All photos courtesy David Stewart
Friday, August 16th was National Rum Day – For some it was a cheap chance to abuse Daiquiris with low quality spirit, bad mixers and blenders. For others (like myself) it was a chance to get educated about the green sugarcane-based spirit we call rum. Thankfully, I was not alone in my quest for knowledge – El Dorado Rum invited a few select guests to a portfolio tasting in the Library Room of the NoMad Hotel Bar.
The tasting was lead by Mr. Shaun Caleb- El Dorado’s Master Rum Distiller and co-hosted by their newest consultant and Tiki Monday Pirate King, Mr. Brian Miller. Listening to Shaun and Brian talk, I learned the intimate history behind the Demerara rum making and naming process. The single barrel rums are named after the plantation owners or the actual estates. Also, they have centuries old rum making stills that currently produce a wide range of rums. To be clear, the same stills from over 300 years ago (when rum was in its Beta phase) are working to this day in Guyana at the Demerara distillery producing El Dorado rum. Wood, copper and steel stills that are old enough to make Betty White look like Selena Gomez are cared for like newborns with skills passed down from generation to generation. It’s a full circle process- making El Dorado rums, involving multi tiered quality control, higher than standard environmental protection, and joy.
Throughout the night we tasted El Dorado’s 5, 8 and 12 year old blended rums, as well as, their elite Single Barrel rums. Each sip and story about El Dorado brought me closer to the fact that this is a product made out of pride not profit. Each rum contained a unique flavor and mouth feel. But the true secret about El Dorado is this:
They all call forth a trace memory of other spirits from the US and across the pond.
As you dive into the line of rums, you will pick up notes of a Speyside Scotch, American Bourbon and a certain Louisville favorite. To tell you which rum has what notes would be a self-righteous spoiler alert. Tasting these rums and working out the connections for you will be a luscious, spirit-driven Rubik’s Cube for your palate and olfactory sense. What I can tell you is a bit of the ‘how.’ It’s based on An Inconvenient Truth – El Dorado’s rums become unique due to Guyana’s un-fluctuating, yet humid climate. The humidity rapidly ages the rums while they rest in white American oak barrels. It is a love story of North (-ern American storage principles) marrying a South (American) climate, turning the tasting notes of a 5 year old into something that feels much older.
That night I was reminded of the contrast of the usual brand lecture, which can sometimes shape how the night will go:
* The host is a marketing grad who memorized the history of the product.
* The crowd is populated with interns from a PR firm with over rehearsed questions.
Thankfully that night had none of the above. The way Caleb and Miller engaged each other with stories and inside jokes, everyone could tell how much personal pride, love and respect they have for El Dorado. This was not an evening of sales numbers and carefully crafted stories. It was an educational, engaging hang out with people who love what they do and the ability to answer any question without relying on index cards and ear pieces. The passion to proudly represent the history of the sugarcane estates and their product is contained in every bottle and every sip.
I would happily add El Dorado (especially 8 and 12 year) to my short list of must have rums!
Till next we drink, always remember and never forget.
“Cheap booze is a false economy.”
Christopher Hitchens – English-born American author, journalist and literary critic for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and too many to mention here. 1949 – 2011.