Oct 282017


*WarningThis is not a 15 Year Old Rum

In late 2010 an interesting rum crossed my path, one of my first from Asia, the Philippine 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 muchmaybe 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 adulterationbut 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 Philippines, 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 Philippines formed Inchausti Y Ciathe 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 Philippines, 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 apparently 15-year old blended, golden rum go, “But very interestingcould have been a bit stronger.” It was indeed an intriguing aroma profilebriny and a little vinegary, like salt biscuits smeared with a little marmalade, plus musty sawdust and spicy notestumeric and cardamom and cuminredolent 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 complexit is well constructed, flavours are distinct, balance is finebut there just isn’t much of anything to really write home about, no singular point of excellence. It’s simply a good blend (in February 2020 I removed the words “15 year old”, see other notes) 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 rigueurbut 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..


Other Notes

  • In January 2020, Jeff S. pointed me to an overlooked discrepancythe label doesn’t actually say “15 Year OldbutWith 15 Year Old.I checked that against the original bottle from which my sample came, and sure enough, it was there too. The bottle is therefore on par with that famed contradiction in terms, the solera-styleage statement” – and means absolutely nothing. As a consequence, I have stifled my fury at this kind of deceptive marketing, retitled my post and rewritten some of the the narrativebut it’s hugely irritating, to say the leastI mean, come on, can you spot thewithin the top photo without squinting? They’re just pulling another Flor de Cana style bait-and-switch on us.
  • I can’t change the score and it stays as it is. It was tasted blind and scored that way before I knew anything about it, so to change that now to express my annoyance with the labelling would be equally dishonest on my part, as the printing on the label doesn’t change the taste.


  7 Responses toTanduay 1854 Blended RumReview

  1. FWIW, the bottle only costs P400 here. So it’s just a bit over 5 euros or under $8 USD with the current exchange rate. It really is affordable but I am curious as to why it’s this cheap.

    • I suspect it’s because the following:

      [1] Lower unit labour costs in the Phillipines
      [2] Economies of scale conferred by industrial column stills and continuous production
      [3] Dilution to 40% from the high ABV coming off the still makes for more rum from same input levels
      [4] Likely lower taxes and state fees because this is for domestic consumption: the moment it gets exported there are tariffs, import duties, local / state/ federal taxes, transport costs and middlemenas well as regulatory hoops to jump through and a distribution / sales network to pay for. All this gets folded into the foreign sales price.

      I don’t know enough about direct production costs or indirect infrastructure costs (electricity, water, maintenance, overheads, etc) for Tanduay to assess whether this impacts the final cost, though surely they are factors.

  2. where can i buy this tanduay here in cebu?

    • No idea, sorry.

      • Notice the labels saidwith 15 yearimplying that their is 15 year old rum in the blend, but it’s not 100% 15 year and older. So I wonder what the true age of this blend really is. I’ll get to try it as my wife just brought me back two bottles today.

        Regarding Tanduay Superior, I have an old bottle that says 12 year old. Now the newer bottles also added the small hard to read wordwithto the description implying that’s it’s no longer 100% 12 year old in the bottle.

        A very sad trend in the quality of product being sold.

        • Now that’s just depressing, honestly. Thanks for the tip, I’ll look at those labels more closely going forward. In the meantime, I’ve changed some of the narrative and the post title to make it clear this is not a 15 Year Old rum.

  3. I just picked this up at a local market (I live in Saipan) for $20, which is not a bad price in the US.

    I generally agree with your review. I tend to like heavier flavors and nothing really wowed me, but it is a nice, light rum. I think mixing it with cola wastes itit’s not bad on the rocks, but I think with something lighter like some lime & soda or a 7-up mixer it would still allow some of the softer flavor to come through.

    They have a few more bottles & I’ll probably pick them up later.

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