On Demerara Rum
When you’re thinking about tiki drinks, and rum, one of the things that comes to mind is how Donn and Vic were able to blend rums to make such potent potables. Everyone else surely had a rum or two up their sleeve, why didn’t they think to grab the rum off of the shelf, and make the next great Rum-dinger?
One of Donn’s secrets was reaching for the unknown categories of Rum, bringing in different flavors to each blend. Probably his most used secret was Rum coming from Guyana, known as Demerara Rum. In the past, there were a number of distilleries operating under various labels, but nowadays the sole distiller on Guyana is Demerara Distillers, Ltd. Their signature line, El Dorado, boasts one of the largest product lines in Rum today, including a 151 proof, a dark, gold, white, and five different aged rums. This doesn’t even include the numerous rums they produce for other labels, and the products from the distillery that go into numerous other brands, including Pusser’s and Lemon Hart. At production rates of 26M Liters per year, that’s a lot of rum!
This smokey, rich molasses-based Rum was the secret sauce behind a number of Donn’s most famous creations, such as the Zombie, Coffee Grog, and the Demerara Dry Float. Vic had this to say about the stuff in his “Book of Food and Drink:”
“Demerara rum… has its own class. It is similar in some respects to dark Jamaica, but it has a dry burned flavor along with the aromatic and pungent flavor of the Jamaica rum. The makers of Demerara rums take great pride in obtaining distinctive flavor in their products and it is interesting to try to detect their flavoring agents.”
One of the biggest contributing factors to the unique flavors brought about from Demerara Distillers has to be the use of a 200 year old Coffey Still that’s been in continuous operation for around 150 years. The products of this still go into their finest rums, and is a particularly high selling point for Pusser’s, which gets a lot of its flavor from the unique combination of Demerara and Jamaican Rums.
Now, I couldn’t tell you precisely what brands Donn or Vic were using (Lemon Hart, Lamb’s Navy, and Hudson’s Bay were available at the time), though there are some hints in this Rebirth of the Zombie post on TikiCentral. These days though, the Demerara most available (and highly recommended) for mixing is Lemon Hart, which is available in 80 and 151 proof. The 151 can be distinguished solely by a red triangle in the upper left side (while facing) of the label denoting “151”. After a few rather sloshy mistakes, I now put a bright red speed pour on the top of my 151 bottle to distinguish the two.
I was given a few samples of the 12, 15, and 21 year rums by the folks at Demerara Distillers, and had imbibed plenty of the stuff down at Tales of the Cocktail. I am very pleased to have such good stuff generally available, if not locally, online, and am proud to boast almost the entire collection now at the Galley.
The 12 year rum starts off with a bit of a punch of smoke to the nose, but calms down after a few minutes in the glass. The taste is a bit of butterscotch, honey, and vanilla, with a sweet floral bite on the end. The viscosity of this rum is just pure joy. The 15 year is a touch dryer than the 12, still with a lot of the honey flavor. The nose is noticeably calmer, and almost floral. It is only slightly viscous, and has a gorgeous woody cinnamon finish to it. The nose on the 21 year old is almost transparent, with only the vaguest hints of a floral cologne, and honeycomb. The flavor is sharp, with a hefty alcoholic punch at the front, making way for cedar and citrus notes on the tongue. The 21 year is definitely one to try, but I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed with the younger rums. Now if only I could get my hands on a bottle of the 25 year, wouldn’t that be a treat?
While the higher aged rums can be a touch pricey to mix with, like Gary Regan says, crap in, crap out. The 12 year actually falls around the same price point ($24) as the Lemon Hart 80, and is quite a bit smoother, while maintaining that same sharp smoke note at the front. The biggest intial tell between the two is the rich, syrupy viscosity of the 12 year compared to the Lemon Hart 80. After sitting a few minutes, the notes of the 12 still stand strong, while the Lemon Hart 80 has lost a bit of its initial punch, but still packs a bit of burn on the end.
The 12 year El Dorado, while a lovely sipping Rum, absolutely shimmers and shines in this adaptation of a Trader Vic original, the Rum Pot.
- 1 1/2 El Dorado 12 year
- 1/4 oz Vanilla Syrup
- 1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
- 3/4 oz Orange Juice
- 3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Shake well and pour into Double Rocks Glass.
The depth and sweetness of the Demerara Rum and the light citrus notes from the Lemon and Orange clash in mysterious and surprisingly complex ways. This is one of my favorites as of late, and has even been added to the permanent selection for the Tiki Third Tuesday at Teardrop Lounge menu.