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Sunday Serendipity
Rum: More than Mai Tais and Daiquiris.

By Stephen Eliot

Remember when Tequila was solely about Sunrises and Margaritas, and when you would hard-pressed to find more than a half-dozen brands? Things have most assuredly changed over the last decade, and dozens and dozens of “luxury” offerings, as the trade terms them, now compete for attention on retailers’ shelves and in up-scale watering holes. Single Malt Scotches, regarded as fairly esoteric stuff a generation back are now mainstream tipples among discerning spirit drinkers, and American Bourbon has taken on new respectability as impeccably crafted, barrel-aged bottling have made their ways to the market. Now, it just may be fine Rum’s turn to grab a spot in the connoisseurs’ spotlight.

Back in 2009, we spent a long evening tasting and talking about a wide range of remarkable rums with their producers and representative at the San Francisco Ministry of Rum Festival, and there were more than a few eye-opening efforts that ranked with the more complex and satisfying spirits to be had. I am not talking about the bright and aromatic sugar-cane distillates that serve as the base for a host of refreshing Caribbean cocktails, for these were very old, cask-aged creations that were clearly meant for drinking neat and savored after a meal much in the manner of fine Cognac and the like.

Among my favorites of a good many outstanding Rums of the evening were the El Dorado bottlings produced by Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) of Guyana. Among the first distillers to market premium aged rums, DDL introduced the 15 year-old Special Reserve Eldorado in 1992, and the brand remains at the forefront of truly remarkable spirits that deserve to be much better known. It now has a permanent place on the spirits cabinet at Chez Eliot

I recently capped off a first-rate meal at San Francisco’s new and noteworthy Comstock Saloon with a small snifter of the heretofore untasted El Dorado 21 year-old version. It was the star of the evening and in turn the inspiration for this Sunday’s posting. It strikes me that the issue here is not so much that fine, well-aged Rums are underappreciated as much as they are simply not near well enough known. There is nothing about the best rums, be they from El Dorado or Barbancourt or Santa Teresa to name but a few, that require an “educated” palate or can only be appreciated as an “acquired taste”. Their richness, layered complexity and depth are such that one sniff and sip will be enough to instantly win new converts. They are enough, in fact, as this article proves, to make evangelists out of some of us.

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