Rum Review: El Dorado 15

Rum Review: El Dorado 15

From the distiller review (linked here with a nice “flavor profile” chart) you can see that there are a lot of different rums in this blend.

El Dorado has been produced at Demerara Distillers Limited since 1992 on Guyana. The 15 Year is a blend of aged demerara rums, some as old as 25 years, made in different styles of stills – Enmore and Diamond Coffey stills, Port Mourant double-wooden-pot-still and Versailles single-wooden-pot-still. The rums are blended and aged in ex-bourbon casks.

El Dorado rums are sweetened. Sugar tests (link to test results on rumproject) put the value at about 30 g/l on the sweet side. This was always a favorite to which I returned time and time again, but in the last couple of years I’ve gravitated to un-sugared rums. Recently I realized I’ve never formally reviewed this rum, a big lacuna in my review collection. I determined to pick up a bottle and correct this omission. I also wondered what I would think of a sugared rum after more than a year of exposure only to the non-sweetened variety.

The first thing I noticed is that the price has gone up. This rum was (in California) an even $50 everywhere for years. Now it’s $60. OK, this is happening to everything else, why not this rum. I bought the bottle. At 40% ABV it does though seem like an extravagant purchase. I have only one other 40% rum (English Harbour), but it is half the price. Most of my rums these days run 46%-57%

Color: Medium dark, mahogany, copper red highlights in the light.

Legs: Quick, medium legs when swirled.

Aroma: Dark fruit. Prune, raisin, dried apricot, chocolate, burnt brown sugar, treachle, little alcohol. Not an overwhelming aroma breathed deeply, but that thanks to the lower-end ABV. Still it is plenty rich.

Flavors and mouth: Dark brown sugar, creaminess, mild fire (very smooth, the ABV again and the sugar), with vanilla, raisin, tobacco, oak, burnt coffee, a long sweet brown sugar and molasses finish. I used to detect a little funk in this rum, something that cut its sweetness, Now, having had far funkier rums (too many frankly), I can not find the funk in here. Still, despite being more sweet than I’m used to now, the rum is delicious and never comes across as “over sweet”. There is enough oak and other flavors to present a complex profile with much more to enjoy than the sweetness alone.

The El Dorado rums come in a variety of age declarations. That I know of there are 8, 12, 15, 21, and 25 year versions. Unlike most other producers (many makers have abandoned age statements altogether) the El Dorado age statement on the label represents  the youngest rum in the blend! I have had the 12, 15, and 21 year offerings. The 12 is more fruity, a bit less complex, and seems sweeter than the 15. The 21 is richer and more complex (its also $100/bottle), but me thinks overmuch. I think the 15-year really hits the sweet spot (no pun intended) between them. Inu A Kena (see his review) disagrees with me, but that is, after all, what makes a horse race.

When it comes to taste in rums, like other distilled alcohol some tastes go one way and some go another. But I have yet to meet a rum aficionado who does not like El Dorado 15. Highly recommended at least once if you can afford it! Here is one more review from my friend the Fat Rum Pirate.

Review: Habitation Velier-Foursquare 2013 Single Pot Still Rum

Review: Habitation Velier-Foursquare 2013 Single Pot Still Rum

I’ve tried a lot of Foursquare rum in the last year. Starting with the Port and Zinfandel cask bottlings, on to the 2004, Premise, then the 2005 (not yet reviewed), and now this collaboration with Habitation Velier on another “single rum” which in this case means it was made at one distillery and one particular pot still. The Back label on the bottle says:

“Foursquare 2013 Single Rum is the result of a collaboration between Richard Seale and Luca Gargano. This is the first time that Foursquare has bottled a rum distilled entirely in the pot still built by Green Engineering and Forsyths. Aged in prime-quality ex-cognac barrels. A world premire.”

The front label says a lot too. I have included a larger picture so the detail can be appreciated. Foursquare has been doing a lot of these special bottlings from special barrels. Port, Zinfandel, Sherry (the Premise) and now Cognac barrels. Each one is spectacular and so far every one I’ve tried has been better than the last!

