Ruminating on rum

Peter Imbong
If you're more of a beer drinker, here's what you're missing

VARIETIES OF RUM. As rum neat or as a cocktail, it's an amazing experience

MANILA, Philippines – Although technically used in reference to the work of skilled manual workers, artisan products have now crossed over to food and beverages as well – their untrimmed edges, the use of the finest ingredients, and the careful yet small production process giving commercially produced fare a run for their money.

And this applies to premium beers and spirits too, with the rise of micro breweries and small-scale productions of different liquors.

“The Philippines is the second biggest rum producer in the world,” said Stephen Carroll, founder of the Bleeding Heart Rum Company, makers of Don Papa Rum, a premium single island rum made in Negros.

That island in the Visayas, particularly its western side that is Negros Occidental province, has long been known as one of the top sugar-producing regions in the country, with its vast sugar-cane plantations.

Raw material

According to Carroll, the Philippines produces about 2.2 million tons of sugar each year, from 15 varieties of sugar cane in some 62,000 farms covering over 400,000 hectares of land.

This sugar forms the raw material to create rum. In the case of Don Papa, the resultant molasses is distilled then stored in oak casks.

Rum gets its deep red hue from the bourbon barrels in which they’re aged. But clear rum is also produced when aged in steel barrels.

The rum is then charcoal-filtered to remove any tannins and impurities before being blended by a master blender.

“As the rum ages – particularly in oak – it’s going to get tastier in flavor,” explained Carroll. “And when you age them in bourbon barrels, for example, you’re going to get a sweeter flavor with elements of honey and vanilla coming through. It’s quite a unique spirit.”

Don Papa Rum is distilled from sugar cane, then aged in American oak for 7 years, in the foothills of Mt. Kanlaon.

Because of that, you get “a very rich and smooth spirit with hints of vanilla, candied fruit, and honey,” said Carroll.

DON PAPA RUM. Rich, smooth spirit. Photos by Peter Imbong

Rum – 3 ways

There are several ways to enjoy rum, apart from your usual cocktail of rum and soda.

The first is rum neat, which is simply rum at room temperature pored straight into a glass.

“It’s just like a beautiful girl,” said Matthias Cadeac D’Arbaud, a mixologist and owner of Bar Zelda in Paris.

D’Arbaud was in Manila during the launch of Don Papa Rum to suggest his own rum-inspired cocktails.

“With makeup and a beautiful dress, a beautiful girl can be amazing,” he said. “But [if you have] a beautiful girl with no makeup on, no high heels, no cocktail dress, and with just a white T-shirt and jeans, that’s a beautiful lady. And that’s rum neat.”

D'ARBAUD. Rum neat is 'just like a beautiful girl.'

The experience is a great introduction to rum. Because it’s slightly warm, the aroma of vanilla and honey wafts from the glass which you can already smell from a distance. It’s smooth on the palate and ends with a delicate finish.

For Carroll, it’s on the rocks: poured over ice in a glass then lightly stirred.

Another suggestion by Cadeac D’Arbaud is something he calls the Don Papa old-fashioned.

THE OLD-FASHIONED. All-time classic cocktail 

“The old-fashioned is an all-time classic cocktail, served in the best bars for over a century. This is designed to highlight [the rum’s] magnificence.” 

Cover the bottom of a rock glass with liquid brown sugar, add a drop of maraschino, 2 drops of hopped grapefruit bitters, a drop of orange bitters, and pour your rum.

“You peel an orange, cut it in two slices, and twist it in the glass,” said D’Arbaud. “You then put in a big ice cube and you slowly give it a turn. It’s fresh, warm, hard, soft, sweet, and bitter.

“That’s the way I like it the most.” –


Rum cocktails photo from Shutterstock.


Peter Imbong is a full-time freelance writer, sometimes a stylist, and on some strange nights, a host. After starting his career in a business magazine, he now writes about lifestyle, entertainment, fashion, and profiles of different personalities. Check out his blog, Peter Tries to Write.

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