El Dorado 50th Anniversary Tasting Dinner
On May 10th 2016, Vintages hosted their first Rum tasting dinner. It was an expensive evening at $195.00 per ticket, but I think as you read on I think you can see it was worth it. The evening started with Cocktails at 6:30, in the top floor lounge of the National Club in Toronto, and moved onto a structured tasting at 7:15 followed by a five-course dinner in the impressive dining hall. The rums we were sampling throughout the night progressed through some of the best El Dorado has to offer.
- El Dorado 3 Year Old
- El Dorado 12 Year Old
- El Dorado 15 Year Old
- El Dorado 15 Year Old Red Wine Cask
- El Dorado 15 Year Old Dry Madeira Wine Cask
- Single Barrel ICBU
- Single Barrel EHP
- El Dorado 21 Year Old
- El Dorado 25 Year Ole (1988 Distillation)
- El Dorado 50th Anniversary
In the lounge, we started with cocktails and appetizers. A choice of two cocktails was given, a variation of the Dark and Stormy featuring El Dorado 12 Year Old mixed with Ginger Beer and Mango-Orange juice, the second choice was a rum punch made with El Dorado 3 Year Old. Both were overly sweet and at mere half-ounce pour, the rum taste was nonexistent. For a drink-focused evening that was a poor introduction however, the atmosphere and a setup was amazing. It was on average a much older crowd (at that ticket price no surprise there) and nearly all were well dressed (I looked like a common peasant in my shirt and tie).
At about 7:15 the lights were dimmed and everyone was ushered into the main dining room - two level room adorned with paintings of past Canadian Prime ministers. When I had arrived, I was given a table assignment, which turned out to be great. I was seated directly next to the podium and close to where the products were on display. My table of ten fortunately was spectacular; outside one person I had arranged to meet there, I knew no one going into this event. My tablemates all ended up being on the younger side and all were major rum enthusiasts. The event organizers were quick to get a representative from Vintages up to the podium and get the night rolling. Our main speaker for the night was Shaun Caleb the Master Distiller at El Dorado.
Shaun’s passion for what he has accomplished and how he hopes to steer El Dorado’s products was palpable. The event was oversold with ~150 guests listening to Shaun describe the nose and palate of the first three rums. He would run into the occasional short tangent about the sourcing of the barrels or the history of the stills, which made it all the more captivating. I could have listened all evening but the kitchen was ready to serve.
Note: For full reviews, please click on the title of each rum below.
El Dorado 15: Hands down one of the best values in premium rums on the market. Coming in at a reasonable (brace yourselves Americans) CAD$60.80 this product is mid-priced but easily outperforms many rums at much higher levels. The smooth alcohol is flavoured with citrus, spice, banana, and caramel. IT has a very sweet bouquet and palate, which is probably caused by this rum having quite a bit of added sugar.
El Dorado 15 Red Wine Cask: This is the 15yo rum aged an additional 18 months in a char level 3 cask that had been previously used for a Portuguese red wine. It is quite amazing how much this affects the flavor profile of the product. The citrus and especially the orange come through on the nose much more predominantly while it dries out the actual drink much like a full-bodied red wine. I enjoy some sweet rums and do not mind when sugar is added (as one can tell by me liking El Dorado) but this one comes to an anticlimactic ending with an overly sweet finish that was overpowering even for a sweet tooth like me
El Dorado 15 Dry Madeira Cask: Again aged an additional 18 months this time in a fortified Madeira Wine Cask. The nose on this product was rather toned down compared to the previous rum. Dried fruit and oak were predominant. A very dry alcohol, which had flavors of banana chips and pepper. When I went back to the Red Wine version afterwards it made it taste almost unbearably sweet. I enjoyed this one so much I bought a bottle for CAD$130.00.
Dinner was an amazing five courses designed to pair with a corresponding rum from El Dorado. We started with a roasted sweet potato bisque with a spiced granny smith apple brunoise and cinnamon oil drizzle. I can’t lie I only took a sip of the rum while eating because I was more interested in understanding the rum on its own then with food , I took to sipping my rums after each course was finished for the rest of the night.
Single Barrel ICBU: Distilled on a still originating in 1908 the ICBU single barrel rum has a sweet sugar cane note featuring hints of oak, caramel, raisins and tropical fruits. A sipping rum of high quality it goes down smooth with very little burn. The palate of the rum featured oak, coconut, oranges, tobacco and spice.
The second course was a Panko-crusted crab cake on a grilled pineapple salsa and mini salad. This was paired with the EHP Single Barrel. The pineapple tied in well with the tropical fruit flavors of the rum; but once again, I mostly skipped pairing it with the food.
Single Barrel EHP: Another from the single barrel (or connoisseur line as El Dorado Likes to call it) this rum aged for 12 years (but no age statement on the bottle). The light aroma starred apple and orange as the prominent scents. On the palate it came with the pear, cinnamon, oak, and a light undertone of caramel. I actually thought this would have gone better with the first course, but hey, I am not a chef.
Main course was the best beef tenderloin I have had in my life. It was served on buttermilk mashed potato, sautéed heirloom carrots and covered in a cabernet demi-glace. The meat was so tender and cooked to perfection; it essentially melted in your mouth. This was paired with the excellent 21 Year Old Special Reserve.
El Dorado 21 Special Reserve: My go to sipping rum at home, and one of the only ones I had enjoyed in reasonable amounts before this event. Caramel, raisin, orange peel, and almonds all make their appearance in the nose of this rum. The alcohol in this rum by far the warmest of the evening and you can really feel its presence on the way down. The palate is treated to an array of flavours including; oak, a strong caramel, raisins, prunes, and other dry fruits.
The assorted cheese plate starred three cheeses, Roquefort Carles, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, and Lindenhof Raw Milk Gouda. It also came with assorted breads and small amounts of honey and balsamic reduction. Paired with the flagship 25 year old Demerara Rum. This was the first course that I think I really understood the pairing. The soft and bitter flavours with the cheese mixed with the sweetness of the honey and balsamic brought out some of the better characteristics of the rum.
El Dorado 25 Year Old Demerara Rum: This is from the 1988 distillation which I had not yet tried, my bottle at home being from the 1986 run. The nose is very sweet with candied orange, toffee, honey and almond. It goes down very smooth and tastes of banana, honey, almonds, caramel and oak.
Desert was an obvious move to really showcase what El Dorado believes to be the main characteristics of the star pairing of the evening; El Dorado 50th anniversary. It was a sticky toffee pudding with a nest of honey sticks resting on it, a flambéed banana slice, a caramel chip with banana sorbet, and exactly three raspberries. The raspberries must have just been there for colour but the rest was bang on for flavours in the rum. This dessert was an amazing ending to an amazing night.
El Dorado 50th Anniversary: From a combination of 5 distillates ranging in 33-50 years of age, I was expecting a much stronger scent especially for one aged in such a hot climate. The nose hints at banana, honey, fig, marzipan, and a sweet charred oak. Smoother than I thought could be possible for a well-aged rum, although it is slightly sour on the tongue. The nose gave away most of it secrets, banana, honey, fig, marzipan all make an appearance. Caramel and fruits round out the tastes.
The evening wrapped up with the pitch to buy some bottles. I personally bought the EHP, ICBU and 15 Year Old Madeira Wine Cask bottles. I would have loved to buy a 50th anniversary but unfortunately, at $3500.00 a bottle it was a touch outside my price range. For the first ever rum tasting hosted by Vintages, I have to say it was amazing. The night was well worth it, excellent speakers, excellent products, and excellent company. If we can expect this quality from their spirit events, I will certainly be attending what they have to offer in the future.