Monday, 8 February 2016

Review 76-78 - El Dorado Rare Collection Rum

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
The beginning of a new era. Hopefully.
Today I’ll be trying something new. 3 reviews in 1. And here is why.

These days a certain range of products are getting more hype than any other rums I have encountered along my so far rather short journey.

Much has already been said and written about these, but not very many has been able to get their own grubby mitts on them yet.

On facebook there was recently a thread which went viral in our little niche of the world, when somebody first pointed out, that Velier had posted a page on their webpage, showing off these new products.

Not long after that, my fellow Dane Mads from Romhatten – a Danish review site – posted that he was soon going to get hold of them, along with a bit of information and a mentioning of the Danish pricing.

This spurred even more debate on facebook, as the initial pricing seemed to be a bit on the expensive side compared to similar products, and some feared that perhaps we were going to pay premium buck for branding.

I am of course rambling on about the new El Dorado Rare Collection.

I’m sure that you don’t need an introduction to El Dorado in general, as most of us started out sipping El Dorados. With a range of blends spanning from mixing rums to aged rums 3 to 25 years old, they already have quite an impressive line up.

With the addition of these rare collectors rums, it gets even more impressive, as they now expand into the promised lands which Velier created many years ago: Single marque, single vintage, high proof, tropically aged Demerara rums.

For this first ever release, they have issued three unique rums coming from their three legendary wooden stills:
  1. A 12 year old Versailles from 2002 bottled at 63,0% ABV.
  2. A 15 year old Port Mourant from 1999 bottled at 61,4% ABV.
  3. A 21 year old Enmore from 1993 bottled at 56,5% ABV.
Coincidently the ages match those of their three most popular sippers.

Even though the Port Mourant is in fact the dominating part of the blend in the 15 year old, the Enmore plays only a minor part of the 21 year old and the Versailles doesn’t even appear in the 12 year old. So no more parallels to be drawn there.

Note: The information about which role each marque plays in the different blends, has been drawn from an essay published on Deep link available in the links accessed from the top menu.

Edit: So it seems that the information from Cocktails Old Fashioned originally supplied by Carl Kanto of DDL and brand ambassador Stephanie Holt is outdated. A kind reader has supplied me with some official marketing material for the Rare Collection, which states the following:
  1. VSG is blended in the 12 year old.
  2. PM is an important blend element of the 15 year old.
  3. EHP is an important blend element of the 21 year old.
This indicates that the recipe for those three has chance since february 2011.

Sadly there is no information about how many bottles of each marque they made. The Lone Caner published an interview with Luca Gargano ofVelier recently, which mentions around 3.000 bottles of each marque. However this is unconfirmed by DDL so far. Perhaps this information will surface later on.

How rare they are going to be, will depend very much on the price point across the European shops, which should be where these bottles are going to be released.

If the consumers deem the price too expensive, 3.000 bottles may take a while to sell out.

Take the English Harbour 25 year old bottled in 2006 for an example. Around 5.700 bottles were made and it is actually still possible to find it in online stores today – almost 10 years after its release. And it is even priced below the cheapest of the new El Dorados.

I’m sure that the branding and the rarity of these rums will make the collectors items for a lot of people out there. But I’m not sure that they will automatically achieve the same level of desirability as the old Velier bottlings.

Even though they are El Dorados, they are entering new waters and will probably have to prove themselves.

Time will tell, and hopefully I’ll be right. That way people won’t have to shell out several hundred euros to try them, if they didn't get a chance to buy them at release.

In the Caners interview, Luca mentions that DDL plans on making an annual thing out of this and releasing perhaps two new ones each year. Personally I hope that checks out, as I would love to see these unique Demeraras continuing to flow.

The more single marque Demeraras the better. El Dorados or not. Or at least that is what I hope. Let us see if I feel the same once I have tried these first ones out.

DDL doesn’t shy away from adding sugar and possibly other stuff to their usual lineup, so of course I had to put these three collectors rums through a little chat with the old hydrometer.

After a couple of skinny dips, the following results came out:

- Versailles 2002: 14 g/l
- Enmore 1993: 3 g/l
- Port Mourant 1999: 4 g/l

The measurements from the Enmore and Port Mourant can be attributed to wood extracts and/or inaccuracies of my measuring gear, but the Versailles definitely has something added to it. If not, my gear has gone seriously wonky, since it measured the first two at next to nothing.

I crossed checked my gear with a handful of previously measured rums as well as a brand, spanking new one, which I positively knew was 100% clean. All measurements checked out, so I’m forced to conclude that the Versailles has been tampered with.

Seeing the monstrosities DDL does to their 21+ and 25+ year old rums, I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’m sure they had a good reason to alter the Versailles, although I can’t help feeling a bit deceived.

