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El Dorado 12 & 15 year old – 2009 vs. 2021

First of all, I am glad to tell you that my hiatus is finally over. In a broader sense, I work in public health, so the last year was a really demanding one and other things had priority.

But let’s resume with something that my friend Ivar from rum revelations recently discovered. Apparently, there has been a massive change in the standard range of El Dorado in regards to their addition of adulteration. Ivar did a comparison of the 15 year old and noticed a drastically different product presented to him. And since I had a pair of the 12 and 15 year old at home that were bought in 2009, I ordered their current counterparts and went testing.

There is almost no hint to the change, and even the new label does not guarantee that you will get the versions I bought for this review. (Thanks to Helmut from for the info). It seems that the recent standard range offering, given that this is not a one-batch experiment, has reduced the rums‘ sugar content in 2019 with the new label and then drastically again in 2020. To illustrate let’s see the hydrometer measurements in comparison:

Hydrometer readingsBought 2009Bottlecode 2019Bottlecode 2020
El Dorado 1235 g/Ln/a6 g/L
El Dorado 1548 g/L21 g/L (Measured by Helmut)0 g/L

That is quite the difference, so I went along and did them semi blind in the presented order:


El Dorado 15

Bottled 2020, distilled around 2005

Nose: At first, there is a lot of dry oak wood and caramel; the alcohol is almost not present at all. After a while, some spice and a hint of vanilla appear in the mix. There still is some sweetness, but it never dominates. The spices get more complex, nutmeg and allspice with some dried herbs. I like it.

Palate: At first, there is a little bit of alcoholic sharpness that vanishes as fast as it came. There is a slight sweetness that reminds me of raisins but it is toned down quite a bit by an astringent dryness with loads of complex wood aromas. Something fresh in the background, but it withers away to a long-lasting finish of lingering caramel and a warm and dry wood bouquet.

Blind-Tasting Guess: I am quite certain that this is the new 15 year old. I really like it, this is the standard offering from Guyana we deserve!


El Dorado 15

Bought 2009, distilled around 1994

Nose: Heavy and sweet caramel, and loads of it. I am not sure whether the sharpness is the sugar or the alcohol. Otherwise, it is initially rather flat. Leaving it for a while, it opens up with some more oak and some lovage, but still, everything is syrupy booze…

Palate: There it is again, that sickly sweetness, syrupy and a hint of oak. With this, the rum finishes into a bitter and sweet medley that lingers callously long.

Blind-Tasting Guess: I have surprisingly little to say about this. It is overly sweet and unbalanced, and the direct comparison to the first glass feels unreal – I think this must be the old 12 year old. Not good.


El Dorado 12

Bought 2009, distilled around 1997

Nose: Wood and some spices are met by a lot of not too unpleasant toffee. Leaving it to breathe gives just more spicy wood and, the toffee turns vanilla pudding.

Palate: Again with the sugar, it hits you right in the face. Sweetness and vanilla, and in the background a tiny bit of wood. But at all times it is overthrown by the sweetness. The finish has less stingy bitterness than the one before, but it’s there. It is not as sickly sweet, and there is virtually no alcoholic sharpness, probably because of the sugar.

Blind-Tasting Guess: This is slightly better than the previous one but still leaves a lot of space above it. I assume this is the old 15 year old.


El Dorado 12

Bottled 2020, distilled around 2007

Nose: At first, this seems a little flat. Some oak and spice, and a lot more alcohol than the middle two. Leaving it open changes this a lot: a faint sweetness, like prunes or raisins inside an oak cask. All in all, the smells get more complex, the nutmeg and the allspice come back. The caramelly sweetness is pleasant, and it actually is pretty balanced in the nose.

Palate: There is a big first wave of the spices and toffee, accompanied by a slight alcoholic sharpness. This is not as complex as the nose suggested, but it is really pleasant. In the finish, there is some astringent wood, but not as bitter as the first one. It fades into lingering vanilla pudding with a slight warmth. The palate/rum finishes slightly flat, which is probably due to some adulteration.

Blind-Tasting Guess: All in all, I assume this is what hooks newbies to rum, in a good way. I assume this is the new 12 year old since the kinship to the first one is evident to me.



I was shocked by how different the iterations of both bottles were. In direct comparison, both of the old ones were unbearably sweet. DDL has always officially denied adding sugar to their rums. After discovering that they now, step by step, went away from the sugar that was obviously there, leaves me with mixed feelings.
I applaud them for heading into the right direction: both new rums are fantastic value, and miles better than their ancestors. The 12 year old, for me, is a perfect starter rum that I will forgive its low adulteration. The 15 year old is a new staple for readily available and low-priced Guyanese rum. I personally would wish for some more ABV, but ithe 15 year old has literally no competition at the moment.

