The Demerara River (Photo: Amanda Richards)
Long before the first wave of European settlers arrived in what is today the Cooperative Republic of Guyana (Guyana) in the late 15th century, the indigenous Arawak and Carib peoples cultivated the country’s tropical, pristine land. Vital to these people’s subsistence was the Demerara River, a 346-kilometer long river in eastern Guyana that originates in the unspoiled rainforests in the country’s interior and stretches to its Atlantic Ocean coast. It was along the banks of the Demerara River – an Arawak word that means “river of the letter wood” – that most of the country’s indigenous inhabitants thrived, particularly towards the mouth of the river near the Atlantic Ocean. Guyana’s name, which means “land of many waters,” is indicative of the importance the Demerara River played to the indigenous people.
It was also along this river of life that the Europeans built their first colonies in the 1640s and started to cultivate a crop they brought with them – sugarcane (saccharum officinarum). In the centuries that followed the sugar industry in the Caribbean exploded, and a new alcoholic drink made from the byproducts of sugar production (sugarcane juice or molasses) emerged in the region – rum. By the mid 1700s, there were over 300 rum distilleries in Guyana. Subsequently, many of these distilleries merged and by the mid 20th century only one remained – Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), which was originally founded in 1670. Presently Guyana’s largest privately held company, DDL continues its tradition of making some of the world’s finest rum, while making an essential contribution to the country’s economy.
Optimal conditions for sugarcane cultivation include a temperatures between 20° and 28° Celsius (C), annual rainfall of over 1,500 millimeters (mm), and nutrient-rich, well-aerated soil. Shortly after Europeans came to Guyana, they found that the fertile banks of the Demerara River provided the perfect cultivation conditions. Indeed, Guyana’s wet, tropical climate with average annual rainfall between 1,778mm and 2,800mm, average annual temperatures between 24°C and 29°C, and distinct rainy (May – July in coastal regions and November – January in the country’s interior) and dry seasons allow sugarcane to thrive in the country. High humidity (averaging about 70%), moderated by the northeast trade winds flowing inland from the Atlantic Ocean, further supports sugarcane cultivation in Guyana.
Sugarcane is the base ingredient for rum production (Photo: Jesse Gardner)
With this environment, by the mid 1600s the first sugarcane plantations in Guyana started to appear, primarily situated near the capital city of Georgetown. Although sugar production remained on a small scale compared to the country’s Caribbean neighbors for about 100 years, by the late 1700s sugar became the leading sector of Guyana’s economy. Along with sugarcane, the Europeans also brought their tradition of wine consumption. However, while the climate of Guyana and its Caribbean neighbors is ideal for cultivating sugarcane, it is generally too warm and humid for viticulture (wine cultivation). With an abundance of sugarcane, rum emerged as a new spirit in the Caribbean region to quench the European’s thirst for wine. It is unclear as to exactly when and where rum first appeared, though many historians believe that it was first made on the island of Barbados using molasses as the main ingredient. The new spirit soon found its way to Guyana, where hundreds of sugarcane plantations were supporting a booming sugar industry. By the mid 1700s, most of these plantations were producing their own rum varieties.
Although sugarcane was first introduced in colonial Guyana in the 1630s, due to geopolitical rivalries between European powers in the region, cultivation did not really take off until the late 1700s. By the time Guyana was ready for large-scale sugarcane cultivation, over a century had passed and there were a number of research and development (R&D) advancements in cultivation and production of the crop. For example, new milling equipment allowed for faster, more efficient processing of raw sugarcane into sugar crystals, molasses, and rum. This new and advanced (at the time) equipment was imported into Guyana, and companies in the sugarcane industry (including DDL) in the country proceeded to develop at a rapid pace. Hundreds of sugarcane plantations sprung up throughout Guyana, and within a few decades it became the largest sugar producing country in the Caribbean. With this increase in sugar production came an associated increase in rum production, and rum from Guyana quickly earned a reputation as some of the best in the world.
The Wooden Coffery Still (Photo: Jon Gilbert)
As it did centuries ago, DDL continues to merge traditional distillation techniques with modern technologies to make its world-renowned rum. The company maintains a high-tech R&D department at its headquarters in Georgetown, where research is conducted on new types of rums and other alcoholic drinks, such as brandy and vodka. At the heart of the company’s R&D are its stills – the machines that distill DDL’s products. The company uses a combination of old and modern stills of various types. The two most common types of stills in use at the company’s factory are pot stills and continuous column stills. A pot still – one of the world’s oldest types – is one in which fermentation is achieved through the application of heat directly to the container, or “pot,” which holds the spirit. The more modern continuous column still consists of two or more columns. In one column, steam is pumped in and rises while the resulting “wash” (the fermented liquid) descends. The wash is then carried into a second column where the alcohol separates and condenses, ready for collection. Continuous column stills can sustain constant distillation (hence their name), whereas pot stills can only distill one batch at a time. DDL’s newer continuous column stills – which have five columns and are modern versions of the company’s centuries-old French-made Savalle Still – can produce heavy or light bodied rums, as well as clean neutral alcohol, depending on the variation of fusel oils (heavy alcohols that contain more than two carbon atoms) that are produced during fermentation.
An important part of DDL’s R&D strategy is to continue to develop the high quality rums that it is known for while innovating new products. Integral to this is determining which of the company’s stills are suitable for various types of rums and other alcoholic drinks. For example, the company’s pot and continuous column stills are used to produce different types of rum. Moreover, while the company has invested in modern stills, through its R&D it has found that the continued use of old stills is required to maintain the aroma, body, and flavor of certain rums. Indeed, this is one way in which DDL differentiates itself from the competition. For example, in the early 2000s the company considered replacing a nearly 200-year-old wooden still with a more modern metal still. However, DDL’s R&D discovered that doing so would not produce rum that was identical to that made in the old still. The company therefore decided to undertake a major repair of the old still to ensure that DDL’s customers could continue to enjoy the same type of high quality rum. Although the repair was costly and time consuming, saving the old still proved to be a valuable initiative that ensured continuation of the company’s unique rum and reputation among DDL’s customers.
Molasses fermentation at DDL's distillery (Photo: Jon Gilbert)
Major repairs notwithstanding, DDL has developed a unique way to preserve the company’s centuries old wooden still. While the still has been in continual use since the 17th century, the wood is not the exact same wood that was originally used. Wood is an integral part of the still and is responsible for the complexity of the flavors of the company’s most popular product – El Dorado rum. However, two centuries of continuous distillation would cause the wood to eventually rot. Replacing all of the wood at once would completely change the taste and quality of the still’s rum, therefore DDL has developed a method to change the still’s wood in small sections, meaning there is always a mix of newer and older wood in the still. These changes are done every 15 – 20 years, and once the wood of the entire still has been replaced, the process is started over again. This method of preservation ensures the still lasts a long time while retaining the properties that make DDL’s rum unique.
Ensuring the uniqueness of DDL’s rum through preservation of old stills is however just as important as improving the company’s technology. To that end, in 2011 DDL installed a US$ 5 million state-of-the-art multi column still at its distillery (called the “Diamond Distillery”). Working in concert with the old stills, this new equipment increased capacity, improved efficiency, and helped DDL better compete in international markets for bulk rum and spirits. With a distillation capacity of over 26 million liters of alcohol annually and over 50,000 barrels of alcohol ageing in its warehouse, DDL is the largest supplier of rum (in bulk and branded form) and other alcoholic drinks in the Caribbean. All of DDL’s rums are stilled and bottled at the company’s Diamond Distillery on the east banks of the Demerara River, just outside the capital of Georgetown.
Through the unique marriage of old and new technologies and techniques, DDL has been able to continue to produce a broad range of rum and other products. Just as important as ensuring the continuation of popular – and the introduction of new – rum types is the company’s quality control efforts. To that end, in 1995 DDL became the first company in the Caribbean to achieve certification from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for quality management systems and quality assurance in the form of ISO 9001 certification.
Rum distillation is a centuries old practice that DDL continues to use today. Although modern machinery is now used to an extent, much of the process is unchanged from when rum production first started in Guyana in the seventeenth century. The first step is harvesting the raw sugarcane, which takes place during the two dry seasons. After burning the sugarcane fields, the crop is cut and harvested by hand and then transported on the Demerara River to local sugar processing companies. At the sugar factory, the sugarcane is chopped and crushed, which results in the formation of molasses – a byproduct of sugar production. The molasses is then delivered to DDL, where it is fermented in yeast or water for up to 26 hours. The company ensures that fermentation occurs under controlled conditions so the temperature and sugar content remain within specific parameters to produce the unique flavors and aromas that DDL’s rum is known for.
The oldest active rum still in the world (Photo: Jon Gilbert)
Distillation – which concentrates the alcohol and removes impurities – follows fermentation, and this occurs in one of the company’s many stills. DDL continues to use the world’s last wooden Coffey Still – a type of pot still from the United Kingdom (UK) – as well as two other original wooden pot stills, the last of their kind still in operation. Because DDL is one of the only distilleries in the world that continues to use traditional stills and techniques, the company enjoys a significant competitive advantage that few other distilleries are able to replicate. After fermentation, the rum is placed in oak barrels – just as it was hundreds of years ago – and aged for up to 35 years. The barrels are handmade and through the ageing process the rum develops a golden to deep brown color and rich flavor. Moreover, ageing the rum at ambient temperature in the tropical climate of Guyana contributes to the spirit’s complex flavors, rich aromas, and smooth texture. Furthermore, rum ages more quickly in Guyana’s climate than other spirits (such as whisky) that are aged in cooler climates. As a result, rum from Guyana can achieve optimal quality at a quicker rate. For example, because of the unique climate, Guyanese rum aged for ten years is more akin to rum aged in the UK for twenty years. The combination of traditional knowledge and the local geographic conditions are therefore essential to make DDL’s rum products.
Creating DDL’s high quality rum is a unique process that involves the skillful participation of three groups, all of which have distinct traditional knowledge: distillers, blenders, and tasters. Distillers must merge tradition, flavor, and diversification with patience, skill, and experience to make high quality rum. Blenders must select the appropriate marques (rums from specific stills) to create a satisfying, consistent, and unique range of rum products. The head taster – along with a tasting team – must be able to detect all the subtleties in flavor, aroma, and consistency to control the quality of the end products. At DDL, all three groups have learned their craft from the traditional knowledge handing down through centuries of Guyanese distillers, blenders, and tasters. Armed with this knowledge, DDL continues to consistently make unique, high quality, award-winning rum.
For most of DDL’s history, the company acted as a supplier of rum in bulk for other major brands in the Caribbean, Europe, and North America. This was a continuation of the main commercial strategies of most rum distillers in Guyana since the spirit was first distilled in the country. As the distilleries in Guyana merged, they continued this practice but with greater capacity and efficiency. When DDL emerged as the country’s sole rum distiller, it also emerged as essentially the only supplier of Guyanese rum to foreign companies. The company continues this tradition today, and DDL’s Diamond Distillery provides rum to companies such as Diageo, Jim Beam, Hiram Walker, Allied Distillers, and Corby’s.
Despite its successful bulk operations, DDL and its products remained obscure. In order to enhance its corporate reputation and take advantage of its legacy of matured rums, in 1992 the company decided to launch its own brand – El Dorado rum. Through developing this in-house brand, DDL would be able to expand its market reach and increase awareness of Guyanese rum. At the outset, the company launched one type of rum under the El Dorado label – 15-Year-Old aged rum. Characterized by a deep, mellow sweetness, DDL’s first El Dorado rum is produced from the company’s three original stills, which date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The 15-Year-Old rum enjoyed a great deal of popularity, won a number of awards, and helped propel the El Dorado brand to international recognition shortly after the rum’s launch.
