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Battle Of The Port Mourants - El Dorado vs Holmes Cay vs Bristol - Rum Review

Demerara Distillers Ltd, famous for their El Dorado line, has been the only rum distillery in Guyana since late 1999. This used to be very different. In the 1700’s there were around 300 sugar estates with a rum still in Guyana. By 1938 there were only 9 left: La Bonne Intention, Blairmont, Skeldon, Enmore, Albion, Uitvlugt, Versailles,Port Mourant and Diamond. After the government privatized the sector in the mid 70’s, only three distilleries remained: Uitvlugt, Enmore and Diamond. Lucky for us, these closures didn’t always result in the stills being scrapped. In several cases they were moved to another distillery. This is why DDL currently has quite the collection of historic stills to its disposal, with which incredible rum can be made (the Velier Demeraras come to mind).


This article is about three rums distilled on the Port Mourant still. Port Mourant is named after its founder Stephen Mourant and is quite a household name in the rum world. It’s the rum equivalent of a celebrity like Taylor Swift, or let me be less offensive and say Whitney Houston…or better Aretha Franklin. She’s beautiful, talented, passionate and can definitely make you sing. Port Mourant, the Aretha Franklin of stills. Works for me.


It’s a double pot still (or vat still) that's one of the oldest operating stills in the world, dating back to 1732 and it’s partially made of wood! Specifically green heart. It’s the only one of its kind in use today. Originally, it was located at the Port Mourant Estate. When that closed in 1955, the still was moved to Albion and then to Uitvlugt. Unfortunately that distillery closed in December 1999. Luckily the still was moved again, this time to its current location at Diamond Estate. For more historic information about Guyana rum, there isn't a more detailed article out there than Marco Freyer's.


The following tasting was done in semi blind format. I knew which rums were in the lineup, but not in which order.

The Cast


Bristol Classic Rum Port Morant 25 Years

Distilled: 1990

Age: 25 years

Abv: 46%

Cask: Ex-bourbon until 2005, Ex-Oloroso Sherry for the remaining 10 years

El Dorado Rare Collection Port Mourant 1999

Distilled: 1999

Age: 15 Years

Abv: 61.4%

Cask: Ex-bourbon

Holmes Cay Guyana Port Mourant 2005

Distilled: 2005

Age: 15 years

Abv: 56.4%

Cask: Ex-bourbon

Bottles produced: 180



Nose


Rum 1

It’s pretty strong on the alcohol to start. I’m smelling menthol, caramel, tobacco and light anis. It’s quite musty and the more time I take, the more licorice comes through. It’s a bit meaty and dare I say….soapy. Not as layered as the other two


Rum 2

First impression is that it’s lighter on the alcohol and more fruity. It then turns meaty…and I’m talking a fat meat sandwich. Smoke comes through, like being in a smokers room in a hotel. That threw me off for a second. Straight back to some better stuff though with rubber, light cardboard, toffee, cheese and pickles. It’s lighter and crispier than the other two and it seems younger.


Rum 3

Starts off with sherry and wood. Then paint stripper, smoked meat, licorice, rubber, chocolate, anise and leather. It’s very enjoyably musty. Feels balanced.


I must say I enjoy all 3 of them. However, #3 is the clear winner and #2 is slightly more interesting than #1

Taste


Rum 1

Hot!! Anise is back, which seems to be a bit of a theme with Port Mourant rums. Rubber, wood, dark chocolate, black tea and licorice. The menthol and wood are strong on the long smokey finish. Only thing I don’t like is the level of bitterness.


I’ve added some water to calm it down a bit and see if it made a difference in flavour. It did, and especially brought chocolate more to the forefront. To me it made for a more pleasant experience. The finish remains mighty long. The bitterness is still there. It’s a hot and intense rum that could have done with a slightly lower abv.

Rum 2

Menthol and wood to start, it’s sweet and having none of the bitterness of rum 1. It’s meaty. Toffee, pickles, tobacco and leather. It’s quite an intense affair. The finish is shorter than rum 1, but it’s still long and enjoyable. Doesn’t have as much body as rum 1, but it’s more interesting to dissect, not as hot and not as bitter.

Rum 3

This one is definitely lighter on the alcohol. I’m tasting oak, sherry, mint, toffee, light paint stripper, caramel, anise and tobacco. I feel like it would have benefited from an extra 5 or 10% alcohol. Despite that, it’s coating my mouth in goodness. It’s sweet in the front and dry on the finish. Love this one.


Reveal


Rum 1: El Dorado Rare Collection Port Mourant 1999

Rum 2: Holmes Cay Guyana Port Mourant 2005

Rum 3: Bristol Classic Rum Port Morant 25 Years

Conclusion


It’s clear that these three rums originate from the same still through their similarities. However, the differences between them are still profound. The El Dorado is intense and powerful. It really slaps you in the face. A little bit of water makes it a better experience to me. What let it down is a certain level of bitterness that’s present. Without that it would have been a lot more pleasant.


Holmes Cay has bottled another gem, after their excellent Barbados expression. Compared to the El Dorado it felt fruitier and crispier. Less body, but a little bit more complexity and less of the overwhelming alcohol. It felt younger than the others. Compared to the ED that’s not actually the case, however the ageing location is very different. Tropical vs non tropical ageing definitely had an impact on the end result of these two. The El Dorado’s intensity is a few degrees higher.


My clear favourite is the Bristol. What an amazing rum! Well balanced, great flavour, great intensity. If this was at 55% I think it would be in the running for best rum I’ve ever had. In this case it’s one of the best. Only thing I wish is that I had bought multiple bottles of this one, but at the time I bought it (years ago) I felt it was expensive. It's still for sale in Europe, but the rum world and rum prices have changed and now I see that old price as great value for money. Oh well….the search continues.

Scores


Bristol Classic Rum Port Morant 25 Years – 94

El Dorado Rare Collection Port Mourant 1999 – 83

Holmes Cay Guyana Port Mourant 2005 – 87


Click here for info on the scoring method.

Click here for the complete list of reviews.

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