Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) launched its El Dorado Grand Special Reserve 50-year Old Rum at its Complex in Diamond, East Bank Demerara, last evening.
The occasion saw participation from various local and foreign dignitaries as they were treated to an evening of music, dance and rum-tasting, among other activities.
Executive Chairman of DDL, Komal Samaroo, informed the gathering that the product costs $500,000 (vat inclusive), per bottle. Every bottle carries a unique number along with an 18-carat gold pendant bearing the El Dorado logo attached.
Samaroo continued that with every bottle sold, $100,000 will go towards the DDL Foundation.
The first bottle was handed over to the President of Guyana, David Granger.
History, creating the 50-year Old special Reserve
According to the Master Distiller, Shaun Caleb, DDL is not only known as the producers of the finest rums, but also as a preserver of Guyana’s history and heritage. He continued that rum, much like sugar, “is central to our origin as a people”.
Caleb, who attended Princeton University as a DDL Cadet and apprentice to the late Master Distiller, George Robinson, told the gathering that during the 1670’s to the 1780’s every sugar plantation in Guyana had at its disposal, a “small” distillery which consumed the molasses by-product from the sugarcane and converted it into alcohol – rum.
Starting in the 1940’s, when there were only nine distilleries of the once 300-plus in existence, Caleb explained that a few “decisional milestones” were taken from that time on.
One of the milestones, he said, was that if any sugar plantation and/or distillery should close, the rum produced from the now defunct distillery would be preserved either by transferring the distilling equipment to a nearby plantation or by the replication of that rum or equipment on a nearby plantation that was still in operation.
By 1966, the nine surviving distilleries of the 1940’s, had been reduced to five and by 1970, only three distilleries have endured.
Caleb continued that although these three distilleries would have been closed in early 90’s, the rums hearkened back are still produced at Diamond very much true to the same style as the original draws.
Caleb explained that DDL’s Master Blender, Sharon Sue-Hang started with a core of the oldest rum preserved on DDL property.
Two-thirds of the blend of the Special Edition comes from barrels of rum that were distilled on the transferred still, known as the Port Mourant Still, and laid down to preserve in 1966.
The 1966 batch was then augmented with rums that are 40 to almost 50-years-old.
The Port Mourant Still comprises two large wooden vats constructed from Greenheart. It was first erected in 1732 at Port Mourant. It was relocated to Skeldon in 1955. In 1960, when Skeldon was closed, it was moved to Albion then to Enmore.
It was later moved from Enmore to Uitvlugt and finally to Diamond.
The Rum Industry’s contribution to Guyana
President David Granger, in his feature address, traced the history of how rum came to being in the Caribbean. He pointed out that the industry has certainly evolved over the ages; from 300 micro-distillers to just two major distillers, DDL and Banks DIH Limited which contribute tremendously to Guyana’s economy.
He pointed out that the production of alcoholic beverage increased from 20.3 Million in 2012 to 24 Million last year.
The President also identified rum as being a “major” contributor to Guyana’s exports; its employment and excise revenue.
“The Rum industry is a part of Guyana’s beverage industry which employs thousands of workers and indirectly, through bars, hotels and traditional rum shops, helps to sustain employment for more than 20,000 other persons,” the President said.
He continued that DDL and Banks DIH together paid over $9.1 Billion in taxes to the state last year.
“Well done DDL,”
Four casks were signed off by the President last evening. Three containing rum, will be placed into storage. The other cask will be filled with mementos.
These casks will be opened when Guyana celebrates its Diamond Jubilee, in the next 25 years.
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