The fact that you cannot discern by the label alone if your 15 year old is unadulterated before you check the production date is a grave mistake to me. DDL could just have started a new blend with a new label. As it is, it will take some time for the old ones to disappear. But, if that is the future for their standard range, and given that some of their other OB El Dorado offerings were decent too, I am genuinely looking forward to what the future holds for us.



Hampden single cask collection

Ever since Velier effectively took over the distribution of the Hampden Estate original bottlings, we saw a complete revamp of the small portfolio Hampden has released since the Hussey family took over the distillery in 2009. (It consisted of three bottlings, of which one is confirmed gone, and another presumably disappearing from the market soon.)

Hampden Estate now sets itself apart from Hampden rum acquired through brokers: tropical ageing at the distillery. With the Hampden Estate rums and the Great House releases, the positive influence of Luca Gargano on the bottlings is noticeable: elevating Hampden Estate rums from interchangeable standard products to a unique experience. Of course the route of driving towards a more premium approach is not exclusive to Hampden Estate.

Single Cask Collection

For the first time, rum from Hampden Estate is offered as on site aged, single cask bottlings. They were released at cask strength and almost exclusively tied to spirits festivals around the globe. This meant that collectors rushed through the internet, paying almost any price to get all bottles, which sometimes were harder to get, depending on their location.

I luckily got to take part of a splitting of the whole collection from a french rum enthusiast, and shared it with Marius from SingleCaskRum. We did the tasting together, but did neither share our notes, nor our ratings beforehand. You can find his review here: single cask rum review

Let’s jump right to the bottles:

OWH 2012

Whisky Live Paris 2019
7yo 62,8%

Nose: mild and mellow, as one would expect from Hampden’s lowest ester mark. Citrus and spices build the initial aroma, which is being accompanied by mango and pineapple. All are being underlaid with a glue background. After a while, a distinct sweetness joins, that reminds me of an exotic fruit salad. The glue is a bit more present now and the diffuse wood aroma now smells distinctively like oak.

Palate: tingly alcohol, overripe mango and citric acid. There is not a lot of body to this, and it feels rather thin. The finish reveals a comically strong note of very dry sherry, that ends with a medium long and slightly spicy finish of oak, and a little bit of heat.

This certainly will never be my favourite mark. With the Great House and the Hampden Estate, it shows that OWH profits from added higher ester rums in a blend.


OWH 2011

Berlin Bar Convent 2019
8yo 59,5%

Nose: initially, it is much more alcoholic than the 2012, despite being lower abv. There is a lot of lovage and spices which are presented in a metallic and dry bouquet. Also, a slight sweetness is present. After a while, the lovage comes forth stronger and there is a note of anise, and the metal again.

Palate: a specific bitterness, that reminds me of grappa or eau de vie with a dry, astringent mouth feel. The alcohol is surprisingly well integrated, despite the sharp nose. The rum has a bit more body to it. The finish comes forth with a lot of wood and spice. It is warm, but not sharp, and ends with a long bitter note of grappa. Just now I notice that there is virtually no glue here. weird.


LFCH 2011

Whisky Live Singapore 2019
8yo 61,7%

Nose: and the glue is back! And it brought some nail polish remover! This one smells a lot heavier than the first two. Pipe tobacco, mint and a note of cherry coke out of a can. After a while, it mingles into a mint-cherry pie, which pushes the tobacco in the background.

Palate: there are typical tastes of oak barrel: vanilla and a soft wooden note. There is a more distinct sweetness than before. With the second sip, there is the tobacco leaf from the nose, and some fresh cut pears. They disappear into a medium long and warm finish of wood and tobacco.


LROK 2010

Salon du RHUM Spa 2019
9yo 63,2%

Nose: savoury notes of spices, wood and glue are joined by strawberries and rotten banana. This one is certainly more intense! Left for a while, it becomes more acidic and vinegary, the strawberries come through more.

Palate: the strawberries have become overripe and are joined by floral and peachy aromas. There is oak wood, giving it a certain dryness, and the acidity adds a shrub taste that comes with a little bit of iodine.

Then the esters really kick in when the rum reaches the throat. A really pleasant finish with astringent wood, a nice prickle of alcohol with the aforementioned shrub, that tends to become a bit more like raspberry balsamic. It is long, with slightly bitter wood, iodine and a persipane-like fruitiness. This is certainly a step up from the first half for me!


