Travelers flying to Georgetown, Guyana, experience the beauty of pristine forests and rivers from above. Guyana was a British colony until 1966 when it became a co-operative republic under the rule of L F S Burnham, the then prime minister. The two main products of the country were rice and sugar, some of which was exported to the United Kingdom.
Rum, being a by-product of sugar production is distilled from molasses, then appropriately aged, blended and bottled.
The Demerara River that bisects the country has been well known for its high quality sugar cane and rum. British sailors and officers were entitled to eight ounces of rum per day; this contributed immensely to the popularization of Demerara rums worldwide.
The sandy clay soil on the banks of the Demerara River imparts the sugar cane a taste that no other can match.
The only distiller in the country uses intermittent copper stills that impart a distinct taste accenting the already superior taste of the base material.
Guyana’s climate seems to be perfect for aging rum, and the proof can be found in the product. Demerara rums are much darker than other more popular but colourless, vodka-like looking and tasting brands, but in reality they are light bodied and offer taste dimensions competitors simply cannot match.
Due to huge investment requirements only two companies produce rums, and only distils. (DDL Demerara Distillers Limited). The other DIH (D’Aiguar Imperial House) buys raw rum from DDL, ages, blends and bottles. Some bulk product is exported to the U. K. and European Union for further aging and bottling, or to strengthen weak, tasteless sugar-beet rums of central Europe.
connoisseurs claim English-aged rum to acquire a particularly appealing aroma and flavour. U K aged Demerara rums are marketed as Lemon Hart and enjoy a respectable market share in England.
More and more, both DDL and DIH are switching to marketing their products in markets with a sizeable Guyanese expatriate population, as is the case in Toronto, Montreal, New York, and London, England.
DDL distils at strength of 86 per cent alcohol, which results in a colourless, fiery, and harsh-tasting rum in need of taming through appropriate aging.
DDL and DIH use second-hand Bourbon whiskey barrels made of American oak, or Scotch whisky barrels, which originate in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. During aging, which ranges anywhere from three to 25 years, some of the alcohol evaporates and the product becomes mellower. In the tropics aging in barrels occurs much faster than in cooler climates, and evaporation is larger than say in Scotland or Canada.
At DDL water is sprayed over the barrels to contain excessive evaporation, but regardless, annual losses are over four percent per annum.
Small casks impart a more profound taste than huge upright aging containers, but the former incur larger evaporation losses.
The master blender periodically tastes all aging rums and their evolution recorded for future reference. The final production step before bottling is blending. Tasting notes are consulted, samples sniffed again and small scale blending exercises undertaken to determine the final blend. Barrels then are retrieved, emptied into huge upright casks fitted with paddles for churning in an attempt to create a uniform product. Subsequently the rum is returned to small barrels to be aged for another year.
Prior to re-barrelling the colour may be adjusted by adding a small amount of caramelized sugar. This is done to maintain a uniform colour from batch to batch and to later the taste.
Demerara rums are aged for a minimum of three years, often five. Ten to 15 year old rums are extra smooth and those 17 or 20 super-smooth.
Guyanese rums represent excellent value compared to those produced elsewhere, since both exporters (DDL and DIH) are interested in gaining market share. They cannot afford expensive marketing campaigns as those of old, financially powerful companies.
Demerara fruit rums enjoy an excellent reputation among connoisseurs interested in unique and complex flavours. These rums are the result of raisins, and or prunes that have been soaked in rum, which is then blended into five-year-old regular rums. They tend to be sweeter, darker, and more complex than regular rums. In addition they exude a fruity, beguiling aroma many people prefer over the smell of alcohol.
Most rum in North America is consumed either mixed with a soft drink (mostly Pepsi or Coca Cola), on the rocks, or in cocktails.
Guyanese rums regardless of their age, can and should be enjoyed on their own in snifters, like a fine cognac or single malt whisky after dinner with or without a cigar. They have a particular glow other rums lack and give you a sense of comfort not even fine Armagnacs can!