Not only great barrels, but this offering is “cask strength” bottled at the alcohol percentage as it comes from the barrel after two years (clearly stated on the label) having experienced 15% evaporation (the “angel’s share”) in tropical aging. The note about the tropics is important because rum ages (and evaporates from the barrels) faster in the tropics. Two years of aging in the tropics would be equivalent to four or five years in a temperate climate. The rum comes to us from the cask at 64% ABV, a potent offering.

Let’s have a look..

Color: Light to medium amber with orange notes. This is a very pretty rum.
Legs: Swirrled in the glass the rum shows thin to medium fast running legs.

Aroma: OK, now to something more important. I expected a two-year-old rum to be a heavy on the alcohol, acetone, or varnish notes especially at 64%, but not so. There is alcohol there, but it’s clean, refreshing, and sets off otherwise deliciously deep aromas of raw sugar, light caramel, prune, raisin, and tobacco. Wow! Fabulous dark aromas from a relatively light rum. There is no vegetal or fruity funk in this aroma. Lightly sweet, but not overwhelmingly sweet. Dark fruit, but no over-ripe notes. I take this to be characteristic of a “Bajan rum”, and I don’t mind a little funk now and then, but this is so much more friendly.

Flavor and texture: Amazing! A rum with no additives this is immediately rich and creamy. How can that be with this much alcohol and only two years old? I imagine the tropics, and maybe the quality of the ex-cognac barrels makes all the difference. Despite its richness the rum comes off at first as crisply clear and dry, but the sweetness of it sneaks up on you. Raw sugar, caramel, not dark but light. Raisin, prune, and tobacco. I can’t remember another rum in which the flavor and aroma profiles matched so well. The finish is long and sweet, no bitterness here not even at its full 64% ABV. The heat sneaks up on you too. It never gets harsh, but it does get pretty hot! I added a little water to one glass taking the alcohol down to about 55% and the rum gets sweeter, the raw sugar a little stronger with green grape making an appearance. But this rum is easy to drink even at its original ABV. Like the aroma, there is no sort of funk in the taste.

At $75 the price is a tad steep for me, but it is the same price (roughly) as the 2004 and 2005 all well worth their cost. Velier has released almost a dozen collaborations in this series, not all with Foursquare. Of them all, this offering is the least expensive! I haven’t dared try the others ranging in price from $90 to $120! What if I like them??!! If you click on this link, you can see images of all the other offerings in this line. Good luck making a choice. My guess is they will all be outstanding examples of their types.

The Fat Rum Pirate and The Rum Project have reviewed other of the rums in this set. Have a look. These folks know their rums better than me.

Enjoy…

Rum Review: Hamilton Pot Still: Black and Blonde

Rum Review: Hamilton Pot Still: Black and Blonde

Two more rums from Hamilton, both related to the Pot Still Gold I reviewed previously and one also to the Hamilton St. Lucian rum also reviewed — see links below for these reviews. I include both Black and Blonde in the same review here because while related (both rums start from the same stock) they could not be more different. Price on these is moderate, about $35 U.S. for each 750 ml bottle.

Pot Still Black 46.5% ABV

Color: Dark copper reddish. The rum, while not sweetened is colored with what the Ministry of Rum calls a “double strength black sugar-based caramel”.

Legs: Thin fast

Aroma: Some pot still funk, dark fruit raisin, prune, alcohol, burnt caramel.

The label and Ministry of Rum web site says this is a blend of light, very light, and heavy pot still rums aged “up to 5 years”. There is no mention of the sort of barrel (ex bourbon, or something else) used. The feed stock is molasses.

Flavor: raw sugar cane, burnt caramel, black molasses, coffee, tobacco, over-ripe banana and a little sherry-like smokey oak. A bit of fire on a medium and sweet finish,  not bitter. The funk is present but only underneath the sweetness of this rum. This is not a dry rum but distinctly sweet. The funk comes up as a background to the sweetness.

