Thursday, 29 January 2015

Review 27 - El Dorado 15 year old Special Reserve

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
A very nice piece of Demerara.
From the company that practically invented premium rums, DDL, comes the El Dorado 15 year old Special Reserve. The first ever premium rum made for sipping – or so some sources claim.

It has won numerous awards and the chances are, that it will probably be one of the first 10 rums you come across when you start experimenting with sipping rum.
According to the extensive research done by Cocktails Old Fashioned (link supplied), it is made by a unique blend of rums from the many stills at DDL.

Most dominant are distillates from the Port Mourant double wooden pot still and the Diamond metal Coffey stills, but distillates from the Enmore wooden Coffey still and the Versailles single wooden pot still are also included.

It is bottled at 43% which is quite unusual for a near entry level product. And even so such a mass marketed product as this. But since I often ramble on about the boredom of 40% rums, I will have to say that I am very satisfied by this tiny detail.

Being a blend of several different rums it is safe to assume that the single distillates could have different ages, but being a Guyanese rum the age statement refers to the minimum age. So we can safely conclude that the El Dorado 15 is at least 15 years old.

I am not going to dive into the history of El Dorado, as this can easily be found on their official webpage.

The primordial premium comes dressed in a nice, but quite flimsy cardboard box. It does supply some level of protection from the evil outsides, but I always seem to treat it very gently to prevent it from getting destroyed.

The beige coloured box displays marketing talk on two sides in two languages. On the other two sides we have company information, brand, age and the El Dorado logo – an old school sailing ship.

The bottle is squat, slightly opaque and so far the only 100% pirate-proof bottle I have seen. Holding this baby by the neck makes you wanna go ”Ahaaargh!” and set sails for uncharted waters.

On the bottle we have two labels.

The front one is the typical El Dorado front label stating all the usual details. The back label is yet another piece of luring cocktail of superlatives. I am not a fan, but it’s only words, so never mind.

Last but not least we have a ”15 years old”-emblem.

All in all a very nice visual composition which is drenched in a feeling of the old world, pirates, grog, plundering and cannon fire. I like it a lot.

In side the ancient looking vessel we find a copper, which leaves a trail of fat and slow moving droplets, when poured into a glass and given at twirl. There is an obvious oily feel to the rum, as the coating on the inside of the glass, seems to stay around for ever.

Leading of with oak and prunes, there is no doubt about its Guyanese origin. An addition of wet tobacco spices things up a bit.

Secondary scents consist of maple syrup, cocoa and lemon zest.

There is some smoke somewhere in the mix, but it never becomes dominating.

As with many other demeraras the trademark winey undertones are also present.

Quite heavy and complex profile made up primarily of oak spice, reasonable amounts of vanilla, prunes and a little pepper.

This is superseded by a plethora of dried fruits. More prunes, dates and apricots galore.

Everything is held together with a nice caramel feel as well as subtle notes of leather and tobacco.

Underneath it all I detected some bitter cocoa and orange zest, which seemed to expand the flavour spectrum further.

The finish is of medium length, with a very soft and slightly drying nature.

You don’t get to savour the complex flavours for long, as sweet syrup and vanilla with a pleasant warmth is the dominating ingredients from the moment you swallow to the moment when only a slight prickling on the far back of the throat is left.

Rating and final thoughts
The El Dorado is a very good, no-nonsens sipper. It sufficiently complex to be exciting, balanced enough to be enjoyed and easy going enough to be very drinkable.

It is a little sugary over all, which I feel DDL could have been done a lot better if they wanted to. But the slightly elevated ABV makes up for the slightly excessive sweetness.

There is no doubt that it is a solid sipping experience done with a very tried and testet formula.
Classic demerara which doesn’t surprise you very much, when you have had you fair share of different Guyanese rums.

Given a little luck it can be found at €40 and if you see it at that price, it is a must buy. Due to the complex blending of the El Dorado premiums, I wont compare it to the 12 or 21 year old. They are a bit different in nature even though they contain very similar genetic material.

The El Dorado 15 is a mandatory checkpoint through the world of rum, and with good reason. It is a very nice rum, made buy one of the oldest and most renowned rum produceres in the world and on that basis alone you need to try it.

I have no bad things to say about it. Indeed it could have been more exciting, it could have been more evil, it could have shocked a lot more. It could have been a lot of other things, but it isn’t.

It is just a very good and solid rum. And that brings about a…

Rating: 71/100



  1. The 40% ABV version seems to be mainly for the North American market, where (when I used to live there) you would never find the 43% bottle, which in turn is primarily sold in Europe and elsewhere. Same thing for the 12 and 21 year old.

    1. That sucks big time. Both the 15 on review and the 21 on my shelf are 43% - and they are very good. I feel that the slightly higher proof gives the El Dorados that extra edge, that makes it stand out from other heavily marketed rums like the Diplomatico Exclusiva, Dictador 12 and even Zacapa 23.

      I have however never seen a 12 year old with more than 40% ABV. Would like to try one though!

  2. Interesting that you rate the two Veliers you have reviewed higher than this. I do however not that you scored the Bristol Port Morant only a 7 and this an 8 I'm in agreement with you on that note.

    I think I may have to check out a Velier Demerara soon. Keep up the good work. Your exploring a very interesting niche.

    1. The Veliers are the raw, pure, unblended yang to the El Dorados smooth, blended, consistant yin.
      Coinsidently the Veliers are simply better rums in my book. Not everyone will agree.