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El Dorado 15 Year Old Rum

Rum Review: El Dorado Special Reserve 15 Year Old Rum  88.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted April 05, 2012

Demerara County (in Guyana) is popular across the world for its rich, three hundred year history of rum production. Using a combination of old wooden stills in conjunction with modern stills and distilling techniques, Demerara Distillers Ltd. (DDL), has built a reputation for outstanding quality and consistent production. In fact, Demerara Distillers is the currently the largest supplier of bulk Caribbean Rum to Europe and North America.

According to the DDL website, The El Dorado 15 Year Old Special Reserve Rum is a blend of selected aged rums (some as old as 25 years), from the Enmore and Diamond Coffey stills, the Port Mourant double wooden pot still, and the Versailles single wooden pot still. It is blended and aged  in old bourbon oak casks. The website also makes it clear that the 15 year age statement represents the youngest rum in the blend. This is quite different from those rums which feature a solera style age statement which highlights the oldest rum in the blend and usually includes a high percentage of rum which is much younger in the blend.

I was recently sent a bottle of the El Dorado 15 Year Old Rum by Woodman Wines and Spirits to review on my website, and it is with that bottle that I shall begin:

In the Bottle  5/5

The presentation for the 12-Year, the 15-Year and the 21-Year-Old Luxury Cask El Dorado Rums each include a squat smokey opaque brown bottle which has old-fashioned charm which just screams “Rum”!  I like that each rum in the series arrives in a smartly coloured display box which helps to protect the spirit from the deleterious effects of light. Finally I like that each is closed with a quality cork topper which for me is the final requirement for a quality presentation. This presentation is as good as it gets.

In the Glass  9/10

In the glass, the 15 Year Old Rum displays itself as a dark bronze coloured  liquid with amber flashes in the light. A quick tilt of my glass shows an army of droopy leglets which crawl ever so slowly down the sides back into the rum. The immediate nose brings forward rich oak filled notes of spicy toffee, dark dried fruit, marmalade, and vanilla into the air. As I let the glass sit, I begin to notice sherried aromas of raisins and dates, some dark bittersweet chocolate and a welcome but delicate scent of pipe tobacco. The longer the glass sits, the richer the aroma becomes.

In the Mouth 52/60

I know the website says that this rum has been aged in old bourbon barrels. However, the aroma, and the taste each carry obvious sherry accents of dried fruit and rich bittersweet chocolate. I taste that triumvirate of prunes, dates and raisins which is usually a signature of the sherry cask. I also taste dark toffee and rich vanilla, orange marmalade peppered with orange peel zest, damp tobacco, and loads of chocolate all smothered in a dry oak-filled smoke.

The rum is lush in the mouth and full of character. It does not seem, at first, as sweet as the El Dorado 12-Year-Old or the El Dorado 21-Year-Old rums, yet as I  sip on the glass, the sweetness seems to intensify as the dry fruit flavours of the rum build in the glass. I love how this rum is so different from the 12 and the 21 Year Old Rums. This is not an older expression of the 12, nor a younger expression of the 21. It is its own rum, and it has its own character and charm.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The finish is long with lush flavours of dark chocolate and dry fruit. A nice peppery dry spiciness lingers upon the palate and warms the throat well after the glass is consumed.

The Afterburn 9/10

I always marvel at the complexity and balance of the Luxury Cask Aged rums of El Dorado. These rums, the 12-Year, the 15-Year and the 21-Year all have a very obvious oak influence at the core of their flavour. Yet, in every case the oak is harnessed and made to be part of the overall flavour of the rum without sacrificing those other rum-filled flavours we love so much. The vanilla, the toffee, the fruit, and the leathery tobacco all meld perfectly with the oak creating rums of exquisite balance and complexity. The El Dorado 15 Year Old Special Reserve Rum is a well crafted, sipping rum which should be on the rum shelf of every serious rum collector.