Aging in barrels, an important aspect of the DDL brand and trademarks (Photo: Jon Gilbert)
One of DDL’s El Dorado brand product lines – the Connoisseur Range – represents an important branding strategy of the company. Before the merging of Guyanese distilleries, rum from the country was labeled with a marque – a symbol that linked the rum with its original distiller, even if it was bottled in a different country. For example, over 200 years ago Edward Henry Porter started a distillery at his Enmore sugarcane estate near the capital of Georgetown in Guyana. Mr. Porter used a type of still known as the wooden Continuous Coffey Still to create unique, medium bodied rum with delicate aromatic characteristics. All rum coming from Mr. Porter’s estate was labeled with the EHP marquee, which represented the estate proprietor’s initials. DDL eventually acquired Mr. Porter’s still, and it continues to be used today – the last of its kind in the world. The company distills the rum the same way as Mr. Porter did, and ages it in oak barrels at ambient temperature. Because this rum is not blended with any other types and aged in single oak barrels, it is sold as “Single Barrel” rum, and includes the “EHP” marque on every bottle. By using such a marque, consumers are assured of the authenticity and quality of the rum, which continues to be made the same way it was over 200 years ago.
Two other marques are included in DDL’s Connoisseur Range: ICBU and PM. The ICBU marque is linked to a rare type of rum produced by the eighteenth century Uitvlugt Estate on the banks of the Demerara River. Like the EHP marque, DDL acquired the estate’s original four column French Savalle Stills and continues to produce the same type of single barrel rum in the same stills. Another marque – PM – stands for the Port Mourant Estate. Originally founded in 1732, it was one of the world’s first rum distilleries. Also a single barrel rum, DDL continues to operate and distill rum in PM’s original Double Wooden Pot Still, which is the only one of its kind still in operation in the world. Besides the marques in DDL’s Connoisseur Range of El Dorado products, the company has made rums with other marques representing historical stills. These include Skeldon (SWR), Albion (AN), La bonne Intention (LBI), Versailles (VSG), Blairmont, and Rose Hall.
Commensurate with the company’s strategy of using marques to its advantage, DDL also secured the use of an outside marque for its branding strategy. Founded in the late 1960s, the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc. (WIRSPA) promotes the export and marketing of rum originating within the Caribbean for international markets. Facilitating this was WIRSPA’s development of the Authentic Caribbean Rum marque (ACR Marquee). In order to qualify for the ACR Marquee, WIRSPA created a classification scheme in which a rum product must be produced from sugarcane juice or molasses from the Caribbean region in accordance with accepted industry quality and blending standards. In 2011, DDL successfully received certification from WIRSPA to use the ACR Marquee on its El Dorado products, further solidifying the quality of the company’s premiere brand. All of these marques (both past and present; in-house and external) continue to be integral to the company’s branding approach. Not only do the marques differentiate DDL rums from the company’s competitors, but the marques also link consumers with the company’s heritage and provide the same type of Guyanese rum consumers enjoyed hundreds of years ago.
Beyond DDL’s brands and marques, another important aspect of the company’s overall strategy is its brand image. The company uses a stylized graphic of a fifteenth century European ship on nearly all of its products to evoke the image of exploration, the Caribbean, and rum. Furthermore, DDL uses fonts for its packaging that are equally Caribbean in nature, and also uses an image of the setting sun predominantly on its website to strengthen the link between Guyana, rum, and the Caribbean.
Moreover, before the El Dorado brand many consumers knew little of Guyanese rum, even though it may have served as the base for many other popular rum spirits that consumers were already aware of. Integral to DDL’s international strategies to raise awareness about Guyanese rum is to present the company’s El Dorado line of products at various trade shows and events around the world. For example, DDL is a regular exhibitor at the London RumFest, a major event in the industry that has been running since 2006 in London, the UK. As part of its marketing campaign, DDL’s exhibition at the festival includes a miniature recreation of the Guyanese rainforest, creating a unique environment for visitors to enjoy El Dorado rum and also learn about Guyana. With an in-house brand and participation in events such as the London RumFest, DDL has been able to bring Guyanese rum to the world. By 2010, the company developed sixteen unique and popular rum products marketed under the El Dorado brand. Backed by the company’s centuries-long heritage, one-of-a-kind stills, strong R&D department and skillful blenders, the El Dorado brand has quickly proven to be DDL’s most important asset.