Texture: A little creamy, not very, but there is some body here. Not glassy or crisp or dry. Distinctly brown-sugar or raw sugar sweet.

This rum is delicious and reminds me of the Dos Maderas 5+5 if a more sophisticated (and unsweetened) version of it. Like the Dos Maderas, this is a great cigar pairing rum. I will be buying more of this one!

Pot Still Blonde 45% ABV

Color: very pale yellow tinge, more pale than the Hamilton Pot Still Gold (barely) but not all the way to clear.

Legs: Thin fast

Aroma: Funk of a sort I do not know. Rich rotten pineapple or lychee fruit. There is alcohol on the nose but all of it is overwhelmed by the aroma of rotting fruit which comes out a little like the smell of ether and old airplane glue.

The label and Ministry of Rum website say there is no coloring added to this rum which begins with the same rum stock as the Black (above) and Gold (see review) pot still rums. Then aged 18 months in barrels formerly used for Hamilton’s St. Lucian rum, finally being married for 6 months with a 1-year aged light pot still rum.

Flavor: A watery sort of dryness that fills your mouth with the funk of spoiled grape, way over-ripe pineapple, and lychee fruit. This might be the most awful  funk I’ve ever tasted. Undoubtedly there are some rum aficionados who will relish this, but I’m not one of them. The finish is short and dry but not bitter. There is no dark fruit here, nor coffee or tobacco flavors, nor caramel, molasses, or brown sugar. The over-ripe bright fruit funk dominates everything except the alcohol which is smoothed by the fruits. Possibly the aging in barrels used previously for Hamilton’s St. Lucian, among the funkiest rums I’ve had (see review) explains this strange and unfamiliar kind of funk but yikes, this is way over the top.

Texture: Thin, watery, not creamy. There is body here but it is all in the funk.

Perhaps my taste will evolve or the rum will evolve in the bottle. Right now, having had 3 glasses, I do not much like it at all.

 

Rum Review: Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve

Rum Review: Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve

I am more and more drinking only rums promising no additives. Some of these are the product of ageing in wood other than ex-bourbon, but the wood is dry. There is no mixing of spirits only the influence of their past presence in the wood. I am trying not to be a snob about this. There are still a few rums having a just a little added sugar (English Harbour) or more (El Dorado 15), or maybe a little sherry (Dos Maderas 5+5), that I still like very much. At least I think I would when I get around to having them again.

But more and more there are really good rums with no additives available on the American market, and I can only drink and afford so much. The last ingredient here is a new up-scale brick and mortar store Bitters & Bottles but 10 minutes drive from my home with a spectacular rum (and both whiskeys and whiskies) collection. Consequently, in the last year I’ve bought nothing but these rums from a half-dozen producers, but in particular from Foursquare and Hamilton (many reviews of both lines here). Even now, buying these for a year, there are a few of each producer sitting in my closet not yet tried. There have come to be so many of them.

Yet even among these, perhaps one or two dozen producers out of many hundreds available available in the U.S. there is a huge range of effects and it is good to keep reminding yourself of how much different two rums can be. I found this recently no better illustrated than the difference between the Foursquare PREMISE I reviewed last time and this Worth Park. The PREMISE smacks of sweetness and fresh fruit, although no sugar is added to it. It is aged for 10 years both in ex-bourbon and ex-dry-sherry casks, and comes to us at 46% ABV. The Worthy Park is dry with notes of over-ripe fruit, aged 6-10 years (according to the label) in “once used” ex-bourbon casks, bottled at 45%. But their aromas and flavors could not be more different. I’m guessing, but I suspect the casks are not charred and come from a non-smokey sort of bourbon. There are no charred oak flavors.

The bottle shape stands out a bit. There is a nice synthetic cork stopper. Let’s look at the rum.

Color: Pale amber, light copper.

Legs: Thin legs, fast at first, slow down as they go.

Nose: Ripe dark fruit, deep molasses, alcohol, ripe banana, caramel toffee, coffee. A very rich nose with a promise of Jamaican funk like a Pusser’s or Appleton Estate.