They are supposed to be rare collectors rums, and by adding stuff to the rum, they are basically selling me a 1965 Ford Mustang with a rear fender from a 2010 Ford Focus, under the pretence of being an all original vintage 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350.

You can't do that. Shame on you DDL...

Note: The higher the ABV, the higher the inaccuracies because of evaporation. However I still feel that 14 g/l is too much when comparing to the other two. Hopefully somebody with proper equipment can either confirm my findings or correct me soon.

Despite being three different rums, they come in identical boxes. A sturdy card board box of dark copper and brown colour, with dark golden lettering. Quite a looker if you ask me.

On the box we find the branding as well as a display window through which the unique label and features of the Rare Collection bottle can be seen.

On the back of the box there is quite a long story about the three stills used, on both sides we have a little more of the same information, along with a curious piece of information: ”.. bottled in a limited numbered release” and ”these unique individually numbered bottles”.

However, no numbering of any kind can be found on box, bottle or label. Strange thing.

It would have been nice to know at least how many bottled were made of each, but given that they advertise numbering on the box, it is quite disappointing to find it missing.

The bottle is of the more squat variety, but a very nice looking, dark and brooding one. Very sleek and very clean. The only real feature is the El Dorado ”boat”, which is embossed directly in the glass. Nice.

Op top we find a natural cork with a wooden stopper (perhaps faux, I can't tell), which has a pretty El Dorado branding.

The labels layout is super clean with a bare minimum of information. Just the branding, the still, the marque and the vintage. But still no numbering.

Versailles 2002
Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Born in the single wooden pot still, this marque is quite rare. Not many indie bottlings has made the markets from this still and some has even been masked as Enmores along the way.

The fact that we are dealing with a confirmed VSG rum makes this a rarity alright.

Pouring it into the glass it shows a nice copper colour. Twirling it leaves thin residue on the glass, which takes forever to turn into droplets, and two times forever to turn into legs.

Incredibly rich from the first pour.

Super dominated by thick, massive prunes covered in wet, brown sugar.

There is no evidence of the hefty proof. Not even a trace of claws or teeth. Just wave after wave of velvety molasses and prunes.

Just below this almost impenetrable layer, I find sweet liquorice and some dried tropical fruits.

The wood notes are very discreet and almost unnoticeable.

There is also some roasted coffee beans in there somewhere, but they seem to fade in and out of existence as fast as I can identify them.

Much easier to detect is the roasted almonds, which takes a rather subtle approach hidden behind the massive proof.

Lots of oomph now!

It goes straight for my uvula and tries to choke me with its huge but yet somehow controlled heat.

It comes off quite sweet and it takes a few seconds before you notice anything else than molasses and some oaky tannins.

Yes, we got wood now. Tasty oaks with a little harsh tannic splinters with a sidekick of raw concentrated liquorice.

Deep down there is a little cocoa and more of the prunes from the nose.

Not too complex, and the elements feel a bit compressed by the massive prune and molasses coating. Perhaps this is what the additives did for it...

Very long finish. The raw liquorice and the tannic bite stays around forever to clean up the molasses extravaganza. And the tannins does in fact bite a little.

Well integrated with the high proof, the dynamic duo rampages all over your palate.

There is also plenty of heat, which I supposed I should have expected from a 63% spirit. Fortunately it feels very controlled and despite the insensitive rampaging.

Nothing new surfaces during the exit, except for a thirst for more.

This is good rum! No doubt about it.

It is quite a shame, that it feels compressed and isn’t allowed to unleash its full potential. It has some kind of restraint about it, which prevents from going flat out all the way to awesome.

And looking back on my hydrometer reading, I can't help wondering if DDL actually killed it with sugar.

I applaud the massive strength and at first it felt very nicely integrated, but with subsequent sipping it started to reveal a little harsher side of itself, which bummed me out.

Perhaps the combination of the high strength and the tannic bite, just didn’t achieve the expected synergy, and maybe that is what the sugar was designed to conceal.

It started out so great, but came a little short in the end.

The shortcomings aside, this is still a very good rum. But there is still a couple of areas which could have been better. It is a good, high proof rum for sure, but nothing more.

Therefore I can’t go much higher than…

Rating: 83/100

Port Mourant 1999
Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Perhaps the most common marque of the Demeraras is the Port Mourant. Many indie bottlers has issued Port Mourants over the years, and the typical character from the double wooden pot still is favoured by many.

The copper coloured liquid moves graciously around in the glass and leaves a thin film on the inside of the glass. It doesn’t take long until it evolves into thin and fast moving legs.

Typical Port Mourant scents, with huge dominating anise notes, along with a wooden tannins.

Is has a decent sweetness to it, which draws from molasses, honey and maple syrup, but doesn’t go far enough in one specific direction to be just that.