Notwithstanding DDL’s illustrious tradition and well-known rum, the company relies on the intellectual property (IP) system to protect its brands (such as the flagship El Dorado brand) and ultimately its unique knowledge of rum distillation and blending. In doing so, DDL ensures customer confidence and a continuation of its long tradition of rum production.
One of the most successful ways that DDL protects its brands such as El Dorado is through the registration of trademarks in Guyana and abroad. In line with the company’s launch of the El Dorado brand in 1992, it registered a trademark for “El Dorado” with The Deeds Registry of the Ministry of Legal Affairs of Guyana, the legal entity that handles IP registrations in the country. When DDL launched its El Dorado brand internationally, trademark registration in the company’s major markets was key to the brand’s success. In the United States of America (USA), one of DDL’s most lucrative markets, the El Dorado trademark was first registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in December 1968 (long before the El Dorado brand was launched internationally), which the company continues to renew. In total, DDL has six trademark registrations in the USA, including Demerara Gold (November 2005), Demerara Reserve (May 2006), and Ivanoff (January 2008). DDL’s European subsidiary (based in the Netherlands) – Demerara Distillers Europe B.V. (DDE) – also applied for trademark registration with the USPTO in January 2012 for Belmont Estate, an up and coming product that is meant for mixing with fruit juices and soft drinks.
With an eye on expansion, protecting the El Dorado and other DDL brands in as many countries as possible was an early goal for the company. One way in which it achieved this was to use the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks (the Madrid System), an international trademark registration system managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The company has therefore made seven registrations under the Madrid System through DDE, DDL’s European subsidiary. Besides the El Dorado (October 1993) registration, DDE has also registered trademarks for the Uitvlugt and Port Mourant marques (both in May 2010). Furthermore, the European subsidiary has also made Madrid System registrations for other past or future products such as Old Mariner Demerara Dark Rum (December 2003), Diamond Reserve (February 2010), Enmore (May 2010), and Belmont Estate (January 2012). In addition to the Madrid System registrations, DDL has ten trademark registrations in the UK with the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). These registrations include the El Dorado brand as well as other brands that are specifically targeted to the UK market.
In the age of globalization, it can be argued that oftentimes having a brand name backed by the IP system is not enough. A presence on the Internet is equally important. Realizing this, DDL registered two domain names – demeraradistillers.com and theeldoradorum.com – to solidify its online presence. The former domain name has a great deal of detailed information on DDL as a company, the history of rum production in Guyana, and the company’s unique stills. The latter domain name, which was registered five years prior in 2005, is specifically for DDL’s El Dorado brand. Containing a wealth of information on all types of El Dorado rum, the latest news on the brand, and where El Dorado rum can be purchased, the website has helped DDL make a stronger connection with its customers throughout the world.
As the success of the El Dorado brand took off internationally, DDL increased its efforts to enter into agreements with international partners. Indeed, with a population of less than one million, the Guyanese market is small, and therefore international markets are an integral part of DDL’s overarching strategy. The most efficient and straightforward way to enter these markets, the company concluded, was through partnerships. For example, in the 1980s the company entered into a joint venture (JV) with a company in the Republic of India to commercialize El Dorado rum in that country. A JV in Europe resulted in the formation of DDE in the Netherlands to handle DDL’s European operations. Similar partnerships have increased as the El Dorado brand became more popular, and by 2012 have resulted in distribution agreements and partnerships with companies in Asia, the Commonwealth of Australia, Europe, Central America, North America, and South America.
