The Rum Howler Blog

(A Website for Spirited Reviews)

  • Copyright

    Copyright is inherent when an original work is created. This means that the producer of original work is automatically granted copyright protection. This copyright protection not only exists in North America, but extends to other countries as well. Thus, all of the work produced on this blog is protected by copyright, including all of the pictures and all of the articles. These original works may not be copied or reused in any way whatsoever without the permission of the author, Chip Dykstra.
  • Cocktails and Recipes

    Click Image for Awesome Recipes

  • Industry Interviews


    Click the Image for Great Interviews with the Movers of Industry

  • The Rum Howler Interview (Good Food Revolution)

    Click on the Image to see my interview on Good Food Revolution

  • The Rum Howler Blog

  • Rum Reviews

  • Whisky Reviews

  • Gin Reviews

  • Tequila Reviews

  • Vodka Reviews

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,069 other subscribers
  • Subscribe

  • Visitors

    • 14,385,248 pageviews since inception
  • Archives

  • Follow The Rum Howler Blog on

El Dorado 21-Year-Old Rum

Rum Review: El Dorado Special Reserve 21-Year Old Rum  95/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 27, 2011

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.

The family of El Dorado Premium Rums

El Dorado Luxury Cask Rums

The DDL Master Blender is credited with the creation of El Dorado 21-Year-Old Rum which uses a blend of rums selected from their world-famous stills, the Enmore (wooden Coffey still), the Versailles (single wooden pot still), and the Albion (Savalle still). All of the rums in the blend have been aged in oak for a minimum of 21 years, making this one of the oldest production rums in the world.

The rum is part of a family of luxury cask aged rums which also includes a 12-year-old rum,  a 15-year-old rum and a 25-year-old Rum. According to the DDL website…

El Dorado rums are blended selections of different ‘vintages’ or batches of rums from different stills – aged in oak barrels. Importantly, the age statement specifically indicates the youngest rum in the blend, even though the oldest may be many years older. This rule is the same as the one for Scotch Whisky and is used for rums produced in English-speaking countries…”

This age statement 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. In my opinion, this sets the El Dorado 21 Year Old Rum apart from its peers and it is very hard to find many comparably aged rums in my marketplace.

The result of my review effort is detailed below:

The 2015 Best Rum in the World

In the Bottle 5/5

The presentation for the 12 year, the 15 year and the 21-year-old El Dorado Rums includes a squat smokey opaque brown bottle which has a funky old world charm and which looks great on my rum shelf.  I like the fact 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 each is closed with a quality cork topper which for me is the final requirement for a quality presentation.

In the Glass 9.5/10

In the glass the 21 Year Old Rum displays itself as a rich mahogany brown liquid with bronze flashes in the light. A quick tilt of my glass shows an army of moderately thick legs crawling down the sides back into the rum.

The immediate nose is full of baking spices, orange peel, vanilla, and dry fruits. There are absolutely no medicinal notes or harsh scents associated with the aroma. As the rum decants, I begin to sense glimmers of almonds and hazelnuts weaving through the tapestry of smells, and I sense a building oakiness which is bringing more spice to the fore. The fully decanted glass is steeped with brown sugars and toffee and even features a vague impressions of anisette and apricot brandy.

Nosing the glass is delightful!

In the Mouth 57/60

The entry into the mouth is somewhat drier than the nose implied. The mouth is heated up with oak spice, and my first impression is that I am sampling a yummy oak and toffee extract filled with rich brown sugar. The oak is at the center of the flavour, yet the tannins do not inhibit the other flavours in the rum from forming and delighting me.  Raisins, prunes, and dates give the rum an almost smoky quality while the impressions of nutty elements adds softness to the mouth-feel. Cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar create a wonderful baking spice flavour which weaves throughout, and the rum is an absolute marvel of complexity and balance.

There is much more but my ability to discern the different sensations is well behind this rum’s ability to provide them. I can only attest to vague impressions of tea leaves, cocoa and even a hint of coffee in the swirls of flavours in my mouth. This is rich and elegant!

In the Throat 13.5/15

The finish is perhaps just a touch dry and ends with a surprising amount of vanilla wrapped into the oak baking spice.  A delicious chocolate almond fade is evident. At the end of each of my sample sessions, my mouth is heated with delicious oak and baking spice, yet  my throat has felt no burn whatsoever.  There is a feeling of sublime richness.

The Afterburn  10/10

I have been told that aging rum in the tropics is a tricky proposal. The hotter climate, and the rapidly changing humidity causes the casks to sweat and breathe more vigorously which allows the rum inside these casks to feel the effects of the oak twice as fast as in the cooler climes. Yet the El Dorado 21 Year Old Rum bears no imprint of a spirit which has been over-oaked. In fact the oak has melted into the spirit (or perhaps the spirit has melted into the oak) and the result is a special aged rum which perhaps has no equivalent in its category. This rum is a marvel of aging and blending and belongs on every serious rum aficionado’s shelf.

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


Suggestion for Enjoyment:

My suggestion is to sip this rum neat at room temperature to enjoy all the nuances. The addition of a little ice causes the rum to become somewhat drier and less sweet, which may be preferred by some.


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)


A Note From the Arctic Wolf:

My review of the El Dorado 21-Year-Old Special Reserve was based upon more than 5 separate tasting sessions in my private tasting room. As well, I also carried out side by side tastings with several other well aged spirits which included one well  aged Scotch Whisky (Bunnahabhain 1978 29 Yr, Cask No. 2584, Bottle No. 275 of 581); one 30-year-old Jamaican Rum (Appleton 30 Year), and one 30-year-old Canadian Whisky (Canadian Club 30 Year Old 150th Anniversary Edition)  I felt it was important (even though I am a regular consumer of well aged spirits) to compare this  21-year-old spirit with other well aged spirits as part of the review process.


5 Responses to “El Dorado 21-Year-Old Rum”

  1. Dan said

    Hey Chip,

    I recently tried the El Dorado 21. Your reviews helped steer me towards it and I wasn’t disappointed. Time slowed down, my senses heightened and I sipped upon the best rum I’ve ever experienced. Thanks for your detailed findings. I’d like to start keeping track like you have. Do you have a print out that you complete when you’re tasting and (if so) can it be found on this website? Cheers!

  2. Jordan said

    Based on your suggestion, I sourced a bottle of the 21. It’s so different than other rums I’ve tried. While the Zacapa is more sweet and vanilla for me, this is so spicy with brown sugar and a very noticeable bananna taste on the tongue once swallowed. This really is a great, great rum! When I let it sit in my mouth, my tongue was almost numbed by it – yet the alcohol is very mild.

  3. brad said

    I see you have a photo showing the 12, 15 & 21 years but i see no review of the 15 year on your site… is this still to come?

    • Hi Brad

      The bottle of 15 that I have is several years old, and because blends change over time I am uncomfortable with providing a review from that bottle. If I ever receive a newer bottle I will be sure to provide a review.


%d bloggers like this: