If I were to ask a group of people who the biggest rum companies in the world are, the odds are that only complete rum nerds know that a company out of the Philippines – Tanduay – belongs on that list of most prolific rum producers. In fact, Tanduay is second only to Bacardi in terms of rum sold around the world.
If you find it odd that you’ve never heard of one of the most globally popular rums in the world, you’re not alone. While Tanduay has a veritable strangle-hold on the Filipino market and is consumed in vast quantities throughout Southeast Asia, very few of its bottles make their way to the Western Hemisphere. If you ever wanted an indication of the size of the Asian rum market, considering that Tanduay concerns itself almost exclusively with only one hemisphere and is the second largest rum company in the world should tell you all you need to know.
The Tanduay 1854 rum was created to honor the company’s 150th anniversary in 2004 (for a more complete profile of Tanduay, see the treasure-troves on Rum Connection and Peter’s Rum Pages). 1854 is a blend of rums aged 15 years before being bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).
Tanduay 1854 comes in a lovely, slender bottle with a crisp blue and sliver label proclaiming its contents to be “Premimum Aged” 15 years. The bottle, somewhat oddly, is only 700mL rather than the more standard 750mL for spirits. In the bottle and in the glass the rum is a golden straw color. It forms quick, oily legs on the side of the glass.
An entoxicating aroma flows up from a glass of the 1854. Strong scents of fruits – pineapple, banana and citrus – are the first things to tickle your nose. There’s only a hint of vanilla which is followed by a bit of a chemical scent which seems to come and go between sniffs. The chemical smell is honestly not off-putting – more of a reminder that there be alcohol in that glass.
The nose is unlike other rums that I’ve had. It’s somewhere between a Jamaican style with its strong notes of fruit and a Spanish style rum with its clean lack of funkiness.
A thin, oily body to the rum is introduced to your tongue right from the get-go. The entry is only slightly sweet and full of the same banana and pineapple notes that were found on the nose. This gives way to a light taste of toasted sugar and vanilla. There’s a bit of a straw taste riding on top of the vanilla before finishing with a peppery vanilla flavor with a hint of banana. The aftertaste has a slight chemical quality to it – which unfortunately detracts a bit from the rest of the experience.
Allowing the rum to breathe a bit before sipping promotes the citrus to the forefront of the flavors while allowing the chemical notes to diminish significantly. If you’re looking to sip this rum, I’d recommend letting your glass sit for a few minutes or add a few drops of water or an ice cube.
As with the nose, the palate of the Tanduay 1854 seems to be somewhere between a Jamaican and a Spanish style rum. The medium-light body and overall clean feeling is definitely evocative of the Spanish style rums while the fruitiness hearkens to the flavors we’ve come to expect from a rum from Jamaica – though whereas Jamaican rums tend to run heavy with flavors of overripe fruit the Tanduay’s fruity flavors seem more fresh and less funky – lending a distinctive sweetness to the rum.
- 12 Mile Limit
- Cuba Libre
As a substitute for a Spanish rum or a Virgin Islands rum, Tanduay can add interesting highlights to the drinks.
In a daiquiri the the banana and pineapple flavors add a great dimension to the lime and sugar. Similarly, in a mojito or a Cuba Libre the Tanduay stands out as a nice change to what we’ve become accustomed to tasting in our cocktails.
For an interesting twist on the Cuba Libre and to avoid a drink that’s too sweet, you can try making the drink a bit more Filipino by substituting Kalamansi for the lime. Kalamansi is a small, extremely sour relative of the lime that is plentiful in the Philippines.
For something completely different, I really rather enjoyed it in a Twelve Mile Limit.
Twelve Mile Limit
1 oz White Rum
.5 oz Brandy
.5 oz Rye
.5 oz Grenadine
.5 oz Lemon Juice
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The Long & The Short Of It
One of my favorite things about rum is that every nation that makes it has its own, unique style – its own take on how to make rum. Tanduay in the Philippines is no exception to this rule. The Tanduay 1854 is a refined expression of the company’s vision of Filipino rum.
The rum isn’t perfect, with a slight chemical quality making it a middling sipper at-best, but it can really add some interesting depth to cocktails with its combination of light, fruity sweetness and dry, clean body.
