Written by Vince Borromeo
Saturday, 21 September 2013
You just can’t hide a great thing, especially a great rum. Just like an idea whose time has come, a liquor comes into distillation at the right time and in the right place. The story of how Don Papa Rum came to be tells of how Filipino ingenuity birthed one of the smoothest sugar-based liquors that has gained worldwide recognition.
A Briton, Stephen Carroll, who made a living selling liquor all over the world, began to make friends here in the Philippines. He got invited by a local to his hometown Bacolod, Negros Occidental, an island in the Philippines, known for its rich, volcanic soil and its world-famous sugar canes.
These sugar canes made the people who grew them become known for their affluence. Locals would say in their vernacular “gina pico gina pala,” meaning their wealth was so vast it literally had to be shoveled and pick-axed.
Bacolod was also known for its “estoryas tartaras,” incredible stories that had the ring of truth about them due to the wealth of the sugar barons. They were known to have ordered sports cars before these were even made, without having seen it or knowing the price. These stories of the affluence and riches of the place might be exaggerations, but when you see the soil and the place, your jaw will quite literally drop.
I once saw a foreign agronomist-soil scientist awed in such a way, with sighs of unbelief upon seeing this soil of gold in Bacolod. He tasted the sugar cane in the area and the soil expert exclaimed that from this soil, these must be the sweetest sugar cane in the entire world. And that is how Don Papa Rum came to be liquid gold in Philippine soil.
The name Don Papa was taken from a local unsung hero named Papa Isio (his real name is Dionisio Siguela Papa, according to the Negros Daily Bulletin in Roque Hofilena Jr.’s “Chiaroscuro” column dated Feb. 21, 2012), who is claimed to have been a foreman at a sugar plantation and was also known as a healer and the rebel leader of a group of revolutionaries, the babaylanes, during the 19th century Philippine revolt against the Spanish regime.
When Carroll saw all the sugar cane in Bacolod, his first question was, “Where is the rum?”
Rum is the alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane, and he naturally expected that Bacolod was producing rum. To his astonishment, no rum had even been produced in Bacolod. This birthed the idea of a rum production where he partnered with Filipinos Monica Llamas and Andrew Garcia to create a homegrown brew that eventually received international acclaim.
The naturally sweet rum aged for over seven years has oak and vanilla notes and is smooth to the palate with a fruity finish. A French rock and roll guitarist, Matthias Cadeac D’Arbaud, when he turned bartender/owner of Bar Zelda, got hold of a few bottles and started serving the rum in France. His secret, Don Papa, was the hit of the place. He got worried about his rum stock and made sure he would be able to buy and secure Don Papas. He went as far as to fly to the Philippines several times to keep his bar well-stocked.
On a recent visit to the Philippines, Cadeac D’Arbaud, said, “In mixology, there are a lot of things to highlight and develop when it comes to ingredients. I am always looking for new ingredients, including fresh produce like local fruits, herbs and spices. Don Papa Rum is like a new baby in the family for us mixologists. It’s the one we’ve been waiting for.
“Don Papa is very complex and full. It’s always a challenge to create cocktails with something that’s already well-balanced. These cocktails are actually variations of classic cocktails. It’s all about where you want to go…It can be a spectrum of flavors, a map of feelings.”
Cadeac D’Arbaud shared four new signature Don Papa cocktails: Black Sand, The Destroyer, The Don Papa Julep and Don Papa Old Fashioned. These cocktails will be served in Don Papa’s upcoming weekly cocktail events in some of Manila’s best bars from September to December this year, including Las Flores, Rocket Room and Aracama at the Bonifacio Global City, as well as the famed Long Bar in Raffles Makati.
Cadeac D’Arbaud was also one of the bartenders who presented Don Papa at the Philippine expo at Musee du Quai Branly in Paris last April. Cadeac D’Arbaud was Lauren Conrad’s French lover in The Hills and the guitarist of French rock band Rock&Roll. Their album cover was photographed by Karl Lagerfeld, and the band played the front act at the Roberto Cavalli’s spring/summer menswear collection.
Published in Tribune Life Style