My children are fish. Well, more accurately, marine mammals. They started snorkeling as soon as they could swim, Scuba at twelve and by fourteen had quite a few dives in two countries under their weight belts and Advanced Open Water certification. So when they wanted to do a Nitrox (high O2 content gas) course, I just asked where. I think I actually heard my credit card groan and snap when they answered "The Great Barrier Reef".
What could be a more appropriate dram for three nights at sea (recounting/embellishing the days adventures), than the traditional maritime spirit; rum! Fortunately, a couple of bottles of El Dorado Demerara rum had arrived the previous week (complete coincidence of course). El Dorado 12 and 15 year old are blended rums distilled using a combination of stills; single and double wooden pot stills and Coffey stills. They are then "married" in bourbon casks during maturation. The 15 allegedly contains rums of up to 25 years old, which is a very long time in the hot climate of Guyana. The 12 can be had for about $80-100AU whereas the 15 is $100-150AU. In addition to three years extra maturation, the 15 also has a higher ABV, at 43%.
El Dorado 12 40% ABV
Colour: Chestnut Ollorosso.
Nose: Bourbon, lots of it. Oak, lime, orange zest, allspice and a hint of tea tree oil on a backdrop of damp hessian; complex and interesting.
Palate: Rich, ripe fruits/Demerara sugar sweetness balanced by exotic spices and dry oak. Caramel, blackberry, dark chocolate and lingering vanilla in a drying medium-long finish. Divine.
El Dorado 15 43% ABV
Nose: Damp cedar, molasses, overripe banana, wet leather and iodine. Altogether darker and danker than the 12, the 15's nose is quite complex but somewhat muted in comparison.
Palate: Velvet-smooth mouth-feel. Rich caramel, banana cake, cinnamon, ginger and a hint of cigar smoke. Delicious, opulent, old. Liquid sticky date pudding balanced by dry oak that overtakes the sweetness in a delightfully long finish. The 12's Demerara backbone has morphed into rich dark brown sugar, which analogises the difference between these two rums; the 12 is in its prime, well matured but retaining youthful vibrancy. The 15 has gained refinement and richness at the expense of some complexity and vigour.
While the 12 is undoubtedly the more satisfying of this pair, (despite its 3% ABV deficit and lower price) they are both outstanding value. I will buy the 15 again, simply because it's a different experience to the 12. The 15 has been the recipient of the Wray & Nephew Trophy for Best Rum in the World at the International Wine & Spirits Challenge for an unprecedented four years running; an accolade it certainly does not deserve but one which serves to illustrate just how adorable it is. If you'd like to get into sweeter, darker rums, this delightful pair is a good staring point.