Sip: Crisp, thin body, clear, some fire in a medium slightly bitter finish, dry, thin body, and only the slightest hint of over-ripe ester funk to remind you this is a Jamaican rum. A very clear dry rum. That’s amazing. Given how much ester seems to be present on the nose, the taste has only the slightest (though unmistakeable) hint of it. As I finish the glass the rum stays crisp. Its body doesn’t seem to thicken up as many do.

There is one down side to drinking these. They do tend to be pricey. This Worthy Park was $60, a little steep for me, but it did come highly recommended, I can see why. As goes cigar pairing (the cigar pictured is the last of my Padilla San Andres Reserva, I haven’t found any combination yet as good as everything seems to be with the Premise. But this is a great rum and a great counterpoint to sweeter offerings if you are in the mood for a change.

Review: Foursquare Premise Rum

Review: Foursquare Premise Rum

Another offering from Richard Seale. Premise is one of those special barrel bottlings released in the last few years by Foursquare Rum and available in American brick and mortar stores (with good rum collections) for about $55. A tad more than the earlier “Port Cask” and “Zinfandel Finish” releases. Although it isn’t in the name I’m told to think of this as a “sherry cask” rum. As in all the other releases, these are supposed to be dry ex-sherry casks, and the rum contains no additives.

The rum is a medium amber, not pale, but by no means dark. More brass than copper colored. When swirled in the glass it forms medium thick legs that flow pretty fast. Bottled at 46% ABV a good down the middle strength given the present fashion for “naval strength” rums. Smooth and delicious as it is, it had enough fire going down to convince you there is real alcohol present. The rum is aged 3 years in ex-bourbon wood and then 7 more in ex-sherry wood. More detail can be found here at the fatrumpirate site.

On the nose there is intense Caramel, toffee, brown sugar, raisin, even apple or green grape, and maybe light ripe pineapple. Also enough alcohol to push it all out, I don’t get any petrol or varnish notes. This is one sweet and slightly bright-fruity aroma with a little oak thrown in.

The flavor is surprisingly sweet maybe sweeter than the port and zinfandel bottlings. Lots of brown sugar, light caramel, maybe a little tobacco, sherried oak. The sweetness is a little less up front on subsequent sips. Finish is long and sweet, there is no bitterness here. Not a lot of fruit in the flavor for me, but what there is isn’t dark but light. The body is distinctly creamy, a little thick.

You know I always drink rum paired with a cigar. It so happens that the only wine I really like paired with cigars is sherry. Needless to say a “sherry cask” finished rum from foursquare was going to hit the spot. It does. Goes well with every stick I’ve tried, 5 of them at this point. A little expensive yes, but if you have developed a palate for unadulterated rums lately you’re going to want to try this one.

Happy sipping!

Rum Review: Hamilton Demerara River

Rum Review: Hamilton Demerara River

The label on the back of this bottle says: “The bottle of rum in your hand was blended from carefully selected rums distilled and aged up to five years in Guyana then bottled in the U.S. without adding any sugar or other sweetener. The rich dark fruit, spice, smoky wood, and tobacco notes in this rum add a unique flavor to cocktails and Tiki drinks…”

Looking this up on the web it turns out that this rum is bottled from the same blend as the Hamilton Overproof 151 rum but dialled back to a less eye watering 86 proof (43% ABV). It is, presumably, made from molasses extracted from Demerara River (in Guyana) sugar plantations. Why Demerara sugar is so highly prized for rum I do not know, but it is true that all the “Demerara rums” I’ve tried (like El Dorado) are pretty darn good. As it turns out, according to this interesting essay on Demerara rums there is only ONE DISTILLERY (Diamond) in Guyana now and all Demerara-based rums start there. How do they do this? The key (from the linked article above) is: “The challenge for the Diamond Distillery is to maintain the distinctiveness of the many different brands while having them all under one roof. One way they do this is by using a variety of different stills including the only wood stills left in the world.” Here is a link to the Diamond distillery’s page.

