DDL Albion 1994 17 Year Old Full Proof Old Demerara Rum – Review
Review: DDL Albion 1994 17 Year Old Full Proof Old Demerara Rum 85.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published July 26, 2013
The DDL Albion 1994 17 Year Old Full Proof Old Demerara Rum was apparently produced as a well aged ‘full strength’ Demerara bottling for the connoisseur rum market in Europe. My buddy Lance (the Lone Caner) shared some of this rum with my Rum Chums and I when he was at one of my impromptu tastings, and afterwards he allowed me to draw a few extra ounces from the bottle, and from that sample I have cobbled together this review.
According to the labeling, the Albion 1994 Rum is produced from 4 Barrels (7100, 7101, 7102, 7103) of Albion Demerara rum distilled in Guyana upon a wooden continuous column still in 1994, and bottled at full strength in 2011. When I first looked at the label, I was mystified as to why it identified the spirit as being an Albion rum, when the label clearly states the spirit was distilled upon a Wooden Continuous Still. I have been to Guyana, and looked over the Demerara Distiller Limited (DDL) distillation plants (see my write-up here), and when I was there (in the spring of 2012) there was no Wooden Continuous Column Still named the Albion. Instead, the Albion still was identified as a metal Savalle still from the former Uitvlugt Estate. The only continuous wooden still at DDL is the Enmore Wooden Coffey Still which is much more revered by the folks at DDL than the Albion, and if this rum was distilled from the Enmore, I really think that would have been identified on the label to increase the prestige of the rum.
Thinking this over, a possibility comes to mind. The label does not in fact specifically say that the rum was distilled upon the Albion, it merely identifies Albion as the location or origin of the rum. Rather than the Albion Still, this is perhaps a reference to the Sugar Plantation Estate (called the Albion Estate) where the Rum was maturing. I know from my visit to Guyana that DDL has storage facilities on some of the old sugar plantation estates, and I believe that the Albion Estate was one of these. Whether the rum was distilled on the famous Enmore Still (the largest and oldest wooden continuous column still in the world) is unknown to me. It is conceivable that back in 1994, the Albion Estate had its own continuous wooden still which has since been dismantled. Another possibility of course is that the European import company responsible for this bottling (Velier) was unaware of the various differences in the DDL Stills and just assumed all Demerara rum is distilled on a continuous wooden column.
I doubt whether I will get to the bottom of the matter, what is more important of course, is how the rum tastes once I pour it in the glass.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
The box and bottle look just fine, and my only quibble is with the ambiguous nature of label. As a connoisseur’s rum I was hoping for better information regarding the rum’s heritage as discussed above. The back label makes up for this somewhat by identifying which marque was printed on the outside of the four barrels of Demerara Rum which were used to construct this bottling. That marque is (AN). The back label also identifies that the rum left Guyana in 2010, which would mean one year of the 17 years of aging occurred outside of South America, presumably in Europe.
In the Glass 9/10
Once poured into the glass, the rum displays a rich dark copper tint similar in colour to a well used penny. When I tilt and twirl my glass, the rum lays down thick lazy legs which droop slowly down the inside of my glass as if reluctant to return. The initial aroma is full of caramel and molasses scents laced with the smells of fresh tar, and resin. Granulated dark brown sugar, maple syrup, rich tobacco and touches of dank punky oak all seem to be part of that menagerie of aroma in the breezes above the glass. Wisps of dry fruit, licorice and even hints of mint mingle within the breezes as does a faintly sappy, mildly acrid, vaguely rubbery-like scent. Within this ester filled plume above the glass I also I detect a fair amount of vanillans, canned fruit, baked apples, roasted walnuts, coffee and cocoa. Although I cannot confirm the rum’s heritage, I cannot deny the rum’s character.
In the Mouth 51/60
According to the label, the rum is bottled at 60.4 % alcohol by volume. The result of that high bottling proof is a mouthful of concentrated flavour and heat. Any more than a small sip hits the throat hard. I like the flavour, and my feeling is that this is a really nice overproof rum. All the flavours which I noticed on the nose translate through to the palate, and there is even an added touch of brine in the flavour mix.
Having said that, I feel the rum does not have the depth or smoothness of other well aged Demerara rums I have tried. It is more reminiscent of younger Demerara Overproof rums like Lemonhart 151 and Cabot Tower (100 proof) than it is of the well-aged El Dorado 12, 15 and 21 year Old Rums. I sense character and flavour, but not necessarily 17 years of tropical aged maturity. ( I suspect the rum was matured in old well used wood which had little oak to impart.)
Of course, it is hard to be certain of any conclusions regarding maturity because of the sheer volume of alcohol heat which could be masking the oak spices. However, I note that when I checked my notes on the nose, I noticed that there as well, I noticed only touches of oak.
In the throat 12.5/15
This is a full strength 60.4 % abv rum with lots of heat and flavour, and I was able to sip it with enjoyment only when I added a couple ice-cubes. Even with an ice-cube, the rum has heat to spare. Along with that heat there is a good dose of intense fruit-filled flavour, granulated brown sugar, vanilla and tar-like flavours in the exit.
The Afterburn 8.5/10
Demerara Rums certainly have a great deal of character and flavour. The Albion 1994 is another great example of this character. However, I found this particular aged Demerara rum hard to sip, even with ice, and when I diluted it with water much of the character was diluted as well. Had the rum shown more evidence of its maturity in the tasting, I would certainly have ranked it higher.
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.
My Scores are out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret them as follows:
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing spirit. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails.)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)