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


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)


14 Responses to “El Dorado 15 Year Old Rum”

  1. Robert Turnwall said

    Really like your site read it every day.I have been waiting for a top rum list and enjoyed the top 30 list.One question the ElDorado 12 year scored a 93.5 the 15 year old 88.5 and the 21 year old 95 why is the 15 year old lower… keep up the good work
    Robert in Louisiana

    • Each of the El Dorado Luxury Rums is made a little bit differently, from different combinations of old and new stills (See Here). This means each is a different rum not only in age but also in composition. It was the opinion of my Judging Panel that the 12 and the 21 were superior to the 15 and the 25.

      Opinions differ of course, and I know many (including the brass at Demerara Distilling) who believe the 15 is their top rum. 🙂

  2. JK said

    The ED-15 is our first try ever at a “sipping quality” rum, and we want to thank you for describing it so well. The molasses aroma,”fat” in the body, and the lingering finish are wonderful in a new way for these whiskey palates. The complexities better than expected.The price ($24 in Los Angeles).

  3. BarrelSelect said

    I totally agree with you about the fact that the 12 and 15 years are are totally different rums. I find the 12 years sweeter and the 15 years spicier. In Quebec, the 21 years is out of stock but the distributor told me it should come back soon. I look forward to taste it.

  4. rus said

    i almost got married once in georgetown!have a great time ,in case your bag is too heavy i could kamkazee over from miami,maybe she still lives there?what a grand place u r about 2 experience.enjoy,jealous russ

  5. Lance R. said

    My father, who still lives in Guyana, absolutely adores the 15 year old and told me the other day it’s a mislabelled cognac masquerading as a rum. We agree to disagree on this point, since he is aware I’m a fan of the the 21 and 25 as well (for all the latter’s failings).

    Good review, and have a great time in Mudland.

    • You know Lance, I had a little dram of that distilled grape stuff the other day (Camus Elegance if you must know), It was so good that for a moment I thought someone had put a well aged rum in the bottle by mistake. 😉

  6. Josh Miller said

    Chip–I am officially jealous of you! Free booze, trips to Guyana–stop rubbing it in 😉

    I have the 12 and 21 El Dorados. I like both quite a lot, but I skipped over the 15 after reading a few reviews that concur with your analysis. A great rum family, but you needn’t buy each and every one necessarily. That said, I want it all!

    • Funny Josh, I was thinking of you when I wrote this review. You really liked the Abuelo 12 and I sense some similarity in style between that rum and this one. Of course you would have to buy the ED 15 to see if I was right.

      (I like to think that rather than it being me who gets free booze, it is my readers who get free reviews.) 😉

  7. rus said

    hey chip,sorry prefer the 12yr as the 5/15/21 are all too sweet for me…have you tried the bristol rums from guyana? russ

    • The ED 12 is very good as well Rus, (I think I scored it 93.5). I haven’t tried the Bristol Rum from Guyana, but I recently received a couple bottles of London Dock Rum (regular and overproof) which originate in Guyana. I am thinking they will be nice. In fact, soon I will be flying down to Guyana to tour the El Dorado facilities. I’ll have a bit of a posting on that early next week. I expect it will be great fun!


  8. akismetuser792662128 said

    Very good point!

    Keep them coming!

  9. akismetuser792662128 said

    Nice review. I myself think it’s a bit too woody and the sweetness too close to bown sugar, with a kind of rough mouth texture.

    But it is my girlfriend’s favorite rum and among the best for my dad’s. So the bottle is long gone…

    But the 5 and 21, which are both superb rums, are currently residing, not for too long I guess, in my cabinet.

    • Thanks JF

      Your comments about your girlfriend and father loving it, but the rum not quite hitting the mark for you seems to be a common refrain with respect to the ED 15. I know many people who consider this to be amongst the finest of rums, and many others who prefer the other rums of El Dorado (especially the ED 21). I mentioned it in the review, that I think it is great the the 15 is so different from the 12 and 21. It allows everyone to have a favourite El Dorado.

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