El Dorado Rums: Not Cheap but Incredible Value for Money

Around half a dozen years ago, we took a look at the El Dorado 21-Year-Old rum, a cracker by any standards. That seems more than enough time to think about a revisit and also look at a few of their other gems.

El Dorado 21-Year-Old Special Reserve Rum

El Dorado 21-Year-Old Special Reserve Rum

Also, to me, it seems that the style of the 21-Year-Old has changed marginally. It might be my imagination, but I think it seems to finish just a little drier and yet still with such impeccable balance. In other words, a great rum has got a little bit better.

El Dorado 12, 15, and 21 Year Old rums

We touched very briefly on the history of rum in Guyana and El Dorado way back then, but with the publication of Matt Pietrek’s magnificent ‘Modern Caribbean Rum’, there is considerably more knowledge available and spending time exploring Matt’s book will give you more information than you could possibly need. If I may, I will try distilling (if you’ll forgive the pun) things down just a little.

At one time, Guyana was apparently three colonies – Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo, all named after rivers. The Dutch settled the Demerara colony in 1745, but sugar cane has been grown there since the 1600s. Indeed, such was the strength of both the sugar and rum industries here that at one time, Guyana was an exporter of molasses. That has changed considerably, and they are now an importer.

In 1803, the British took control of the three colonies. A few years later, in 1833, the British abolished slavery, but there was a catch. The slaves then needed to do a four year apprenticeship to gain their full freedom. Of course, this meant workers were needed and at this time, some 340,000 workers from India came across.

In 1823, British Guiana (as it then was) produced two million gallons of rum. Most of it was sent to Liverpool or London or the Royal Navy. Matt notes that between 1908 and 1960, Guyana went from 44 distilleries to just eight. Worse was to follow. After that period, seven of those have closed, leaving only the Diamond Distillery at the Enmore estate. This is the estate that produces El Dorado (the Demerara Distillers), as well as a few other rums.

This was the era of economic disasters. The Guyanese government’s socialist policies allegedly caused financial chaos and the International Monetary Fund insisted that they reduce their involvement with many businesses throughout the land. This meant selling their shares in the rum industry, which in turn, in the 1990s, freed up Demerara Distillers to launch El Dorado rums to the international markets. It had been available locally since the 1960s.



In 2016, Guyana established a geographical indication for Demerara Rum which was recognised by the EU in 2021. Demerara Distillers is now one of Guyana’s largest public companies.

The Enmore still is the only single wood column still in the world. It was built around 1880s and still produces El Dorado rum

The distillery is known for its wide array of stills, more than any other distillery in the Caribbean. They use an astonishing 220 tonnes of molasses every day – no wonder the country is a net importer.

El Dorado rum distillery

They have two aging facilities, with most of the barrels being ex-bourbon casks, containing rum at 70% ABV.

Like all Caribbean distilleries, they fall victim to the Angel’s share, around 5 to 7% per year. Matt notes that in 2019, they held 90,000 casks in their facilities, with plans to increase that to 130,000.

Looking at the 21-Year-Old first, this is a 43% rum made from a combination of their many stills – the Enmore wooden Coffey still, the Versailles single wooden pot still and the Albion Savalle still.

We now come to the issue of minimum age statements. It is a controversial topic and there is no real right answer, provided there is no attempt at deception, which might possibly occur with some distilleries. These things can be notoriously difficult to confirm, and full information often seems more tightly held than the nuclear codes. Minimum age statement for a 21-Year-Old rum means that no rum in the blend should be younger than 21 years of age.

El Dorado rum gift pack

One can argue that spirits in the Caribbean age much faster than they do in colder climes, such as Scotland and parts of France. The Angel’s Share (alcohol lost to evaporation) has more impact here. What were the casks in which the spirits were aged? So many variables.

All that is for another day. El Dorado 21-Year-Old is a minimum of twenty one years of age. Information suggests most of the blend is between 21 and 25 years. Others suggest that there is lot of older rum included. At the end of the day. Does it really matter? Surely what is important is the rum itself.



As mentioned, it does seem the 21-Year-Old is fractionally drier than it used to be and there are also reports that both the 12 and 15-Year Olds are also following that trend (I’m not as familiar with those rums from days past so can’t really comment). The reports suggest that this is because they changed the barrel regime in 2005 to stop lining any casks with caramel. Obviously, that would not yet have impacted on the 21-Year-old.

El Dorado 25 Year Old rum

As I mentioned last time, there is a 25-Year-Old rum in the portfolio, but I am yet to see it, and given that the price seems to range between US$600 and US$1,100, I am not holding my breath. What is a little curious is that there were a number of reports a few years ago informing the world that the 15-Year-Old rum would be discontinued. Not sure what happened, but fortunately it is still with us.

For those who are so fortunate as to visit Guyana and are keen to learn more about their rum industry and history, there is, apparently, an official rum route arranged with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the first of its kind. A great initiative, although given that the route is some 200 kilometers and Guyana has only the one distillery these days, there might be a fair bit of downtime on the tour.

El Dorado rums

12-Year-Old – This is made from both their wooden and metal Coffey stills. 40%. A pale bronze-gold hue.

El Dorado 12 Year Old rum

The nose oozes raisins and nuts, cinnamon, a hint of treacle and teak, with vanilla and dried fruits, glacéd lemon, spices and orange rind. The palate, which is a touch fiery but mellows towards the finish, sees notes of white chocolate emerge. A lovely rum, with a very fine finish.

15-Year-Old – Still with us, it seems, thankfully. This is by far the darkest of the trio in color. The nose is more subtle, more rounded.

El Dorado 15 Year Old rum

We have notes of chocolate, coffee beans, glacéd orange rind, almonds, spices and vanilla. There is obviously old material here, just adding to the complexity. Wonderfully viscous and rich. Peaches appear on the finish. Delicious with a clean, dry finish.

21-Year-Old – A sipping rim, if ever there was one. Last time we reviewed this, my notes read, “the aromas flow through an array of flavors and characters – spices, notably cinnamon, a hint of white chocolate, orange rind, Madagascar vanilla, butterscotch, a whiff of caramel, old teak, cigar box, raisins, and much more. Glorious stuff.

El Dorado 21 Year Old rum

A lovely supple texture. Intense, balanced, and yet even with quite a dense weight, it has an elegance. Incredible length and it maintains both intensity and that elegance over this length – a fine tightrope indeed.

Although there is sweetness, it is a drier rum than one envisages, and there is not a hint of cloying or harshness on the finish.” There seems little to add other than this time there also seemed notes of honeycomb and rum, and raisin ice-cream. Ethereal, elegant, subtle, complex, with a creamy texture and perhaps a little drier. A wonderful rum.

All of these rums deserve to be used as sipping rums, with a sliver of ice or a drop of water if that is your preference.

These are cracking spirits and compared to what one might find at similar prices for whiskies and cognacs, they remain incredible bargains.

For more information, please visit https://theeldoradorum.com/blended-rums

You might also enjoy:

El Dorado 21-Year-Old Special Reserve Rum: Searching Out Guyana’s Rich, Liquid Gold

Book Review: Modern Caribbean Rum by Matt Pietrek and Carrie Smith

Appleton Estate 21-Year-Old: One of the World’s Great Rums

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