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Demerara Superior High Wine

Review: Demerara Superior High Wine  84.5/100
A Review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted July 02, 2012

The Diamond Distillery sits on the East Bank of the Demerara River near Georgetown, Guyana. The Distillery was originally part of the Diamond Estate which was the last of the Sugar Plantation Estates in Guyana to produce rum, and it is now home to Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL).

I was given a unique opportunity to witness this facility in operation when I was invited by Woodman Wines and Spirits and  Demerara Distillers to travel to Guyana for a very exclusive tour of the DDL facilities. Part of that tour included visiting trade establishments within nearby Georgetown to get a feel for the local retail market. One product which I saw in a lot of the local establishments was Demerara Superior High Wine. This product is a single distilled high-proof ‘high wine’ produced for the local Guyanese market. I was intrigued by this High Wine for two reasons. First, because it seems to be extremely popular in the local market, and second, because it represents the base distillate which DDL produces from the original Diamond Estate Coffey Still No. 3. This is one of the important stills used in the production of their world-class rums.

I requested a small sample of this ‘high wine’ because I wanted to taste this spirit before it was altered by further distillation and/or years of barrel aging. I thought sharing this review here on my website might prove interesting for my readers as well. For the sake of consistency, I will begin where I always do, with the bottle.

In the Bottle  3.5/5

To the right is pictured the 200 ml bottle of High Wine which I was given. I was told that this is a very popular size for this spirit when sold locally as the bottle fits nicely into a gentleman’s pocket such that it is relatively easy to transport.

Personally I am not keen on any distilled spirit distributed in a plastic container, as it turns out these containers are not particularly easy to dispose of. In fact, plastic is particularly bothersome in the developing world which does not have the infrastructure in place to recycle or to dispose of the plastic. I admit glass bottles pose similar problems, but I am not convinced that plastic does not pose additional risks such as leaching harmful chemicals into the local environment.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When I poured my High Wine into my glencairn glass, I understood very quickly why this product is so popular locally. It displays a very attractive nose. Light scents of sugarcane, hints of banana and orange peel, and a very light ribbon of mint rose to the air almost immediately. Even though this is a 69 % alcohol by volume product, I am receiving very little in the way of harsh astringent alcohol fumes, and as a result I am very impressed.

I should perhaps, make a note about the colour of the High Wine. It is not quite clear. A faint haze of green colour is apparent in the bottle and in the glass. I believe this product is ‘rested’ in oak for a very short period prior to bottling. Not long enough to impart more than a smidgen of colour, but apparently long enough to impart a little smoothness to the nose.

In the Mouth 52/60

I remember when I had my first taste of the high wine at a local resort in Guyana called Baganara Island. The DDL executives seemed delighted that I was trying this local favourite, and I think they expected bit of a reaction from me. I suspect my reaction surprised them. You see, for a product of a single distillation which is almost 140 proof, this ‘rum’ is actually easy on the palate. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of heat; but I could sip this spirit (in teensy tiny sips) without much discomfort. It is somewhat oily in the mouth, but intensely flavourful. I taste sweet sugar cane syrup, lots of banana and orange peel, grilled pineapple, and other exotic fruit. All of this flavour is very intense. However, a soothing mint-like flavour also runs throughout the rum which placates the palate and makes everything a little easier to handle. To be honest, I wish I had asked for a larger sample bottle.

As much as I enjoyed the flavour of this high wine by itself, what I really wanted to do with it was to mix a mojito. Unfortunately for me, at the Baganara Resort, they did not have the ingredients to make a mojito. So I settled myself with a healthy splash of the locally produced lemon lime soda (Diamond Splash) and contented myself with the thought that I was bringing a sealed 200 ml sample bottle back to Canada where I would be able to make a few of those High Wine Mojitos. And of course, that is what I did. (see picture below)

In the Throat 12/15

I had mentioned earlier that I found this overproof spirit relatively comfortable on my palate when I sipped it. I guess I should admit that my throat did not necessarily agree with my palate after a few more of those sips. I found that if you take more than a few sips, the throat begins to complain a little. The heat that I mentioned has a tendency to build up from sip to sip, and if you are not cautious it will begin to gnaw at your tonsils and throat.

However, when you mix this spirit in those aforementioned mojitos, there is no uncomfortable burn at all. I should warn you to be careful though; these mojitos carry more alcohol punch than you can taste, and more than one cocktail a night might be dangerous.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The people of Guyana are on to a good thing with their apparent love of the Demerara Superior High Wine. My understanding is that this spirit is relatively inexpensive, and my own tastings confirm that this stuff is darn tasty, especially in a mojito! I suppose I should have tried it is a few other formats, maybe a high-octane daiquiri, or even in a nice high-proof fruit punch. But when 200 ml is all you have, you get a little selfish. And rather than providing you, my readers, with more feedback as to how it tastes in other cocktails, I used my entire supply making those High Wine Mojitos. (They really were that good!)

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Demerara High Wine Mojito

1 1/2 oz Demerara Superior High Wine
Large Ice Cubes
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 Tsp Simple Syrup
1/4 Lime cut into small wedges
4 oz Demerara Diamond Splash (Sub Sprite or 7 up)
3 sprigs of mint

Add the White Rum to a highball glass over ice
Add Simple Sugar and lime juice
Place the rest of the lime wedges into the glass
Add the Demerara Splash
Gently bruise the mint between the fingers and add it to the glass
Add more ice and stir lightly
Garnish with a second sprig of mint

My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score 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 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)

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