Uncork El Dorado 12 and free the rich brown walnut colored genie from inside his squat handful of a bottle to reveal complex aromas saturated with age, deeply sweet like molasses and fine chocolate, spiced like a holiday fruitcake, with dates, almond and pecan (allspice, clove, nutmeg), then old charred wood and musty leather. Initial tasting reveals a slightly sweet, deeply flavored rum, again the heavy tropical fruitcake spices and nuts are present, with an embedded sweetness like dates. Given the depth of aromas and complex flavors, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that El Dorado 12 shows a only medium body weight, but the finish is satisfyingly long and consistent from first taste through to the end, with anise, dried fruit and mild residual sweetness on the tip of your tongue.
With nine widely varying types of stills at work (copper pot, steam-heated wooden, column, etc.), it’s no wonder Demarara Distillers Ltd produces a wide variety of fine and uniquely tasting rums. All of El Dorado’s aged rums offer bold flavors, and the difference between their 12, 15 and 21 year old rums is far more involved than simply a few more years aging in used American oak bourbon casks. They are blends of rums produced in unique stills, yielding rums of quite different flavors. El Dorado’s 12 year old is in a combination of rums distilled primarily in their Diamond (SVW) two column metal coffey still, and it used to be called "King of Diamonds" before the name change to 12 Year Old. The Enmore (EHP) wooden coffey still is also used to a lesser extent in making spirits for the 12. You begin to understand the options DDL has available for making unique rum, and that’s just a short list of their facilities.
Use the reference charts to determine the specific stills used in each of el Dorado's rums (click to enlarge).
For an interesting profile of DDL and its many stills, please see Helena Tiare Olsen’s "Liquid Gold" article at her Mountain of Crushed Ice website.
El Dorado 12 year old is a big polarizing rum, you’re ether going to like it or you won’t understand its appeal. it’s a powerhouse that applies itself directly to your senses when sipped neat, and its impressive flavor stands out in almost any mixed drink. The 12 year old isn’t less mature than the El Do 15 or 21, it has reached a level of maturation and sophistication of flavor that more time in oak won’t really alter. Your only choice is to collect all three rums (and the pricey 25 year old if you can afford it), and decide which one to sip based on your day’s whim. El Dorado 12 is one of those rums you must never run out of.
Compared to El Dorado 15 and 21, I find the 12 year old’s flavors more evocative of fruitcake, slightly more forward and sweeter, especially on the finish. Relatively speaking, the 15 adds licorice and anise flavors to the fruitcake mix, and finishes more dryly. The 21 delivers substantial dry leather and tobacco, less fruit and a drier finish than either of its teenage El Dorado siblings (the 15 and 12 year olds).