Diamond Club Black Label Malt Whisky (Diamond Distillery – Guyana)
Review: Diamond Club Black Label Malt Whisky 79.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 06, 2014
Two years ago I was offered a rare trip to Guyana, South America to visit the home of El Dorado Rum, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL). The trip was part of a media tour designed to bring more awareness to the El Dorado brand and the wonderful rum which the Diamond Distillery produces (see my write-up of the distillery tour here). One of the more interesting finds I came across when I was in Guyana was a bottle of whisky produced by Demerara Distillers called Diamond Club Black Label Whisky. I happened to see it during a media tour of Georgetown (the largest city in Guyana) in a local liquor store and the whisky was selling for less than 3 bucks Canadian per bottle.
I had no idea that the folks who made El Dorado Rum, also produced a Black Label Malt Whisky, and I was of course very curious about the spirit. When I quizzed the folks at the Diamond Distillery, I was told that the base malt for this whisky is produced by Inver House (who own Balblair, anCnoc and Old Pulteney), and that they will occasionally ship bulk malt whisky to Guyana where it is blended (or stretched) with locally produced cane spirit and sold as their Blended Malt Whisky.
In the Bottle 4/5
The Diamond Club Whisky is named for the Diamond Distillery which is located at East Bank beside the Demerara River. This is the same distillery which produces the world-famous, El Dorado, Demerara Rum. The name of the whisky draws a direct comparison to Johnny Walker Black Label Whisky and in fact, in the liquor store where I found this whisky it was sold next to Johnny Walker Black. (Of course Johnny Walker Black was substantially higher priced, and the juxtaposition of the two brands beside each other in the store made for an interesting contrast.)
The bottle and the label are fine. I dislike the metallic screw cap; but then again, this whisky was less than $3.00 per bottle in Georgetown Guyana, so I am not going to quibble unnecessarily.
In the Glass 7.5/10
When I brought the Diamond club whisky to my nose the very first time, I was delighted that the whisky carried such an obvious malt whisky scent into the breezes above the glass. I detect light butterscotch aromas, some fine wood spices complete with hints of ginger and cardamom, bits of heather and some lightly pungent and lightly spicy tobacco in the breezes complete with a light malty sweetness. Although the aroma of malt whisky is obvious, there was also a mild sharpness in the breezes which told the tale of the young cane spirit which had been used to ‘stretch’ the whisky.
As the glass breathed, the cane influence became more and more obvious. My guess is that the reality of selling whisky to a local population in an emerging world economy dictates certain measure be undertaken to keep the price in line with what the market can afford. At the price this bottle sells for in its local economy, it is hard for me to be critical.
In the Mouth 48/60
The dichotomy of malt and young cane spirit continues to influence my perceptions as I sip on the Diamond Club Black Label. There is a sweetness up front in the delivery which reminds me of Demerara sugar; the spirit also carries fine oak spice, a gentle sweep of vanilla, some pipe tobacco, and a light herbal character which is reminiscent of heather and willow bushes. I also taste a light bitterness creeping which seems to be related to my perception of the heather and willow bushes. An impression of freshly shelled almonds adds to this impression of light bitterness.
The overall flavour is pleasing and if not for a sense of immaturity and a light astringency which runs through the whisky, this would be a very nice sipper. However, as interesting as I am finding this experience of tasting a whisky from Guyana, I conclude this Black Label whisky seems to be more suited for mixing than for serving neat or with ice. To that end I mixed a nice cocktail and found the experience quite enjoyable (see recipe below).
In the Throat 12/15
The exit is a combination of lightly bitter fruit pith (the white stuff on the inside of an orange peel), malty sweetness, and hints of cane sugar. The combination works very well together making the spirit neither too bitter, not too sweet.
The Afterburn 8/10
It would have been easy to dismiss this spirit because of the cane influence, however I think that would have missed the point altogether. Although many persons like to define whisky by grain, it should be accepted by those of us who review this spirit that in different ways in different parts of the world different criteria for whisky exist. In fact, most of the world (including large producers like the USA and India) allow the producer to use neutral spirit and/or cane spirit in the production of their whisky. Just because this is not the way it is done in Canada or Scotland, does not mean that the review process should be tainted.
The Diamond Club Black Label was a very pleasant surprise. Although the whisky has been stretched with the influence of cane spirit, the resulting spirit is a pleasant mixer great for highballs and bar drinks. And at less than $3.00 a bottle, that is pretty amazing.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Georgetown Whisky Sour
2 oz Diamond Club Black Label Malt Whisky
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup
Splash of Q-Soda (sparkling water)
Mix the four ingredients in a mixing glass
Strain into a glass tumbler
Add a splash of sparkling water
Garnish with a slice of Lemon
Note: If you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)