Very smooth. El Dorado 15 Year Old shows proudly, its brilliant clarity and deep mahogany color are captivating to look through. A lively bouquest segués seamlessly to exotic aromas of dates and tropical fruit, wood, spices like vanilla, cardamom, anise and mild ginger, perhaps mace, and just the right hint of coconut and blood orange zest. A tanned leather-like texture rounds out the nose. It is neither sweet nor dry, more musty than earthy. Your first sip confirms this is a big rum, full of pot still flavor yet smooth and well balanced. Another sip reveals the more subtle flavors of sweet vanilla, mild caramel, light milk chocolate, charred wood and smoke, well supported by a medium weight body. The finish is long and flavorful not particularly sweet, with a lingering flavor of licorice and tobacco (which vary over time and bottles, in my experience). All told, El Dorado 15 year old delivers an unforgettable tasting experience.
With nine widely varying types of stills at work (copper pot, steam-heated wooden, column, etc.), it’s no wonder El Dorado 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 and 15 year old rums is far more than three 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 15 year old is a blend of rums, the youngest being matured for 15 years in used bourbon oak casks, and some aged for 25 years. El Dorado 15 combines spirits produced primarily in the Port Mourant (PM - pictured) double wooden pot still and the Diamond (SVW) metal two-column coffey still, and secondarily in the Enmore (EHP) wooden coffey still and Versailles (VSG ) single wooden pot still. You begin to understand the options DDL has available for making unique rum, and that’s just a short list of their facilities.
For an interesting profile of DDL and its many stills, please see Helena Tiare Olsen’s "Liquid Gold" article at the Mountain of Crushed Ice.
Based on tasting sessions with various El Dorado rums over several years and my palate’s (limited?) ability to compare and discern different flavors and aromas, I’d say El Dorado 15 year old rum adds relatively more licorice and anise flavors to the fruitcake flavors of their 12 year old, and finishes more dryly. Compared to El Dorado 15 and 21, the 12 year old’s flavors are far more evocative of fruitcake, slightly more forward and sweeter, especially on the finish. The 21 delivers substantial dry leather and tobacco, less fruit and a drier finish than either or its teenage El Dorado brethren (the 15 and 12 year olds).
You can’t go wrong with El Dorado 15 Year Old. It is very good choice for those times when you want a very flavorful, classic pot still style, aged Caribbean sipping rum. It’s bargain price is a gift to rum aficionados. As with all of El Dorado’s aged rums, sip it straight or with a little ice.
Reviewed: April, 2006 at Commissioner Grille on Antigua, and repeatedly thereafter at the Rum Gallery, USA. Distillery photo courtesy of Martin Cate of Smuggler's Cove.
Rum Gallery Note: The two matrices below are key to understanding El Dorado’s rums. (Click to enlarge). Each age-branded version is a blend of rums sourced from different stills. Those stills give the spirits unique flavors, like a signature or fingerprint. For example, El Dorado’s 12,15, 21 and 25 year olds are blends of rums produced in different stills, and the flavors of each rum have less to do with the difference in barrel aging years and far more to do with the unique characteristics imparted by the various stills. As such, El Dorado’s various aged rums are not simply aged for more or fewer years, they are different rums to begin with.
The charts were created by Stefanie Holt, International Brand Ambassador for El Dorado rums.