Every rum lover should visit Sugarlandia, Mount Kanlaion, and Negros island. Even if it’s via the bottled version.
Negros is the sugar capital of the Philippines and Sugarlandia is Don Papa land. The first premiums single-estate rum was launched in 2012 by former Remy Martin executive Stephen Carrol, the founder of the Bleeding Heart Rum Company using old strain sugar cane and molasses fermented for seven years, the rich honey and vanilla rum is distilled and aged in American oak barrels on the island of Negros Occidental. Its ten-year-old bottle is from France, the cork from Portugal, the label from Italy, and the brand image designed by Stranger & Stranger of New York. The label depicts a man with a gecko around his eye and fifty animals including the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier which endemic to the southern Philippine islands of Bohol, Samar, and Leyte.
Don Papa was Dionisio Magbueles, or “Papa” Isio, a sugarcane farmer who played a key role in the late 19th-century revolution in freeing Negros from Spanish rule. He was the last Filipino revolutionary leader to surrender to the Americans. Tanduay, a Filipino rum first made 167 years ago, has been the world’s top-selling rum for the last three years, outselling Bacardi. The Philippines has the third-largest rum market in the world, after India and the United States. The brand has recently partnered with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, and Brooklyn Nets. Philippine blends are known for their smoother and well-rounded profile. Tanduay Gold is aged up to 7 years in bourbon barrels. Its CLX is made by master blender Faustino Munnariz. These rums have been made to be mixed and to make cocktails like “Ka-pag Serious Ka” and “Bacolod Breeze”, named after the region where Filipino sugar cane is harvested. The Craft Brewing and Distilling Company, founded by former Razorback lead singer Jose Mari Cuervo, launched Crows Nest Agrikultura, the country’s first “Agricole-style” white rum, using fresh sugarcane juice. Alexandra Dorda, the daughter of Belvedere and Chopin Vodka co-founder Tad Dorda, has also launched Kasama, a small-batch rum brand celebrating her mother’s birthplace. She calls it “a love letter to the Philippines”. The labels feature hand-drawn illustrations of native plants like heliconia, Sampaguita, and santan as well as postage stamps, the Filipino national flag, and the word “Mabuhay,” a local greeting meaning “long live.”Cheap or cheaper is not always bad. When it comes to rum from the Philippines it often means brilliant and much overlooked.