El Dorado “Rare” Collection: Versailles 2002
Pure Single Rum – 100% Pot Still
ABV Hydrometer Test: 61% ABV @ 20°
DDL / El Dorado’s foray into the world of unblended, additive-free, single marque rums is in the form of three offerings in their “Rare” Collection:
Versailles 2002, 12yo
Port Mourant 1999, 15yo
Enmore 1993, 21yo
Whether intentionally or not, one notices that the ages of these three bottlings mirror the ages of El Dorado’s “Luxury Cask-Aged Rums” (12, 15 & 21yo). They also form part of ED’s celebration of Guyana’s 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britain. Bottled at cask-strength, the ABV’s are 56.5% (Enmore), 61.4% (Port Mourant) and a hefty hangover-inducing 63% (Versailles).
Each offering is limited to just 3,000 bottles worldwide and they are all unblended and non-chill filtered. With price tags of between £150-£200 depending on where you buy them, they are in a completely different price bracket to El Dorado’s core ranges of rums. I am assuming they should be unadulterated i.e. without additives, but one cannot be too careful in the rum world, so with my newly acquired hydrometer and penchant for investigating rums, I am measuring the ABV also…for some peace of mind.
The Versailles offering comes in at 61% on my hydrometers, 2% less than the official ABV on the bottle, which implies this HAS been altered in some way. That is quite surprising and VERY disappointing given the nature of these bottles, not to mention the price of them. There is the possibility of some of the cask ageing slightly influencing the end product although surely the label’s ABV should already reflect this.
***** Update: January 2017 *****
Following my comment above regarding the reading on my hydrometers, Dean MacGregor from @ sent me some very helpful info, which I have copied and pasted below, word-for-word. I would like to thank Dean for this clarification.
“The Versailles Still / Marque has been around and produced since early 1700 (exact time is undocumented).
It would have been made for the local and then for export into various blends.
As far as I know, historically some caramel (not a a lot) would have been added into the casks of some marques prior to shipping to Europe, to tame the rum for British palates. Versailles being one of them.
This practise has been maintained as the marque is still an integral part to other brands blends, and how it has always been done. This could be why your hydrometer reading came out as it did.”
It is worth noting that these bottles are described as “single marque” rather than single cask. Obviously, with 3,000 of each being produced, this means they must be from different barrels, but all produced in the same style and from the same still. This opens up the possibility that they are actually blends from different barrels/casks.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be classed as a “Pure Single Rum” – 100% Pot Still.
El Dorado’s traditional, distinctive and in my opinion, very appealing usual branding has changed for these “Rare Collection” offerings. The regular outerbox is replaced with an open-window version displaying the bottle. Each box is the same, despite there being three different “Rare Collection” bottles. The boxes and bottles explain the history of the stills, but no reference to the number of bottles produced. The bottles are less-stubby than ED’s usual luxury-range type, but do look quite sturdy and impressive and have a nice cork enclosure.
They do convey an image of “premium” and luxury.
Light golden brown with orange-reddish colouring. Thin legs, but they take an eternity to drop down the sides of the glass – they are almost like dots rather than lines. The high ABV dominates the aroma initially, but get beneath this and you can find raisins, orange, oak and molasses. Leave this to settle in the glass for just a few minutes and this rum comes out to play. These aromas become more powerful as the ABV softens, revealing some spices, vanilla and more oak. It becomes far more enjoyable to nose after allowing it to breathe, like a fine wine.
Taste, Initial-middle 26/40
I am expecting this to be strong and fiery but initially it is anything but. It is soft, but full bodied with dried fruits dominating, especially raisins, but also hints of plums and a buttery texture. These flavours are not especially strong and with several sips, the high ABV softens. It is not that it tastes strongly of alcohol though. Despite being 63%, even neat, it does not take your breath away when you sip it. But the addition of a few drops of water softens this further and does make it far more enjoyable, but it still does not have a lot of initial flavour.
Taste, Middle/Throat 30/40
This is where the fire happens with this rum. Now you know you are drinking a pure rum at a high ABV. But despite the fire, it is not rough, although some might find it a little overpowering. With a few tastings, you notice the high ABV less and less. The rum develops a hint of charred oak here as well as becoming very dry with lots of cheek-sucking tannins. As you sip it more, the plum aromas become the dominant flavour and offer some bitterness. In addition, there is a hint of pepper, too. Once again, the addition of a few drops of water assists this rum, but it is a bit lacking in depth of flavour. It is not bad by any means, but it is not a rum I would reach for again and again.
Predictably, this rums burns…the 63% ABV ensures this will happen. But much of the burn is just pure alcohol, with little hints of plum here and there. There is a lingering dryness and the finish is quite long.
Morning After Aroma
Quite an amazing aroma of raisins and dried fruits. This is almost like a Christmas pudding – I could nose this glass all day 🙂
As with the El Dorado 12, 15 & 21yo rums, there is a residue in the bottom of the glass with some specs/spots. The picture (left) shows these spots in the bottom of the glass. Does this backup the potential presence of additives as shown by the hydrometer test showing the ABV being 2% lower than the label claims?
Tasting this, one realises why El Dorado blends their rums and dare I say it, why they also benefit from some additives (I didn’t say that). On its own, this tastes quite raw, definitely not rough and it is great to taste a DDL rum at full strength without the usual levels of sugar added. But, it is a little lacking and is so different from an El Dorado/Demerara rum, that if you hadn’t read the label, you would not realise what you were drinking.
Given the high ABV, this is not one for the faint-hearted, although it can be surprisingly soft at times. Equally, this can benefit greatly from a little added water. I think that anyone who is a fan of El Dorado or Demerara style rums would be hugely disappointed with this especially given that you can buy two El Dorado 21yo’s or four 15yo’s for the same price and I think that both are better despite being sweeter. Maybe we need DDL to produce a blend of their Rare Collection without adding sugar.
P Denotes the rum contains POT still distillate.
C Denotes the rum contains traditional/Coffey COLUMN still distillate.
B Denotes the rum contains a BLEND of POT and COLUMN still distillate.
M Denotes the rum contains MULTI-COLUMN still distillate or is a MODERN rum.
A Denotes the rum is an AGRICOLE i.e. from Cane Juice.
S Denotes the rum is presented in a SWEETENED style.
Bottle/Presentation Out of 3
Glass/Aroma Out of 10
Taste, Initial-middle Out of 40
Taste, Middle/Throat Out of 40
Afterburn Out of 7