There were many unforgettable memories made over the course of that week, but one of the most enduring and memorable of experiences was to see up close two of the nine historic stills that are used to this day to make some of El Dorado’s top tier rums: the Double Wooden Pot Still and the EHP Wooden Coffey Still.
Both of these, and indeed every wooden still in the distillery, are crafted from the native Guyanese hardwood known locally as Greenheart, and indeed it is also used in the construction of wooded jetties due to its propensity to handle being continually wet, a quality that is kind of handy when one is using it as a distillation vessel.
Usually the rums distilled through these two extraordinary stills are blended into the El Dorado range, contributing considerable depth and pedigree to everything from their 5 Year Old rum upwards; occasionally El Dorado bottle single still rums from these two historic stills, and that is what we have the pleasure of tasting today.
As both of these bottlings are “cask strength” rums, my personal preference, much like with malt whiskies, is to add just a touch of distilled water to really open up the nose and palate. I often think of that tiny splash of water as “releasing the beast” found within.
Both are currently available through the LCBO, and I honestly cannot remember a time I have been so thrilled to recommend a couple of spirits. These two rums are the very essence of the Demerara terroir, and honestly rank up there as two of the finest spirits I have had the pleasure of tasting in my decades of professional imbibing.
Both of these are serious spirits, made for deep late night/early morning discussions, slow and studied games of chess, or solo contemplations, perhaps with a book of poetry, in front of a roaring wood fire.
El Dorado “Cask Strength Single Still Port Mourant Demerara Rum”, Guyana (Alcohol 56.7%) LCBO $120.25 (750ml bottle)
The Port Mourant still is originally from the now-shuttered Port Mourant distillery, this one being first constructed way back in 1732; that’s some serious history. This very still was previously used to produce “Navy” rum for the admiralty of the British Navy.
This particular bottling was distilled back in 2009, and displays an elegant and refined nose that at times is reminiscent of fine Cognac, although that molasses aromatic reminds one that it is unmistakably fine Demerara rum.
The mellow molasses give way to dark caramel, orange peel, clove, dried fruits (fig/date), liquorice, bourbon barrel oak spice, cinnamon, moist cigar tobacco, and an astonishing fruit profile akin to ripe pears.
On the medium-bodied palate I found a touch of green jalapeño, ripe pear (again), rich Xmas pudding, almond, frangipane, and a touch of sweetness, leading to a long warming finish/afterburn that was simply calling out for a cigar (and I don’t even smoke).
El Dorado “Cask Strength Single Still Enmore” Demerara Rum, Guyana (Alcohol 54.3%) LCBO $120.25 (750ml bottle)
Both of these stills were equally impressive in their own special ways, but the steampunk splendour of the world’s only surviving wooden coffey still (as well as being the oldest operating coffey still!) really left an impression upon me. Originally from the old Enmore distillery, this still is quite the spectacle, the boiling (analyser) column and the rectifying column steaming and hissing away, creating its magic before your eyes, an absolute marvel of copper, steel, wood, and centuries of complex residue ingrained within from previous distillations.
The resultant cask strength is a real treat, and I spent a good few hours sitting with my little sample bottle, admiring the history to be found within my glass.
There was a bouquet of freshly tanned leather, treacle, deep iodine, cedar (like a freshly-built log cabin), icing sugar, cinnamon baking spice, and pipe tobacco (that reminded me of my Scottish grandad somewhat).
On the more full-bodied palate there was dried fruit (prunes/figs), toffee, molasses, hot vanilla oak spice, and quite pronounced acidity for such an exquisitely mellow rum.
The deeply warming smooth finish seems almost eternal, with haunting echoes of treacle, ripe apples and nectarines.
Each sip demands that you kick back and listen to some quality Horace Andy on a superb sound system.
El Dorado Rum are represented in Ontario by Woodman Wines And Spirits.
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