Oct 282017
 

#397

In late 2010 an interesting rum crossed my path, one of my first from Asia, the Phillipine Tanduay Superior 12 year old, which I thought was quite a nice rum at a time when double-digit aged rums were often beyond the reach of my slender purse (or the interest of importers).  Re-reading that review after a seven-year gap I wouldn’t change much…maybe the word “excellence” in the final summing-up is a bit to enthusiastic (blame it on my youth and inexperience if you wish).  What’s interesting about the review is the observation about the sort of oiliness displayed by the DDL aged expressions which subsequent tests (unavailable at the time) showed to be locally-traditional, profile-pleasing, unacknowledged adulteration – but that 84-point score for the  T-12 remains, I believe, quite reasonable for its time. These days I’d probably rank it somewhat lower.

To this day Tanduay remains generally unavailable in the west, in spite of being one of the major brands in Asia, the most popular in the Phillipines, and among the top five by volume of sales in the world.  Yet they are one of the older concerns in Asia, being formed back in 1854 when some local Spanish entrepreneurs in the Phillipines formed Inchausti Y Cia – the company was mostly into shipping and fibre production and acquired a pre-existing distillery in 1856 so as to vertically integrate their sugar export business with distilled spirits. Tanduay rums have been around, then, for a long time (one of them won a gold medal in the Exposition Universal in Paris in 1876) and like many national brands as they grew, they came to dominate their local market with a large swathe of alcoholic beverages (including brandy, vodka and gin). While there are some US sales, not many bloggers have written about these rums, which may be too low-key or hard to find, to attract much interest.  Most comments I see are by people returning from the Phillipines, or who live(d) there.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to remedy this shortfall: in late 2017, a new FB aficionado and occasional commentator called John Go offered to send me some samples from around the region in exchange for some of my own, and the Tanduay 1854 was one of them. The cheerfully sneaky gent numbered his six unlabelled samples, so I had no clue what I was getting and that means that the notes below are my blind ones.

“Thin and somewhat sharp on the nose,” my notes on this 15-year old blended, golden rum go, “But very interesting…could have been a bit stronger.” It was indeed an intriguing aroma profile – briny and a little vinegary, like salt biscuits smeared with a little marmalade, plus musty sawdust and spicy notes – tumeric and cardamon and cumin – redolent of a disused pantry left unattended for too long.  What may have been the most interesting thing about it was that there were surprisingly few real molasses or “rummy” smells, though some caramel emerged after a while: overall it was far simpler than I had been expecting for something this aged.

That changed on the palate, which was better (the reverse of the situation with many Caribbean rums where the nose is often richer and more evocative) – I had few complaints here aside from the feeling that 43-46% might have done the rum more favours. Mostly caramel, vanilla, some breakfast cheerios with milk lightly sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon, some cumin, citrus and oak.  Mildly sweet, a little dry, some pineapples and bananas, with additional late-blooming flavours of brine, sweet soya, and finished quickly, without fuss, short, thin, sharp and just more citrus, vanilla, caramel to wrap things up.  

Overall it was workmanlike, not overly complex – it is well constructed, flavours are distinct, balance is fine…but there just isn’t much of anything to really write home about, no singular point of excellence. It’s simply a good 15 year old bottled at 40%, and could easily have been better with some beefing up or imaginative barrel strategy or finishing regime, and I think for a rum this old and at the top of the food chain for the company, that’s not an unreasonable critique to make. Sure it may be primarily for the East where softer fare is de rigueur…but one can always seek to raise the bar too.

Still, let’s give Jack his jacket: compared to the high-test-swilling elephant in the rum room right now (the Don Papa 7 and 10 year old, which I and others excoriated for being mislabelled spiced and oversugared syrups), the 1854 is quite a bit better. Johhny Drejer calculated 5g/L of additives, which is right on the margin of error (0-5 g/L is considered to be effectively zero) and that is evident in the way it goes down.  I think for all its relative simplicity and unadventurousness, it is tasty and straddles an interesting line between various different rum profiles; and has not only real potential but is an affordable, decent product that gives other fifteen-year-old standard-proof rums a run for their money..

(81/100)

Many thanks to John Go…FWIW, the Tanduay is #5

Mar 262013
 

First posted 5th December, 2010 on Liquorature.

Some rums just upend all expectations, and maybe even redefine your assumptions.  Smooth, amber-dark, just sweet enough, and with a body and a finish that simply don’t give up, Tanduay Superior 12 year old is like that. Where on earth has this rum been, and why can’t I find it in Calgary?

(#056. 84/100)

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A very affable individual from my office named Rainerio was heading off home to the Phillipines the other day, and knowing there were interesting rums to be found there (though unashamedly confessing ignorance of exactly which ones those were since I had never had any) I went down on bended knee, indulged myself in a paroxysm of weeping meant to soften any stony heart, and begged him to bring back a sample for me to review.  Well, I exaggerate a bit for poetic effect, but I did ask.  And Rainerio very kindly brought me back a bottle of this  stunning 12 year old.  Hell I would have been satisfied with any local popskull, and to get something so all-round excellent was a like getting an early Christmas present.

Tanduay is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, make of rum in the east, particularly the Phillipines, and made by the Tanduay Distillery out of Manila.  Like other major distillers – Bacardi and Diageo come to mind – they have a complete range, from light to dark, from the very cheap to the very expensive, and they have been in operation since 1854, which pips Bacardi by, oh, seven years. Yet, for whatever reason – distributors ignorance, lack of channels, unfavourable tariffs or whatever, you really have to look around to find it in North America (my research suggests it may be more readily available in Europe) and yet it may be the third most popular brand of rums in the world.

A dark brown rum of the same hue as the Bacardi 8 year old, the Tanduay 12 year old is an oak-aged product served up in a standard bottle emerging from a hard cardboard black box, and sporting a deceptive cheapo tinfoil cap. I looked askance at it and wondered whether this was a harbinger of things to come, but what the hell, I had asked for it and so dived right in.

On the nose the 12 year was spicy and immediately assertive with equal parts vanilla, caramel and lemon zest in some kind of crazy harmony, as if Michael Jackson suddenly joined up with the Bee Gees and they created a song of their own that just missed being nuts by some strange unknown alchemy. It was bold and immediate, but after allowing it to breathe, a sly delicate note of flowers came stealing around the more powerful notes. Yes there was some sting, but this died away after a while and the medicinal reek I so dislike in younger rums was utterly absent.

The rum took my hand and took me along with it: medium heavy body, coating the tongue with a sort of oiliness I have only had with DDL’s more aged rums.  There was just enough sweet to the Tanduay, and the caramel and vanilla notes were now joined by something softer, perhaps bananas or a tamed light citrus. It slides smoothly down the throat and let me tell you, the fade is simply awesome.  Long and smooth, with one last soft gasp of breathy fragrance wafting back up to remind you of what you just had, and inviting you to revisit the experience with another try.

Unless a distributor for this rum is found or whatever has stopped the importation of Tanduay to Canada is resolved, I doubt I’ll ever taste it again (though maybe I can ask Rainerio to bring another one back in a year or two). I’m glad I had a chance to try it: just when I thought I had a handle on the major brands of the world, this one came out of nowhere and smacked me upside the head.  If nothing else, it says that though I may have tasted and reviewed more rums than most, there are always gems from other places previously unconsidered that will just amaze, delight and please with their overall excellence.  This is the first one in my experience: I know there’ll be others, but Tanduay gives me hope that I’ll actually be able to find them, and share that delight with all those who one day read the reviews I put up about their quality.

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