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Review 9: Don Papa 10 Year

“Welcome to the Don, that is Don Papa small batch rum, a premium rum, distilled in the foothills of Mount Kanlaon, Negros, Philippines.” Welcome indeed but don’t let the rather provincial nature of Don Papa’s homepage fool you. The Philippines is the world’s third largest market for rum (after the US and India) and according to this Forbes article, this brand is “Changing the Face of Philippine Rum”. Today, we’re going to sip and sample on Papa 10 Year. Inspired from the story of ‘Papa’ Isio, a hero of the Philippine revolution, Don Papa Rum is produced by the Bleeding Heart Rum Company (BHRC) founded by Stephen Carroll, a former Remy Cointreau executive.

The rum is distilled on a single island, Negros Occidental (also referred to as  Sugarlandia”) using the finest Negros sugar cane and aged for 10 years in re-charred American Oak barrels. This particular offering from Don Papa is a limited edition and was introduced in October 2015. Unlike its younger sibling it packs a slightly weightier punch at 43% ABV (compared to the small batch’s 40%).

The bottle has been designed by Stranger & Stranger who in the 2016 World Rum Awards won Best Limited Edition Design, Best Ultra Design and Best New Launch Design all for the Don Papa 10 Year bottle! They are no stranger to awards and have an impressive list which can be found here.

Don Papa himself is older on the 10 Year label, depicting his own aging and maturing process since the initial small batch offering. His gecko-monocle eyepiece is now accompanied by a thick, flowing beard on the Don’s face. The world’s smallest primate, the Tarsier, beetles, slugs and snails are joined by tropical birds in this Jumanji-esque design.  The bottle itself is very similar to the small batch; heavy glass bottom, curved shoulders and squat in nature. The elegant dark rum itself is visible to all as the glass is clear and uncoloured.

On my first sniff it is very light, much lighter than expected despite the higher alcohol content. I am met by warm oak notes and followed by some hints of sweet caramel, vanilla and candied fruits. My first sip of the rum sends it easily over my tongue where it warms the roof of my mouth with toffee and a gentle oak. Not overly sweet but very smooth and well balanced. A very tasty introduction which invites further investigation! As the rum sits for a few minutes it seems to have lost some viscosity and as a result the streaks seem thinner on my tumbler. On this sip the flavours have become deeper and stay with you much longer. The warmth found in the roof of your mouth initially has now travelled to the throat. The oak flavour steps up and there seems to be a sweeter influence of caramel complemented by an earthier, deeper cacao. Perhaps the re-charred American Oak barrels are lending an almost charcoal like edge to this dark rum.  The finish is long lasting and warming but not overpowering. This is where the dried raisin seems to have come through that was smelt on the nose earlier.

Don Papa 10 year retails at £40-£50, which is at the higher end for a relatively up and coming brand but we believe that Don Papa have produced something quite special here. Limited edition and a true 10 Year, this could become quite the collector’s item especially with the variety of talking points on the design of the bottle alone. RumCask recommends this for the left-field selection for special occasions.

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Rum From Asia?

As mentioned in previous posts, the bulk of rum produced today comes from the Caribbean and Latin America. However, rum can be produced anywhere that sugar cane grows which is over 70 countries worldwide. Brazil and India produce over 50% of the worlds supply. It would make sense then, that India and other countries in Asia also produce rum.

One of the main rums of India is known as Old Monk. It was launched in December 1954. Uniquely it has zero advertising and relies purely on word of mouth from the loyalty of its customers. It must have very loyal customers though, as it was the world’s largest selling dark rum until 2013. There are 6 different variations of Old Monk Rum, including “The Legend” which was launched in 2013.

The Philippines have one of the largest rum markets in the world. However, the bulk produced is geared towards low price points. High volume low quality mixing rums are what dominate that market. As a result, it was only a matter of time before higher quality rum was produced. Don Papa is one of those that have exploded recently due to its marketing campaign and superb packaging and bottle finish (It has won the double gold medal for packaging design and for product innovation at two different spirits competitions in 2013). In October 2015 they launched a new 10 year version to their range.

Nine leaves is the new Japanese rum brand, launched in 2013. Nine leaves use only the finest ingredients for its creation, including water refined from the Otowa Mountains and the brown sugar from Okinawa. It is the first rum brand to be domestically produced in Japan. Almost immediately after release, Nine Leaves won the silver medal for innovation at Rhum Fest Paris in 2014, less than 12 months after official release of its first product (Nine Leaves Clear) in June 2013. They have started exporting and distributing to France and other countries in Europe and North America.

The stereotype that high quality rum only comes from the Caribbean is fast being debunked by more than just the rum community. If you haven’t ventured out further than those areas I would suggest giving any (or preferably all) of these three brands a try. Or why not suggest one of your favourites below for others to experiment with?