real appreciation for Foursquare in the many years between then and now – especially the new Habitation Velier LFT and pot still editions, and the ECS series, to say nothing of the Collaborations. That said, I did remark I just found the Doorly’s brand as a whole too lackluster – most are public-facing and mass-market: the low-cost components of the house. They’re too weak, too easy, to everyman-pleasing; they are therefore not aimed at me but at those who are closer to starting their journey.
While completely acknowledging the house’s impact and importance, especially to the bourbon crossover crowd who I believe to be among the brand’s most fervent admirers (next to the Brits), I think it’s taken the Doorly’s 14 year old 48% pot-column blend (a part of the blend was aged in ex-Madeira, though specific details are lacking) released around 2019, to make me accept that finally there’s one of the line I can get serious about and introduce to my mommy. It presses more buttons than all its siblings – it’s stronger, has a bit more pot-still oomph, more decisive tastes and is to me, at the perfect age for what it is. Close your eyes and you could be drinking any top flight indie bottling.
Consider how it opens: the nose begins with the attack of light skirmishers – varnish, glue and brine, quicky gone, not sharp or aggressive, just making themselves felt. Next comes the light cavalry on the flanks: green apples, grapes, papaya, watermelon, pears, a touch of soursop, and then the heavy infantry masses to take over, and here the more traditional aromas of caramel, vanilla, toffee, blancmange, molasses, supported by the spices of cumin, rosemary, and cinnamon.
Once we start tasting the thing, the palate is where the battle is joined. Flavours vie for dominance – brine and olives and some nail polish duke it out with sweeter fruity notes of ripe red apples, pears and peaches in syrup, and very ripe dark cherries. On the flanks the molasses, toasted coconut and musky port-infused tobacco are having their own separate argument with a miso soup and kimchi, but the key takeaway is that when all is considered together, the whole palate is well-balanced between sweet, salt and sour. And the finish concludes this nicely by closing off the show with a spicy, long, dry, fruity and aromatic exhalation that somehow doesn’t give any side a win but shows off the best part of all of them.
This sounds like a lot, sure, but then, I tend to give Doorly’s more attention than most, precisely because thus far I’ve been less than impressed with the line. When the dust finally settles and the tally is made on the 14 YO, I consider this a very good sipping rum for us proles and the one Doorly’s I have no problem recommending to anyone, without resorting to a lazy and overworked references to bourbon or Pappy that just chases away those who have no interest in either. In fact, what this reminds me of quite closely is the ECS Criterion.
And yet, curiously, although my belief is that the rum is pretty damned fine not everyone agrees or goes that far. The rum garners positive reviews, yes, just not raves of the sort that more exclusive limited editions of the Collaborations or the ECS line get almost routinely (score aggregators cluster most user evaluations of the D14 at around the mid eighties with the others trending higher). Overall I think it’s a good rum, well made, well assembled, succeeding on every level without reaching for the moon, a sipper for every occasion for any income bracket, and frankly, I believe it’s an ECS edition in all but name. I call mine “Misnomer.”