Now we are leaving the venue bottlings and come to the bottles released through LMDW and Spirit Academy.

<> H 2010

selected by LMDW
9yo 69,2%

Nose: a real fruit basket! Overripe banana and pineapple, with the typical strong glue notes. After a while, some spice and wood gets through, but man, this is all fruit and ester. (In a very good way, although there is not much else…)

Palate: there is an oaky sweetness, that, along with some roast flavours, joins the overripe banana and pineapple. The alcohol is present, but not unpleasant. The esters have an almost pistachio-like appeal. Slowly, the astringent wood dries my mouth, and concludes to a very long and smooth finish of oak, pistachio, and the tropical fruits coming back here and there. This is really a superb example of what Hampden can achieve!



The One and Only
9yo 61%

Nose: loads of aroma. Mostly glue, nail polish, and fruit aromas, now going towards a more artificial cherry lollipop, that we got as children. There is more acidity in here. Being left to rest, it reveals some dry wood aromas and some more strawberries. Also a little bit of tobacco.

Palate: initially, there is glue and that cherry lollipop again. They are being joined by the overripe banana and some buttery shortbread. It is intense, but short lived. The finish is very short and smooth, with banana, and a little wood. Despite being 61%, there is zero heat from the alcohol. This rum is quick in your face, and leaves just as sudden. It is pleasant, but being a big fan of the HLCF mark, I fear that the DOK part did not elevate the HLCF in this case!



Night Rambler review

Night Rambler

Admittedly, unaged rum is not the most sought after category for today’s rum enthusiasts. Rhum agricole aside, there is still a broad market, from rum of unknown origin on the lower scale, right up to wonderful bottlings that are usually a bit too expensive. (Just think about Habitation Velier Savanna HERR or Mhoba Select white.) In a drink, they can shine and show off their superior quality over the lower scale offerings. But, for not bearing the risk of cask ageing, it is hard to argue that an unaged rum of around 50 euros belongs in your private backbar.

2018 saw the introduction of a broadly praised bottling: Veritas (or Probitas in the US). A blend of mainly Foursquare’s coffey still, with a small part from Hampden’s double retort still, that was allowed to cask mature for two years in ex-bourbon casks.

Many regard Veritas the best ‘white’ rum on the market. (being not technically unaged) With a price of around 30 euro it sets itself on the higher half of today’s price range for this type of rum without overstretching the possible.

Last year saw the first major release of the 2017 established strategic partnership of LMDW and Velier under the new label La Maison & Velier. Here, we saw the extension of the well known Transcontinental Rum Line: Sailing as part of the Transcaribbean Rum Line todays rum is offered.

Night Rambler

Night Rambler is an unaged blend sourced from Haiti and Jamaica. Even though it is not declared, it is reasonable to believe that those spirits are Clairin and Hampden rum, given the access that Velier has to them. Tasting the rum confirms this guess:

Nose: At first there are strong notes of grass and vegetable fields, complimented by olive brine. Some fermented apples join the initial nosing. Given some time, pineapple and the Hampden typical glue come forward. The nose always stays complex and moves between the aromas. The Clairin dominates the bouquet which reminds me of Clairin Casimir and sometimes of Vaval. The vegetable field certainly is ever so present in the Casimir.

Palate: The jamaican part is able to clear some ground here; overripe Pineapple and rotten strawberries come through in the larger taste of Glue and olive brine. Sometimes there is a hint of spices. With the finish comes a slightly salty smokiness. Here we find typical notes from Hampden and the Velier Clairins: Olive brine, spice, glue and a lots of ester. It is a fantastic finish that is very long. Night Rambler is a full bodied rum which does not feel like it has 42% abv.

Naturally, I had to compare it to the Veritas. Do not get me wrong: Veritas is not a bad rum, not at all. It is a well made rum, that makes a really decent daiquiri that really benefits from it’s 47% abv. It has no off notes and puts more aroma in the drink than most standard offerings. But compared to Night Rambler it comes down to suffer from its high column still content that can leave it almost one-dimensional and with less body.

The Night Rambler daiquiri is far more complex, and, if you like ester, much richer. Despite the lower abv, it does neither miss alcohol or body. Night Rambler is as of now my favourite daiquiri and I go through bottles faster than I care to admit.

In short: I love this rum. When LMDW had a sale on it, I bought it by the case. For its standard price of around 20 euro, it is a no-brainer to recommend and well worth the effort to source it.