Demerara Reviews 2023 - Secret Rum Bar Finale
The stand-out rums from 4 previous tastings - it's going to be fascinating pitching these side by side today to see how they fare.
Clearly there's a gazillion Demerara rums I haven't included in this knockout mini series but c'est la vie. Its been super interesting so there's no question that there will be more SecretRumBar Guyanese rum reviews in future.
This being the final part of my 2023 Guyana mini-series, very little introduction is required. My background research is largely on the first article (full El Dorado). Links to the 'heats' are here:
A rare observation from Mrs SecretRumBar today - "those smell strong". Insightful stuff.
Four rums I already know I love, a guaranteed first class afternoon for me. About 15ml of each, left to open up for 30+mins. Nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order. Assisted this afternoon by the silky beats of Fat Freddy's Drop.
No commentary required - order as per lead photo. Just look at the colour of the Velier blend!
Velier Diamond and Port Mourant 1999, 52.3% 15yr, 1148btls
Little introduction needed for this iconic rum. I first tasted this a few years ago and was extremely fortunate to receive a sample last Christmas from a good friend - thus enabling its inclusion today.
A rare Guyana blend from Velier, two of the great Demerara Marks experimentally blended in the barrel prior to aging at the distillery for its full 15 years.
Nose: A beautiful, immersive, absolutely huge nose. Toasted apricots, deep rich roasted spices, medicinal fennel and menthol, decadent anise and gluey polish. Incredibly complex. About as aromatic a profile as I've ever smelt. Very dark brown sugar. Intense richness. Just wow.
Later I get some meat stock or gravy and lots of tobacco added to the big medicinal notes - deep and amazing.
Mouth: Cripes - very medicinal, almost too much - touches of menthol TCP at the start. Fierce, huge Port Mourant flavours meld beautifully into spice, licorice, and berry chocolate. Amazing how well the complex and potentially competing flavours blend harmoniously. A sweet caramel fruit plus tannic oak finish that is super long and blessed with just the right amount of bitterness. Not a rum for the fainthearted but I love it. Glorious stuff that continues to evolve in the glass for at least 3 hours (experiment closed as evidence fully consumed by this stage). [one of very few rums to hit my 93pts - marginally increased from my previous tasting]
*bonus side tasting - I have a glass of the El Dorado Diamond and PM on the table too; as I wanted to compare these two very specific and very unique blends, and will sadly have finished my sample of the Velier today.
The Velier has a lot more tar and depth on the nose. It's thicker with more medicinal PM on the palate. My best descriptive effort is to say the El D has more fresh menthol & fennel whereas the Velier seems to have an antique tarry menthol.
I'd guess a higher proportion of PM in the Velier.
The El Dorado isn't as complex or challenging but holds up admirably
Silver Seal Diamond 2003, 53.5%, 18yr, 186btls
Comfortable winner of my second 'continental' heat (here). One of two Silver Seal I've so far tried from the fancy dancy Velier collaboration Cedar Series (Serie Cedro).
Nose: Fresher, zestier, yet and with somewhat less depth compared to the Velier D&PM. Interesting rubber notes I didn't pick up the first time. Dried berries and cherries. Very fresh and floral. A little cigar box and toasted spice. Lots of cherry & prune juice.
Mouth: Much more accessible, and a touch sharper, when compared to the Velier beast. Bursting with fruit and some quite serious bitter oak.
Fresh squishy fruit starts the taste off perfectly. A long finish that's maybe a touch too bitter - a mix of oak, vinegar, and fruit pith. A great rum, fun, complex, and delicious. Easy drinking when compared to the Velier! [Increasing my previous 89+ to a solid 90pts]
El Dorado Rare Collection Skeldon, 2000, 58.3%, 18yr, c.3000btls
Distilled on the highly configurable Savalle still. Winner of my comprehensive full El Dorado side-by side (here)
Nose: Orange caramel and pencil shavings. Loads of vanilla oak. Very different wood interactions on each of these finalists - this offers a fresh, caramel vanilla oak. Whereas the Velier has a deep brooding medicinal oak, and the Silver Seal has a more floral cherry juice profile. Beautiful anise richness here.
Mouth: This isn't as challenging as the Velier, but its level of quality is equally impressive. Much more of a crowd-pleaser. Undeniably delicious rum. The beautiful old sweet anise and caramel will put a smile on the face of any rum fan. It has a perfect long finish that goes on for over a minute of deliciousness. [Increased to 92pts, a rare high mark for me - it's that good!]
The Colours of Rum Uitvlugt, 1989, 64.1%, 20yrs, 222btls
Champion of my 'Colours of Rum' first Continental aged Demerara 'heat' (here)
Nose: Initially hardest to approach; the high abv is very apparent. Key flavours here are blackcurant and stewed black tea. Lots of wood shavings, cocoa powder and polish. Marginally less complex than the Velier or Skeldon, with considerable woody tannin taking most of the attention. Some typical medicinal menthol notes are clearly there, just not a punchy or as present as the other bottlings.
Mouth: Burnt caramel chocolate leads to a long procession of very typical Demerara flavors. Malt, mocha, blackcurrant, anise, fennel, toasted nuts & spice. Delicious and wonderfully chewy, a better Demerara for me than the Silver Seal. This took the longest to completely settle down but in the end, the oak interaction is fantastic. Overall it's just not at the level of complexity or deliciousness of the Skeldon or the Velier D&PM. [Stays at 90+pts]
Conclusion: The whole mini-series has been an absolute pleasure. A privilege to taste so many great and interesting rums side by side. My takeaways are that unsweetened, pure, cask-strength Demerara rums have both surprised and impressed me by their variety, especially across the various stills and Marks, and by their ability to maintain freshness and beautiful complexity even with extensive aging.
Rare, single cask or limited release, long aged rums are understandably expenisive to produce and therefore to buy. However there has been quite a range when it comes to 'value' with some incredibly pricey bottles fairing quite poorly (to my taste) when tasted directly against some less expensive alternatives.
All four of today's finalist are outstanding rums that I have no hesitation in recommending. The two finest being being Velier Diamond & Port Morant and El Dorado Rare Collection Skeldon.
Coming soon ...