Although European explorers had discovered the region centuries before, it wasn't officially colonized until the beginning of the 17th century, when the Dutch established a trading post by the Essequibo River. The settlers planted a variety of crops including tobacco and cotton, but it was sugarcane that proved to be the most successful. The first shipment of sugar left for Holland in 1661 and its popularity soared shortly after its arrival in Europe. At one time there were over 380 sugar plantations in Guyana, and it was during this era that the term Demerara Sugar was established.
A few of the sugar factories began creating rum from the molasses produced during sugar processing, and by 1670 every Guyanese sugar factory owned a small still. Although produced in very limited amounts, this "Demerara Rum" was immensely popular among the Dutch, and the demand for it grew. However, sharp fluctuations in the price of sugar resulted in the closure of some of the factories and the consolidation of others. By 1849, only 180 sugar estates were in production and by the turn of the century the number was reduced to sixty four. This continued through the 20th century and by 1970 there were just eleven sugar factories and four distilleries left in Guyana. Today, the Diamond Distillery is the only surviving distillery in Guyana, and the only one producing Demerara Rum.
As the factories closed through the years, their distilling equipment was quickly claimed by the surviving distilleries. Demerara Distillers boasts eight different stills that were acquired in this fashion, but are most known for their three wooden stills - a Port Mourant double wooden pot still, a Versailles single wooden pot still, and an Enmore wooden Coffey still. The last operating wooden stills in the world, they are created from a native Guyanese hardwood called Greenheart, chosen for its resistance to moisture.
|The Enmore Wooden Coffey Still|
The Port Mourant came from a distillery established in 1732 and produces a very heavy bodied, oily distillate. The wood adds considerable character and the double pot arrangement imparts a deep flavor and rich texture. Rum from this still is used in the El Dorado 8, 12, 15 and 25 year old expressions. The Versailles still produces a lighter, more elegant distillate with smoky, spicy and floral notes. This still is at least 150 years old and hails from the Versailles distillery, which originally lay on the west bank of the Demerara. It is only used for El Dorado's 15 and 21 year old rums. Last is the Enmore, the world's only surviving wooden column still and also the oldest operating Coffey still. It was built in 1880 using plans originally published by Coffey & Co, and is the exact same design as the first Coffey still. Spirit from this still is used in El Dorado 5, 8, 12, 15, 21 and 25 year old rums. It's not just the Greenheart wood that adds complexity and richness to the spirit, but also the residue of previous distillations left ingrained in the wood.
A few of our favorite El Dorado Rums are the 3 Year Old, 12 Year Old, and 21 Year Old expressions. El Dorado 3 Year Old is a cask aged, natural charcoal-filtered white rum that adds surprising complexity to rum cocktails. Both the nose and palate offer intriguing notes of chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, coconut and citrus fruit, backed by a rich note of molasses.
El Dorado 12 Year Old is a blend of spirits from three stills - the wooden Enmore two column, the Port Mourant double wooden still, and a French Savalle four column. Presented in a bottle reminiscent of the flasks discarded by Dutch sailors, this rum is a satisfying balance between sweet, smoky and savory. A nose of prunes, banana and toffee apple is accented by hints of smoke, coffee and vanilla. Honeyed tropical fruit notes appear on the palate and merge with mocha, cedar, tobacco and spice.
Launched in late 2002, El Dorado 21 Year Old is a blend of rums produced by the wooden Enmore two column, the Port Mourant double wooden still, and the French Savalle four column. A pronounced nose of toffee, nuts, tobacco and herbs leads to a rich, complex palate with notes of coffee, vanilla, chocolate, spice and cigar box. Sip and savor El Dorado 21 straight or poured over ice.
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!