The biggest distiller you’ve never heard of
It is a rare occurrence when I can review a rum for you that you have never heard of, yet the company is second only to Bacardi in overall sales in the world. Tanduay Rhum from the Philippines, is a major brand in Asia but is rarely seen in the West. Imagine, Bacardi is the biggest but you can find Bacardi in most any country. Tanduay only focuses on Asia and yet they are nearly as large. I guess that means the Asians love rum as much if not more than anyone in the West ever suspected!
Tanduay, like Bacardi, focuses their business largely on the average consumer which means that you won’t find many tasting notes on most of their rums. A couple years back I was lucky enough to be given a bottle of Tanduay 1854, their top of the line 15 year old blend. I was fairly familiar with Tanduay already ,having spent a lot of time in South East Asia and the Philippines. Normally there was a bottle of 5 year old dark at hand for mixing.
For some unexplainable reason, my bottle of 1854 retreated to the back of my rum cabinet and became overlooked until recently. I thought to myself, why am I missing the opportunity to add this fine rum to the spectrum of flavors that I enjoy from the rest of my rum collection. And so this review was born.
To be forthcoming I had a unfounded negative preconception on Tanduay 1854. Shame on me. Perhaps this error was caused by my past experiences with the dark. Maybe the cheap price lead me astray, or maybe I was just being an idiot. Regardless, we are now here to make amends.
The 1854 is an 80 proof, 40% ABV blend of Tanduay’s oldest aged rums. I can find no information on the barrels that were used but based on the flavor profile and nose, I believe the rum was in new oak. The color of the blend is very light for a rum of this age which leads you to believe the flavors will be as well. This is true up to a point. The nose of the rum is light, fruity without much complexity. This rum needs time to float out of your glass before you can truly pick up the nose. If you put your nose right down in it you will greeted with an unrefined heat that will skew your objectivity immediately. What I get is banana with some pear. Late hints of wood and pineapple follow.
The fun comes in the taste. Oak with a slight oily viscosity anchors the rum as banana, and pear give way to slight pineapple on the back and sides of the tongue. Subtle heat from the alcohol starts immediately and slowly takes over in the end. The heat spikes like a hockey stick as you swallow. I would expect a 15 year old rum to be a bit smoother around the edges but the good news is that the heat stays on the palate and does not follow the rum down your throat as you swallow. The lingering flavor then returns to the pleasant oak, banana and pineapple overtones that in end define this rum.
Tanduay 1854 is a good choice to add to your rum cabinet. I don’t feel it is competitive with other 15 year old rum offerings but if I could get it at the $7 it costs in Manila I would. Chances are that you will pay north of $20 if you can even find it online to order. At that price, you should probably still order it but only if you are a collector.