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Guyanese Rum

Rum from Guyana, especially the world-renowned El Dorado, is a complex and deeply storied spirit that reflects the rich history and biodiversity of the small South American country. Guyana's rum is distinct, predominantly because of its association with the Demerara River region, which has lent its name to the Demerara style of rum, characterised by its full-bodied sweetness and aromatic richness.

The history of Guyanese rum is as old as the sugar plantations that began in the 17th century. Sugar cane, brought by European colonists, thrived in the fertile Guyanese soil, and the production of molasses soon led to the distillation of rum. What makes Guyanese rum truly unique, however, is its connection to a collection of historic wooden stills, some of which are the last of their kind in the world. These include the wooden Coffey still at Uitvlugt and the Port Mourant double wooden pot still, both of which impart distinct characteristics to the final product.

El Dorado rums are produced by Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), which has a legacy that dates back to the 1600s. DDL has consolidated rum production from over 200 distilleries that once dotted the Guyanese landscape to a single estate that combines age-old techniques with modern technology. This consolidation has allowed the traditions and flavours of the past to survive while ensuring consistent quality and innovation in production methods.

One of the most distinguishing features of Guyanese rum is the use of rich Demerara sugar in its production. This sugar is renowned for its high quality and contributes a unique caramel-like sweetness to the rum. The fermentation process is another key aspect, with long fermentation times using local, wild yeasts which provide a deeper and more complex flavour profile, with fruity, estery notes that are a signature of the region's rums.

Ageing is another critical component of the rum's character. Guyana's tropical climate accelerates the maturation process, meaning that rum aged for a given number of years in Guyana will have a much more pronounced depth of flavour compared to the same period in a cooler climate. The intense heat and humidity lead to a higher rate of evaporation, known as the 'Angel’s Share', which intensifies the rum's flavour and colour.

El Dorado rums, in particular, are aged in oak barrels, which once held bourbon, lending the rum a complexity and smoothness that is unparalleled. These rums often present a symphony of flavours ranging from dark chocolate and deep caramel to tropical fruits, spices, and smoky oak notes. The ageing process in such barrels allows the spirit to mellow and take on delicate vanilla and toasty wood flavours, which, when combined with the natural fullness of the Demerara style, results in a rum that is both powerful and refined.

Guyanese rums can range from lighter, younger expressions ideal for cocktails to dark, rich, aged rums that are best appreciated neat or with a small cube of ice. El Dorado's 12, 15, and 21-year-old rums are often cited as exemplary sipping rums, each with increasing levels of complexity and depth.

The versatility of Guyanese rum makes it a favourite among bartenders and rum enthusiasts alike. It is as much at home in a classic cocktail like a Demerara Rum Old Fashioned or a Mai Tai as it is in a simple rum and cola. For the culinary adventurous, it can be used in cooking, adding a rich rum flavour to desserts and savoury dishes alike.

Environmental sustainability has become a significant focus in recent years, and Guyanese rum producers are increasingly mindful of the impact of rum production on the country's natural resources. Efforts are being made to utilise by-products of the rum-making process and to implement energy-saving measures to ensure that this centuries-old tradition can continue for future generations.

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