A Philippine rum with a hint of Magellan

WHEN Ferdinand Magellan set sail for the East, we don’t think he thought he would meet his end on these islands, a bit more than halfway round the world from home, nor that he would inspire a new rum.

More than 500 years stand between Ferdinand Magellan’s birth in Portugal in 1480 and 2021, when Don Papa Rum’s new expression, the Don Papa Port Casks, take inspiration from the navigator’s origins as the son of minor nobles in Portugal.

To make Don Papa Port Casks, Don Papa Rum (made with Philippine sugar from Negros, in Negros) is aged first for two years in ex-bourbon casks, then in port casks for five more years. Port, a dessert wine, comes from Portugal’s Douro Valley and takes its name from the city of Porto. The right to name its products has been legally protected since the mid-1700s, making it the third-oldest appellation in Europe.

The latest expression was launched via a dinner (delivered at home — safety first) on Sept. 8. The menu was prepared by chef Victor Magsaysay, and included boat tarts, gazpacho, porchetta, smoked lapu-lapu, and ylang-ylang leche flan. These were paired with two cocktails: Two Worlds (fig-infused Don Papa 7, spiced syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters) and San Lazaro (Don Papa Port Casks, Ferrand Dry Curacao, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Mancino Vermouth Secco, homemade grenadine).

Don Papa Port Casks by itself has some hints of vanilla and flowers in the scent, a gentleness that does not prepare you for its aggressive taste. It has a flavor as dark and deep as its color: brooding, spicy, and smoky, with a very pronounced flavor and scent of wood. Sipped out of a tiny port glass, it had a piquant spicy note that lingers on the tongue (and the throat), long after you’ve put the glass down.

If this expression is aggressive, it mellows down in a cocktail, lending some gravitas in the tart and tangy San Lazaro cocktail. It works well with food, demonstrated in how it accentuated the herbal flavors and firm texture of the porchetta (Mr. Magsaysay suggests pairing it with goat meat). It’s a drink for slow times; for sipping slowly and ruminating.

This new drink follows older siblings Don Papa Rare Cask, Sherry Cask, Sevillana Cask, and last year’s Rye Aged limited editions. Andrew Garcia, Don Papa co-founder and Managing Director, discussed these expressions and how they come up with them in a press conference before dinner.

“We really played around with the different types of wood to bring out something new and spectacular for you to enjoy,” he said. “We explore the whole industry, not just in rum. We look at whiskies, vodkas, tequilas, and we also look towards food,” he said, speaking about the creative process. “At any given time, we have something like 50 experiments happening. You wouldn’t believe how many different types of rum we have to taste every six months.”

He shared a story about the Don Papa Sevillana Casks, flavored by casks that once held Spanish orange liqueur. Every six months, when they would taste it, it would change character and flavor, going from good to bad every so often. “Once it was beautiful again, I said, ‘let’s just launch it already!’.”

“It’s kind of a hit-or-miss,” he says about these experiments. “It’s part of the game to explore different types of flavors here and there,” he explained.

Meanwhile, while the limited editions can impress Don Papa veterans, will the multitude of ways to drink Don Papa confuse a Don Papa virgin? Monica Llamas-Garcia, Communication Director for Don Papa Rum said, “That’s the whole point of having these new expressions. We’ve created avenues for people to discover the world of Don Papa in different ways.

“There’s a Don Papa for everyone.”

Don Papa Port Casks is available at Ralph’s Wines & Spirits and Boozy.ph starting this September. — Joseph L. Garcia

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