So now you know… Let’s get on to the tasting

Color: medium-dark amber, red, orange. Not the darkest rum but on the dark side
Legs: tiny beads coalesce to thick tear drops and run slowly
Aroma: Heavy hit of prune and raisin, slight alcohol, caramel and treacle, apricot, sweet smoke. Very rich aroma, I could delight in this sensory experience a long time.

Flavor: Mixed-up. Light touches of tobacco, light brown sugar, a little oak, dark fruit. Sweet and rich without a lot of flavor separation. Reminds me of a creamier, sweeter version of English Harbour. Flavors are amalgamated and come forward as one delicious offering. Smooth, long sweet finish, a bit of heat rises slowly after the swallow, and sustains itself quite long, the prune-raisin and tobacco in the aroma coming up at the end on the nose and back of the throat. Nice experience!

It is hard to believe that nothing is added to this rum to smooth it. If the oldest rum in the blend is 5 years this seems rather dark in color and the smoothness in it can only come from the blend . Yes, English Harbour is smooth and only 5 years old, but it does have a little sugar in it. This rum is distinctly richer than English Harbour but reminiscent of it. At $24 at my supplier it also competes with English Harbour on price, and while I love that rum and always have some around, I will be adding this Hamilton to my permanent collection as well.

Highly recommended if you are looking for a smooth and easy-going rum to enjoy neat or in cocktails. For your interest here is a link to Hamilton’s Ministry of Rum

For those living in or around the San Francisco Bay Area, here is a link to Bitters & Bottles, my local (South San Francisco) retailer maintaining a superb rum collection!

Hamilton Navy Strength Rum

Hamilton Navy Strength Rum

I first encountered Hamilton rums late in 2016 when I tried the Saint Lucian 2006, an ester fueled funky rum in the Jamaican style. Since that time I’ve found and tried three others, the ’86, the Pot Still Gold, and now this latest and best of all by far the Navy Strength.

At 57% ABV this is a true “navy strength” rum. This phrase comes from the fact that at 56% and above, a gun powder wet with a little rum will still light (it doesn’t explode, but burns something like a sparkler) while below 56% it will not. Given this much alcohol (and I am assuming there is no added sugar here, an implicit promise of the Hamilton line) I expect some heat. I was not disappointed.

This from the Ministry of Rum website and here is a direct link to the page on this rum. There is a lot of information there about the history of this blend. Would love to do what Ed Hamilton does!

“60% Guyana rum at 154 proof and 40% Jamaican rum at 170 proof are blended together and slowly stirred for 48 hours before dilution to 114 proof with filtered well water at the Five & 20 Distillery in Westfield, NY. “

Color: Medium dark, copper red.
Legs: A few fast thin legs, and a lot of slow thick drops suggests a creamy experience.

Aroma: Dark fruit, prune, raisin, apricot, alcohol, molasses, oak, and burnt caramel (treacle).

Sipping: Lots of heat from the beginning to a long smooth and sweet finish. You get the dark fruit, molasses, burnt brown sugar, strong sherry notes, oak. Very creamy. I put a little water in this (1/4 t-spoon in a dram lowers the ABV from 57% to 55%, not very much) and it stands up well to it. The heat is a little reduced, bringing out coffee and chocolate notes from the rum while all the dark fruit remains. The heat is still there is a little reduced and the rum gets even creamier. The treacle turns into a less burnt brown sugar.

At around $44 this rum is on the expensive side for me, but only one of the Hamiltons I’ve tried (the ’86 at $24) is under $40 anyway. This is a superb rum. Think of Foursquare 2004 (for heat) with the rich flavors of their Port Cask, and more of them. If you like the higher ABV rums, this is one to try, the richest, thickest rum I’ve had with an ABV above the 40s. As far as I know, the Hamilton rums are available only in the U.S. Considering how many great rums we cannot get here are available to Europeans, it’s good to have a line like this on my side of the Atlantic.

Pairing with cigars? Of course! This rum works best with the less sweet cigars bringing out nutty brown sugar sweetness in the smoke. Highly recommended.