In 2010, DDL entered into two more strategic international partnerships, both of which have further bolstered the company’s international presence. DDL partnered with Sandals Resorts International (Sandals), a well-known luxury resort and tourism company from the Commonwealth of Jamaica that focuses on Caribbean weddings and vacations. Through the partnership, El Dorado rum became the official rum of Sandals, the largest luxury resort chain in the region. Sold at the gourmet restaurants, bars, and gift shops of all of Sandals’ resorts, the partnership has been a resounding success for DDL’s products. Resort visitors have enjoyed the unique taste of El Dorado rum, and an affectionate nickname for the brand – “Dora” – has emerged among guests throughout Sandals resorts. The second partnership was an exclusive wholesale and distribution agreement with an agent in the USA (name withheld for confidentiality purposes). Although DDL’s operations in the USA are handled through the company’s subsidiary – Demerara Distillers (USA) Inc., this new partnership increased DDL’s distribution reach in North America. As a result, by 2012 DDL had over 30 distributors of its El Dorado rum in Canada and the USA.
While the majority of DDL’s partnerships focus on extending the reach of the company’s bulk rum and El Dorado brand, not all focus on DDL’s products. For example, one of DDL’s more successful partnerships is that with Halewood International (Halewood), a major UK distiller. In 2004, DDL entered into a partnership with Halewood to become the sole producer, bottler, and distributor of Halewood’s popular Red Square line of vodka to the Caribbean, South America, and the USA. With this partnership, DDL was able to gain a stronger foothold in a number of new markets simultaneously, thus increasing its international presence and potential to eventually commercialize its own products in more markets abroad.
Following DDL’s successful launch of its El Dorado brand in the early 1990s, the company sought to diversify some of its operations. In 2003 DDL entered into a partnership with Tropical Orchards Products Company Limited (TOPCO), a small and medium enterprise (SME) in Guyana that used the “cottage industry” format (home-based manufacturing rather than factory-based) to sell tropical fruit juices. The partnership resulted in the complete merger of TOPCO with DDL, with the former becoming a subsidiary of the latter.
El Dorado Rum ready for tasting (Photo: Jon Gilbert)
In addition to DDL’s El Dorado brand and the company’s other rum products, DDL continues to sell rum in bulk from its distilleries in Guyana to a number of international blenders and bottlers. Depending on the client’s need, DDL may sell their bulk rum prior to ageing or bottling. To reach as many countries in the Caribbean as possible, DDL operates subsidiaries in the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Traditionally a major rum exporter to the UK and Canada, in the 1980s DDL started to aggressively expand its reach into other European countries such as the Republic of Finland, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Italian Republic. In 2001, DDL expanded further, distributing its El Dorado rum in neighboring South American countries including the Republic of Peru, the Republic of Ecuador, and the Federative Republic of Brazil. Commercialization agreements with distributors soon followed in Central American countries such as the United Mexican States, the Republic of Costa Rica, and the Republic of Panama. The importance of DDL’s international operations is significant – over 75% of all of the company’s revenue comes from its commercialization efforts abroad.
Domestically, DDL has four separate subsidiaries (out of seven in total) to produce, ship, market, and sell its El Dorado rums, rum-based spirits, and other products: the Demerara Shipping Company Limited, Distribution Services Limited (DSL), TOPCO, and Demerara Contractors and Engineers Limited. Although rum represents the core of DDL’s business (approximately 90% of revenue), through these subsidiaries the company has taken steps to diversify its product portfolio since its early days. Not only do these subsidiaries work to successfully bring DDL’s products to international markets, they also spend a significant amount of resources on domestic commercialization efforts. For example, DDL also produces and markets fruit juice and soft drinks under the TOPCO Juice and Soca brands, respectively. Developed especially for the Caribbean market at a US$3 million tropical juice processing plant constructed in 2003 in Georgetown, Guyana, TOPCO Juice and Soca soft drinks are popular throughout the region.
Through DDL’s subsidiaries and strong business network, the company has emerged as the premier commercialization partner for foreign companies investing in Guyana. For example, DDL is the official Guyanese bottler for internationally popular soft drink brands such as Pepsi, Slice, and 7-UP. The company’s DSL subsidiary in particular is also a good example of DDL’s commercialization reach. Formed in 1993 to aid in logistical and commercialization activities, DSL is the leading distribution company in Guyana. In addition to undertaking the day-to-day distribution of DDL’s domestically and regionally oriented products, DSL is also the official distributor for many multinational companies and brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Neutrogena, and Nestle.