Underneath the sweetness there is a layer of leather and smoking, burnt oak.
And after that comes some cloves and olives to spice things up a bit.
It was quite hard getting that much from it, as the anise was extremely dominating.

Boom! It delivered a blast of epic proportions that I wasn’t anywhere near prepared for.
Extreme tannins which tried to rip my throat open from the inside.

After that, some less horrible fat, intense red wine notes along with a trillion tonnes of star anise.

Lots of brine and olives follow, with a touch of leather.

And then just when you think it is about to let you off the hook a little, it blasts you with the minty version of The Incredible Hulk, with just a touch of spearmint on the side.

Not even close to being my kind of Port Mourant. It is way to harsh and way to extreme in its flavours. It goes way off into the bush and stampedes all over your face and your throat. It takes absolutely no prisoners.

Strangely enough the slaughter feels very well composed, with a freaky surreal anti-balance and a lot of funky flavours. I really don’t want to admit it since I don’t really like it, but it feels like a very well made rum.

But no matter how well made it is, it has got some serious issues.

It stays with you for quite some time, while it first tries to kill you one last time, before it settles for clawing its way all the way down your throat.

In the end my tongue was numb, and every time I draw a breath, I could taste the brine, the anise and the tannic red wine.

Some 15 minutes after the swallow, there is still a tingling left, but now all the brutal flavours has transformed in to red berries and a nice plate of tropical fruits. A very nice little apology for the prior assault.

Perhaps the least elegant and least manageable rum I ever tried.

It felt a lot like what I would have expected a cask strength version of the Boote Star 20 year old to be like. And I had a very hard time appreciating that one.

It is kind of the same with this PM99, but it does set itself very much apart from the Boote Star on one count: This is proper rum. It just have some issues it needs to sort out.

One thing is certain though: The ED PM 99 isn’t going to be among my favourites anytime soon.

And even though I can appreciate the quality of the rum despite my personal preference, it doesn’t feel nearly as great as either the Enmore or the Versailles.

Coming to the last stop of the train wreck, the pure quality of it lands it a…

Rating: 79/100

Enmore 1993

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
The ancient wooden continuous Coffey still is responsible for the Enmore. Enmores are quite common and has been so with many indie bottlers for quite some time. So the rarest thing about this rum is the fact that it is tropically aged, which has only previously been done by Velier.

When poured into the glass you are treated with another copper liquid and when twirled it leaves a thin film on the glass. Strange how they all was almost identical in colour.

After a couple of milliseconds there is thin ring materialising, which short after turns into a lot of tiny specks. Not much leg work though.

The approach is very rich and voluminous profile, but also quite aggressive.

It is quite evident that we are dealing with a high proof rum. Strange thing that the weakest of the three is actually the most aggressive on the nose.

Apart from the stinging alcohol, there is also a lot of pleasant things to look for.

Burnt brown sugar plays a big part of the profile, along with a lot of fat, fruity things.

Marzipan and dried apricots with juicy pineapple and fresh plums.

Despite being 21 years old the oak is very soft and subtle on the nose.

At the very backend some black berries and a grassy undertone.

A little bit unbalanced and the alcohol took an unnecessary stab at my brain through the nose, but all in all a quite good nose.

It goes full throttle and starts beating you with lots of burnt oaks and fat red whine with plenty of tannic bite.

Quite powerful and a little bit off the hinges. It feels a little clumsy and unrefined.
On the flavour side there is a lot of sweet Demerara sugar and dried, tropical fruits. Apricots and figs come forth along with a little cinnamon.

Just before the curtain call there is a last burst of liquorice and a bit of leather.
Quite good, but also a little oafish.

The fade starts out with lots of heat, and then it speeds up and leaves the scene hand in hand with the sweetness.

Quickly out the door and leaves almost nothing.

Sadly. Since it would have been nice to be able to enjoy the flavours for a while.

I don’t want to say that I’m disappointed, but I am. A little.

The nose was good, the palate was also quite good, and the finish just happened way too fast.

It has some of the same explosive power as other tropical, high proof, Demeraras. But where as certain others just turned up the volume to deafening, this one claws your palate and breathes fire up your nostrils.

It is simply too unrefined and even a bit clumsy.

We are definitely in the upper end of the scale, but when comparing this to its peers, it still has a few steps to take before it is on par. Therefore we will end up with a…

Rating: 82/100

Final Thoughts
Seeing the massive success Velier created with their Demerara rums, this was bound to happen.

And when Velier stated that they were no longer allowed to pick up barrels from the DDL warehouses, many already started speculating, that this was were DDL would be going.

Although I am happy DDL finally chose to go down this path – and I hope that they inspire many other big brand rums to issue similar products – I still feel it has been a little too easy for DDL.

Velier took the chance and started a whole new ball park of products, went with it for years, and after more than 10 years they had built an empire for the aficionados.

