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.
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