The company also utilizes more modern equipment in its distillation process (Photo: Jon Gilbert)
Following the success of DDL’s initial El Dorado rum product in 1992, the company developed a number of new spirits and specialty products marketed under the El Dorado brand. The company’s portfolio as of 2012 consists of products in five categories: (1) Luxury Cask Aged; (2) Fine Cask Aged; (3) Connoisseur Range; (4) Super Standard Rums; and (5) Specialty Rums. The Luxury Cask Aged products represent DDL’s finest rums and include four products, ranging from 12-Year-Old aged rum to 21-Year-Old Special Reserve and Vintage rums. Each of these rums possesses their own character, and DDL’s blenders have achieved distinctive tastes and rich aromas for each by blending rums from three or more of the company’s traditional column and pot stills. All of the types of rum used for this range of products are from different vintages and batches, but are blended in a way that ensures continuity. In the company’s Luxury Cask aged line of products, the 3, 5, and 8-year-old rums have a more versatile flavor than the older vintages and can be enjoyed in alcoholic cocktails or on their own.
DDL has continued to diversity its product range by developing a number of lower priced rum products targeted at younger customers. Some examples include DDL’s “Superior” label rums that are in the company’s Specialty Rums category and are commercialized in White, Gold, and Dark versions. Each of these rums is made by subtle distillation techniques that require less ageing. The company’s Superior labeled rums are marketed as versatile spirits primarily meant to be used in cocktails and other mixed alcoholic drinks. The final range of El Dorado branded products is DDL’s Specialty line, which consists of El Dorado Cream Liqueur with Golden Rum, El Dorado Spiced Rum, and El Dorado De Luxe Silver Rum. These products include unique blends and flavors for the more adventurous rum consumers.
Building on a heritage dating back over 300 years, DDL might be from a small country, but the company has successfully utilized branding, partnerships, and the IP system to become a major player in the international rum market. Indeed, not only is DDL one of the largest companies in Guyana employing over 1,000 people, it makes a significant positive impact on the country’s economy. For example, since the launch of DDL’s El Dorado brand in 1992 the company has enjoyed an overall increase in revenue. By the early 2000s, DDL’s sales rose to US$50 million. DDL has enjoyed a relatively consistent increase in the company’s performance, and in 2011 profits increased by over 68% from the previous year. For the same period, profits for branded products sold internationally – such as El Dorado – grew by a healthy10%. The company earned over US$7 million in royalties for its rum and brands in 2011, and in the USA brought in over US$155,000 in royalty revenues.
In 2011, DDL’s El Dorado 15-Year-Old Special Reserve rum won the Best Rum Worldwide Award at the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London, UK. El Dorado rum has also been recognized at the IWSC on a number of other occasions. For example, DDL’s El Dorado 21-Year-Old Special Reserve rum won the IWSC Silver and Best in Class award in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011. In addition, the company’s El Dorado 12-Year-Old rum won the Gold Award at the 2003 International Rum Festival in Canada, made the Top 10 List of spirits the New York Times in 2005, and was recognized as the Best Premium Gold Rum at the Golden Rum Barrel Awards in London, UK, in 2010. In 2007, the Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago in the state of Illinois, USA, awarded El Dorado 15-Year-Old rum the title of “Best Rum in the World.” In addition to DDL’s El Dorado rum, in 2011 the company won the IWSC American and Caribbean Spirits Producer of the Year Award for the seventh time.
Combining centuries old and painstakingly maintained stills, generations of traditional rum-making knowledge, and modern technologies into a new brand were perspicacious steps DDL made to move the company forward into the twenty-first century. Being Guyana’s largest privately held company, these steps have also been integral to DDL’s continued contribution to the Guyanese economy. Leveraging a strong IP portfolio, DDL’s award-winning products have put Guyana back on the map for Caribbean rum connoisseurs the world over.