13 November 2018

Rum Insiders Interview - Shaun Caleb

Demerara Distillers / El Dorado Rum

Master Distiller


How long have you been working in the rum industry?
I have been working directly in the rum industry for over 11 years.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Installing and commissioning Demerara Distillers five column, multi-pressure rectification still and coffey-type still, to replicate many of the light and medium-bodied rums produced on the older heritage stills. This came early in my career when I was a Project Manager/ Chemical Engineer.

Can you remember your first rum, and indeed what it was?
El Dorado 15, on the first opportunity I had, to quench my curiosity as to why the rum was so famous, having won the Rum Trophy as World’s Best Rum on so many consecutive occasions (at the time from 1998 to 2000). I definitely started from the top! It is, in fact, the reason I was attracted to the industry, and am today the Master Distiller.

What does rum mean to you?
Rum is a source of pride, and (with sugar) a connection to the history and identity of the Guyanese, who were all brought to these shores to toil and to till the land. To be assigned the privileged role of preserving the heritage Stills and carrying on the legacy of distilling, I see myself as more than a mere distiller – even Master Distiller – but instead as a purveyor of my people and my country’s heritage, history, and cultural roots, steeped over centuries on the sugar plantations and rum distilleries.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years' time?
Having worked to build a young, dynamic team to guarantee the succession from the older hands, my goal in the next five years is to modernize the operations of our Distillery to enable us to innovate for new and interesting product offerings. In a sense, I see a bridge between maintaining our philosophical fidelity to traditional methods, and executing in a modern environment, even while retaining the older heritage stills, as they properly serve a place in preserving our history. The El Dorado of tomorrow must both retain the core of El Dorado of yesterday while innovating to remain relevant to the needs of the El Dorado consumers of tomorrow.

What was your last rum?
El Dorado 12, chased on ice with a splash of lemon-flavored carbonated water.

Do you have a favourite rum and food pairing combination?
El Dorado 12 with steak, medium-rare or with pork chops. To finish a meal, I enjoy a double El Dorado 15 in a highball.

What’s your favourite rum based cocktail?
Rum Old Fashioned with El Dorado 12, or a Manhattan with El Dorado 15. If I’m at a bar and would like to see the quality of their mixology program, I prefer the former – it’s sort of a standard reference point. If I’m sipping over conversation, just for the conversation’s sake – no judgments attached - I often go for the latter. But if I’m out relaxing with friends, a Daiquiri with the El Dorado 3 or 5 sometimes is just enough.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the rum horizon?
Special ageing with other types of wood, whether primary or secondary finish, especially released at higher proofs or cask strength, is growing in appeal. I believe it’s already the next big thing. It’s the connoisseur’s day in the sun!

What’s the one rum you couldn’t live without?
In my earlier days, I would’ve said the El Dorado 15, but there are so many good offerings these days, I find it difficult to say.

Many thanks to Shaun Caleb. Who will be our next Rum Insider? Click back soon to find out!