The Rum of The Philippines
Previously we reported that the supposed second highest selling rum in the world, second only to Bacardi, (which everyone has heard of) is Tanduay - which is pretty much unknown here in the UK. This amazing statement was made by Paul McFayden of IPB at the March Rum Club. I also reported that a forthcoming holiday would be taking us down to the popular Pilipino tourist haunt that is Boracay and that this would give us the chance to find out first hand if Tanduay really is a popular as painted. As it turns out, we couldn't really have missed it, even if we weren't rum students.
The scale of advertising in even a small place like Boracay is pretty intense. Everything from the sponsored fridges and bar furniture to large billboards promote the "No. 1 Rhum". Subsequently I've been trawling the web for comparable worldwide sales figures, without the sort of success I was hoping for (expert help required here me thinks!). So running without third party corroboration to Paul's assertion, I had to assume the "No. 1" statement is perhaps a self given statement of quality. As it turns out, Tanduay is actually a gold medal winner as well. It was awarded the Monde Selection Bruxelles (for more info on what that means click here). What this actually means to the Pilipino man in the street is difficult to ascertain really, but while the award is strongly featured on the Premium 15 year old product, it strangely doesn't seem to be listed on the awards section of the company's website (for their awards click here). In fact the 1854 appears to have won the silver medal, while the Premium White had won the gold...
Whilst in Boracay, Pauline and I picked up a bottle of the Tanduay Dark Rhum for 72 pesos. To put that into context, beach front money exchanges were offering 66 pesos to the pound (£). I'll leave you for a moment to run the mental calculations that will surely bring you to the conclusion that:
1. Its extremely cheap. And...
2. It can't have had a lot of care and attention lavished upon it, or even aged for very long, because broadly speaking - time is money and vice-versa!
We felt we couldn't leave for home without stashing more bottles in our already extremely over weight suitcases and so we picked up a bottle of the Superior 12 year old (225 pesos / £3.40) and the previously mentioned 1854 Premium 15 year old (456 pesos / £6.90). One of these two will be our contribution to the next rum club meeting and one thing's for sure - it's likely to be the cheapest on their shelf!
The Tanduay website has a great deal about its long history on it (the company started making rum in 1854) and the fact that it was started so long ago and has been going for so long is largely due to the Spanish influence, which is still amazingly present in all aspects of Pilipino life. The site is also pretty fast to access as they haven't yet gone down the "flash" me to death route of ultra slick websites that take ages to load and only hold the attention of the very dedicated, so it's actually pretty easy to work your way through.
So is it any good? Well I won't be sipping the dark rum neat anytime soon unless I've descended into a hopeless rum fuelled booze problem. But the more expensive (relatively speaking) ones were fine. I found that Rocky, a retired boxer, a big Tanduay fan and top barman at Bolero's was happy to let me sample all the ones he had on his back bar and I certainly don't remember thinking that they were 'orrible. I qualify this of course (for all those that know me) by pointing out that I had been drinking beer most of the day - in the sun! Taking a look at the other rum's on their menu, I was pleased to see that they stocked other brands, but the cost difference of the imported stuff is significant - especially to the locals.
There are a lot of bars in Boracay - all of them stock Tanduay. There are a fair few shops all stocking Tanduay - Boracay is a small place, imagine scaling up the consumption all across the thousands of islands that make up the Philippines - the quantity of rum produced and drunk must be staggering. It does seem like the average Pilipino enjoys their rum and Tanduay is Pilipino through and through, an odd kind of national drink - but one all the same.
So where does this leave me? Am I going to go on a personal drive to obtain true sales figures? No - it's obvious that Tanduay is massive in the Philippines and who cares how that relates to the world market? Can we get it here in the UK? Yes - Tanduay white rum is available at The Whisky Exchange (click here). Would I be looking to source some for my home collection - probably not. By the time it's travelled half way around the world it's picked up a fair bit of financial value that probably outstrips it's taste. Would I recommend anyone heading out that way on holiday to try it? Yes I would. Great value and a good talking point with the locals and the bar staff.