Review: El Dorado 12 Year Old

Diamond Distillery, Guyana, has no less than 12 stills (although not all produce rum) under their roof from which three of them are made of greenheart wood – Enmore Coffey Still, Versailles Single Pot Still and the infamous Port Mourant Double Pot Still. Spoke a bit more about their stills and heritage in my That Boutique-y Rum Company Unconfirmed Still review.

El Dorado is widely available on the market and is advertised as a premium rum, so I’m here to see if it can hold up to that. Make no mistake, I’ve had a lot of ED12 in my life, especially in the earlier times of my rum journey and really enjoyed it, but my palate changed since and, besides a cheeky shot here and there offered by well intentioned friends or customers at the bar, I haven’t really sat down with it to catch up.

For those of you that don’t know why I’m talking so dramatically about my “palate change” the reason is that El Dorado 12 YO measures around 36g of sugar per litre in various hydrometer tests across the internet and I tend to value craft vs sweetness nowadays, or to be a snob as some may put it. Also Demerara Distillers Limited (who own Diamond Distillery) have confirmed they were ageing their rums with caramel in the barrel in order to achieve a certain flavour profile and colour for export (colour me disappointed), but apparently they are moving away from this practice – more details in the Cocktail Wonk’s interview with the DDL Master Distiller, Shaun Caleb.

The ED range has different blends in each bottle, not just different ages, and El Dorado 12 is molasses based and a blend of 3 different marques from 3 different stills:
– Diamond Coffey Still(s) – SVW – which is dominant
– Enmore Coffey Still – EHP – the only functional greenheart wood Coffey still in the world – built in 1880
– Port Mourant Pot Still – PM – one of the 2 functional greenheart wood pot stills in the world – built in 1732 (although changed over time)
All aged for at least 12 years in Guyana in ex-Bourbon barrels. Bottled at 40% ABV with additives, as mentioned above.

On the nose is drier than you’d expect. Cardamom, pine tree, tree bark, ground coffee and cardboard. Liquorice, green apple, mango, tobacco and nutmeg. Some ginger and cinnamon as well. There’s an intense mentosane flavour which is quite enjoyable. Caramel and vanilla in the back.

On the palate there’s the sweetness I was talking about. Black tea, milk chocolate, coffee, black pepper and anise. There’s a bit of oak, some earthiness and a faint smokiness. Quite a lovely complexity upfront, but then is quickly drowned by the sweetness. Maple syrup, toffee, mint and toothpaste. Some raisins and blackberries. The finish is medium with sticky golden syrup, vanilla, peppermint and caramel.

It’s a shame, the nose was very promising, but on the palate it was a let down, the sugar covered all the potential complexity of the blend. I know sweet sells, but DDL has such an amazing potential that normally is highlighted by independent bottlers and the occasional El Dorado limited range (which most of the time can hurt the budget), so it feels kind of a waste not to see much of that in their core range due to adulteration. Still a decent tipple, especially if you have a proper sweet tooth, but personally it doesn’t feel premium and I wouldn’t spend £37 on it (anymore).

El Dorado 12 Year Old score:
Flavour/taste: 43/70
Value for money: 13/15
Transparency/purity: 10/15
Overall: 66/100


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