Huge risk and huge effort went before the massive recognition they deserved.

And then, DDL simply swoops in to capitalise on it. I can’t say I blame them, but it still feels like a cheap shot. From a business perspective it is no doubt a clever move. The rum markets are evolving fast, and more and more people are prepared to spend large sums of money buying high end and rare rums.

Speaking of large sums, the prices on these rums are pretty steep.

Retailing in my location for €240 for the Versailles, €265 for the Enmore and €290 for the Port Mourant, we are pretty high on the scale.

Update, feb 29th 2016: They are starting to pop up around Europe in the area of €200-220, which is much more digestable for a single still, tropically aged Demerara.

Silver Seals, Samarolis and whatever few Veliers there may be left, are listed at similar prices in Denmark, so I guess DDL are just following suit. Or perhaps the prices are dictated by the Danish importer and wholesalers? Perhaps they simply want a larger piece of the cake from these soon-to-be-super-rare-rums. But the most plausible is the fact that spirits are taxed aggressively in Denmark when we are reaching higher proofs.

No matter how and where the mark up is done, the consumers has to be willing to part with a substantial amount of cash for these babies. And if you want a complete set, you betting be setting aside for it in advance. Close to €800 can buy you a lot of things. Not just rums.

So, are they worth it?

I can’t really make up my mind. Up until this release we have been spoiled by cheaper and better predecessors, which is practically an unbeatable combo.

At the same time the new El Dorados mark the beginning of a new era of rum. An era where even big brands are beginning to experiment with rums which exist outside the box of the typical rum of the mill (pun intended).

Could the new pricing be just another evolution of the rum world? A part of me hopes against it. I like my rums awesome and cheap. But at the same time I realise how naive that wish is.

Then again we have the quality. There is no doubt that we are dealing with good quality rums here.

All of them are quite good, but frankly not that unique when compared to the horde of indie bottling available out there.

Sure the El Dorados are tropically aged and all that. But they still don’t turn out more awesome. Sadly, it is a little bit on the contrary.

Are they for me? Yes and no. They are high proof Demeraras, which is my favourite kind of grog.

But the Port Mourant doesn't have any finesse. The Enmore ends in a rather dull way. And the Versailles feels restrained. It's like they are not fully awesome on purpose. Like DDL has dialled them all down a notch.

I hope that DDL will keep doing this and get the chance to refine and improve their releases in the coming years, so we will get the 100% awesome Demeraras a little longer down the road, which we will happily hurl our hard earned cash at.

I believe we need to see a couple more releases before we can draw any conclusions on there this adventure is going.

For now it is time to wield a lot of patience and wait for the next release.

Until then, I’ll sit back and play around with these three a little more. No matter what came before them or how the treated me along the way, they are fun and good rums well worth enjoying.



  1. Compliments.
    It would not be a bad idea if:
    Any fan of Rum, after having tasted these three new labels, you may write an email to Demerara.
    Telling their impressions and what do you think of these new products. Illustrating their expectations. And their wishes for future bottlings.

    1. That's a good idea. I would do it myself, except that DDL never bothers to respond.

  2. Hi Henrik,

    thanks for pointing out that the information in my article on cocktailsoldfashioned is outdated. As Lance already pointed out, it will be hard to update the complete matrix, as DDL usually never answers questions.

    Even in 2011 it was very difficult to get the little information I got from "official sources".

    With the old stills, long history and they're extensive warehouses, DDL could be a prime example for good rum making, open communication and honouring the countries history. Would be great if that would be true somepoint in the future... ;)

    1. I so agree. I wish the producers were more open and willing to supply the community with information. There is a lot of rum geeks out there who would love to know more about everything. Right now the biggest hurdle is actually digging up more information to digest :)

  3. I found the first release Rare Collection absolutely outstanding!
    And i am am sure that nothing is added to the liquid
    Regarding prices please dont compare indipendent bottlings of rum aged in Europe with the original ones! If you compare DDL Rare Collection should have cost at least 3 times more than the others.

    1. I agree that the tropically aged Demeraras are way better than any European aged ones. No doubt.

      As you say, they probably didn't add anything to the Versailles - it could be an error of the label ABV.

      As for the general quality I seriously don't think the EDs are up to par. Perhaps they suffer from only having one true competitor: Your own Velier Demeraras. And compared to those, the EDs sadly fall behind.

      Perhaps the EDs are the best Demeraras we can expect in the future. If so, I really hope that the up their game for the second release.

  4. I hope I can be able to find samples of these rums at some point to try out before starting to save up for a big bottle. btw I`m sure that PM would make one killer of a (Trader Vic`s) Mai Tai...some of these kinds of rums really does. :-)

    1. It would be a bit blasphemous, but I'm sure you are right about the PM :) No matter what, it would be fun to experiment using it for other things than just sipping.