Dood’s Rating: 3 Bottles of Rum Out of 5
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Nice review, I don’t know about the Philippines, but the standard bottle size in the EU is 70cl. I think it’s 75 in the US due to the old fifth measure?
Sure any size is good as long as the contents are tasty!
That’s a great point, Luc! I often (obviously) forget that once you get out of the US the standard bottle sizes can drop to 700mL instead of 750mL.
While the 700mL is common elsewhere, it apparently will prevent its sale in the U.S. due Byzantine bottling laws for alcohol that require certain sizes (although this insults a consumer that can’t read labels and doesn’t stop things like my once half gallon of ice cream from being only 3/8th of a gallon).
Yay! A new Rumdood post!
Now if we can only get Gabe to write something, we’ll be cooking with gas.
Great review Matt. Kalamamsi is one of the worlds great citrus flavors (I grew up drinking it in the Phillippines as an Air Force kid). I grow it now in northern California (next to my Yuzu, Blood Orange, and Key limes). It’s called Calamodin in the U. S., any nursery can get them. Kalamansi fruit is not usually extrmely sour, actually has nice sweetness with the lime sour flavor – Mexican lime + tangerine. Fantastic with rum and in tiki drinks. Replace lime with Kalamansi in a Mai Tai to add another level of yumminess – I call it the Manila Tai. Served them just last week to your buddy Brian “the Consultant” Goldin and Kelly to rave reviews. Yuzu is crazy good too – looking for new flavors for your rum drinks? Try expanding your fresh citrus mix.
Flynn, what about pomelo?
Nice review. I had no idea about this rum company at all. I know quite a bit about the Philippines and it’s quite big population. Considering it’s vast popularity there and in SE Asia it is no wonder it sells so well. Will have to try to get my hands on a bottle some day.
Yeah, Pomelo is yummy – Suha I think it’s called in Philippines. Had it in Vietnam too, not in drinks but with noodles and chilis. kindof grapefuirty but not as sour. Havent seen it outside of SE Asia but thats a great idea. Wonder what that tastes like in a Zombie…! Kabosu (japanese citron) also yummy in cocktails, I can get the pure juice in a japanese food store in town. Funny though, it ALL goes good with rum…maybe we are biased though.
Yes love Tandauy 1854 some o the best rum to drink in the philippines it cost under $4.00 us have one bottle left. Allso have the 20 year old, 18 year old rum but olny look at the bottles and dream o the fun time I had in the philippines. Yes in the philipppes do miss drink tandauy hard to ine in the states
Never heard of it until today, thanks for the post. Now I just have to find somewhere that serves it 🙂
Capn Jimbo's Rum Project
Matt, you are so right that different countries have their own unique styles of making rum. You are right too that Tanduay Distillers is a HUGE company, second only to Bacardi in rum anyway. But that’s where the similarities stop.
Oddly enough Tanduay Distillers doesn’t distill any rum. They see “rum” as a list of ingredients to be assembled, from their website: “…there are four main ingredients in (our) rum: distilled alcohol, demineralized water, sugar and other ingredients”. Tanduay buys these elements from huge suppliers .
This mixture of purchased ingredients is “alcohol” (brought in by tankers from Asian Alcohol), “demineralized water”, “sugar” (from Victorias Milling Corp) and “other ingredients” (flavorings from International Flavors). Tanduay distills nothing.
In sum, these “rums” are made from doctored alcohol (hopefully distilled from a cane source), sugar and water. Other reviewers have noted the unusual and unexpected flavors and colors.
Another difference is aging statements. For example, Tanduay’s 8 Year states that it contains “rum as old as eight years”. Simply put this age statement refers to the oldest rum in the bottle, and quite misleading. This casts doubt on all their age statements.
As reviewers I believe we all have the responsibility to alert our readers to such issues in the interest of full and honest disclosure about a product they may decide to buy.
There was a little oak barrel of 20 yr old tanduay available out of the duty free store, about 13 years ago at manila airport, that cost about 50$ for a two liter barrel. This would be even older now of course. I tried to get it elsewhere last time but could not. It tasted to me like “nectar of the gods”, being the only way I could describe it, more of a fine liqueur than a rum.