Rum Review: Exotic Filipino Rum Has Unusual Roots

Special To News Talk Florida

By Taylor Walton

Vodka is associated with Russia. Bourbon with Appalachia. Rum is customarily considered to be the domain of the Caribbean and its littoral shores – including Florida. The state even boasts a “rum trail.”

In recent years a new Filipino focused rum company, Don Papa, has upended the market offering high-end rum that is second to none. The Philippines, in fact, has deep roots linked to the rum trade. In 1763, the Philippines nominally was briefly occupied by the British Empire. The country’s sugar plantations on the island of Bohol and elsewhere also received a boost due to British-led trade in the region. For centuries the Philippines was a Spanish colony (like Florida) and briefly an American one.

“Three hundred years in a Spanish covenant and fifty in Hollywood,” is how Stephen Carroll, owner of Don Papa summarized the country’s history at a recent event to promote Don Papa Rye Cask – the country’s latest offering.

To be sure, there are plenty of high-end rum offerings. Yet, what makes Don Papa so unique is its efforts to offer a combined expression of heritage in bottle form. Don Papa’s various previous rums were evocative of the country’s colonial history, and the art on each bottle is memorable in no small part because labels are often chosen after a competition involving established Filipino artists.

 “Imagine a green, lush rye field on a beautiful Tennessee spring day merging with a warm tropical shower blowing in from the Philippine sea,” says Carroll, “This is the backdrop for Don Papa Rye Aged Rum — combining the intense granular spice notes of American Rye barrels and our very own black gold molasses rum, resulting in a beautifully balanced, silky smooth and complex new rum.” Caroll is one for imagining during a trip to the Negros Occidental in the Philippines he learned that there in the shade of volcanic Mount Kanalon the island produces the world’s finest sugar.

Indeed, an alternative name for the region was simply “Sugarlandia”. The sugar production h a legacy of colonial-era trade that was influenced by British traders as much as Spanish colonial authorities.

For many that would have been a small footnote but, for the former Rémy Cointreau executive Stephen Carrol — it was the start of the opportunity. The brand began producing rum locally in 2012 named Dionisio Magbuellas aka Papa Isio after a Filipino religious leader and revolutionary.

His story can’t be told without a bit an intriguing bit of history. Isio earned distinction as the last Filipino leader to surrender to the United States in the northern Philippines when he surrendered in 1907. The rum has been available in the United States since 2017.

The taste is equally intriguing. On the nose is a clear hint of rye spices. If you like rum this limited edition is a unique addition to any liquor cabinet. If you like rum and s bourbon, this is the perfect product. The strong Bourbon and vanilla mean its mixes well even with strong flavors like absinthe of other liquors. Indeed, its Bourbon notes allow this rum to be mixed with cocktails that normally wouldn’t call for the liquor. Don Papa Rye Cask works perfectly well in say a rummy version of a Manhattan that still has plenty of Bourbon notes. It has a bright, long, and indeed a delicate finish.

The Rye Aged Rum, a is a new and super-premium limited-edition Don Papa product. Previous editions of Don Papa’s other editions include its Don Papa 7-year-old, Don Papa 10, Rare Cask, Maskarra, Sherry Cask, and the Sevillana Cask Finish versions. For those who can’t wait, the product is already available for retail in the United Kingdom and will be more widely available soon.

Taylor Walton is a California based reporter