Don Papa Rum

Don Papa Text

*Edit – Countless amateur sugar and now lab tests have been carried out on this product. I can say with some confidence based on the data that this is not something that should be considered Rum. 2.4 g/L of glycerol and 29 g/L of added sugars were found in the result data. I simply cannot recommend such a product when it is masquerading as something that it is not. These are personal opinions remember, but I have my eyes opened on this product in particular*


Don Papa Rum had been on my radar for a while as I’d seen the images from Rumfest and already thought that the label design was a real knockout… looks as though you could almost tear it off and use it as currency! I was very keen to get my hands on a bottle given the marketing of the product, its unique origins in the Philippines (as I’m only aware of one other brand from that location), and the buzz surrounding its imminent launch over here in the UK. I was fortunate enough to attend the Boutique Bar Show in Manchester in early May where I got to try a lot of spirits……including Don Papa. I think that there was maybe a little palate fatigue on the day, coupled with the fact that I’d just imbibed a drop of Brimstone which killed my sense of taste for a good half an hour or so, as I wasn’t fully able to make my mind up about my feelings on the rum beyond the initial heavy sweetness….I knew that I needed a little more time with it though to address it alone.
Anyhow, more about the brand. Don Papa Rum or The Don is a rum inspired by the actions and story of one of the unsung heroes of the Philippine Revolution: Dionisio Magbuelas, better known locally as ‘Papa’ Isio. Initially a foreman at a sugar plantation, Papa Isio, also a healer, shaman, seer, rebel and leader of a group of babaylanes, played a pivotal role during the late 19th Century Philippine Revolution. Papa Isio’s spirit and leadership played a critical part if freeing Negros from Spanish Rule, ultimately leading to independence for the Philippines, his beloved country. Don Papa Rum which was created in 2011 is said to embody Papa Isio’s spirit of independence, irreverence and sense of justice. That’s it for the flashy marketing anyway.

Don Papa Rum – 40 % ABV

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As for a little about the Rum, Don Papa is a ‘premium aged small batch rum’ from the isle of Negros Occidental in the Philippines which utilises locally sourced sugarcane. Negros Occidental is said to have an ideal climate and a rich, volcanic soil that is ideally suited to sugarcane production. Don Papa is aged at the foothills of Mount Kanalaon for 7 years prior to being blended. Bit of a strange one given the age of the company vs the age of the Rum…..also there is no mention of a distillery either…..things are not looking good. Right, onto the notes…………

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The rum displays itself a lot darker in the bottle but is dark gold and orange in the glass. Sickeningly sweet vanilla instantly billows out of the glass along with a little citrus. There is a ripe fruit note akin to a warm strawberry compote. Swirling the glass shows the rum to be very thick and almost syrupy. Orange oils are carried on the vanilla along with a synthetic apricot jelly sweetness being backed up with cinnamon and raisin spice. There is hint of something very similar to Tizer or Irn-Bru and it is all rounded out by warm custard. There is no trace of anything that I have come to know as Rum within the bottle. From the aromas alone I am bracing myself for some real heavy sweetness.

In the mouth: The entry of this is very very sweet and all synthetic vanilla. Raisins, syrup, candied citrus peel and Christmas cake. Dried apricots follow alongside sugary mango pieces. Cola is also very prominent as is custard and crème brulee both in flavour and in the mouth feel. Egg custard and nutmeg is another thing that is brought to mind. There is a backbone of citrus running through it and it is almost to the point of being orange liqueur like. It is a spiced Rum, or maybe a neutral alcohol masquerading as a spiced rum even though it is not being marketed as such. The finish is of a medium length and starts off with orange sweetness and ends slightly dry with a tiny bit of oak at the end. Further sips are not required. The cork becomes so sticky that removing it from the bottle neck becomes a real issue. Most certainly sweetened. 


This ‘Rum’ sits on the sweeter sweetened end of the spectrum and will most certainly have its fans, I can’t see why. It is an easy way into the world of alcohol for those who prefer bold, vanilla heavy synthetic sweetness and it will tick the right boxes for a lot of people and bars. As with most things, I prefer to spread positive thoughts and honesty whilst always bearing in mind that the purpose of this whole venture for me is to get people drinking good quality Rum. Sadly, none of that is present here. I would see this as not meant for me. It would be an easy drinking introduction for anyone new to the category and would hopefully lead to further interest and a willingness to seek out some really amazing Rums moving forwards…..and this can happen….But if this particular thing is your preferred profile, you’re unlikely to appreciate the subtleties of a well aged Rum. My tastes have developed and perhaps matured a little and whilst I have a pretty sweet tooth generally, (though not as much for my spirits these days) and I am a big fan of certain spiced Rums that have gained mixed opinions based on their sweetness, I just find this particular liquid too sweet for my personal tastes at any stage in my journey. On top of this, the flavour profile doesn’t sit well with me.

One thing that I would love to see is a lot more clarity. The label mentions the words ‘rich smooth taste, and just a touch of vanilla’ but not in a way that would make me entertain that the vanilla, or any other enhancement is added to the mix prior to tasting. If the rum were to label itself as spiced and it really does, for me, have a lot more in common with certain spiced rums, I think that I’d feel slightly more comfortable with the flavour profile and feel that it sits within a group where I would expect to find flavour adjustments. I do still think that it’d be too sweet and synthetic for me though.

As per usual, we would love to hear your experiences of Don Papa……We also love to share so feel free to pop in and sample the rum……

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


5 responses to “Don Papa Rum

  1. This sounds almost like a Spiced rum. I’m not a big fan of a lot of vanilla in rum (I detest Morgan’s Spiced with a passion) so based on your review I think I’ll give this one a miss. I’ve enough sweet rum (Diplomatico, La Hechicera, El Dorado, Old Monk) for now and I’m really looking to try some different rum’s in the future.

  2. Hi,
    I tasted this rum during the RumFest in Paris 2 years ago and also had the opportunity to taste it again, peacefully: I completely agree with your analysis, this is just NOT an aged rum, but a spiced rum.It is so heavily overloaded with sugar and vanilla aromas that it becomes cloying.
    It looks like Don Papa tried to create a mix between the Diplomatico Reserva exclusiva (for the sugar) and the Arcane Extraroma from Mauritius (for the artifcical aromas)…
    Just forget this rum (and take a shot of 15 yo Pusser’s navy rum)!

  3. Hey there, I really liked your article and your tasting. One thing bothered me: The edit you did (“I simply cannot recommend such a product”) is based on one test from that one french article which shocked the whole rum community. Iam not common with french language but in the english version there is no reference to the laboratory in which the test was made. There is also no complete result sheet with all the different measures and values given. Do you know if there are any more reliable sources to prove the stand of the article you mentioned? You have any more clues? I do not say that Don Papa is a good rum or something. But Iam quite shocked that everybody relies on that french article with no sources! That’s not very scientific. The article could have an hidden agenda too or could be biased – just as producers hiding truth and the production process behind marketing and labels. And if you look at the page and the FB page of them a lot of others rums (especially french ones) are put in the focus of the authors. Just saying – just asking!

    • Hi Peter, I think that the durhum article has rattled a few cages. It has shown that there is a growing awareness and a desire to actually find out what is in the bottle. Independent home tests pick up sugar and the next step is what is occurring now, individuals spending their own money in the pursuit of clarity. In the absence of any truth from producers, speculation and futher digging is to be expected. If it is a process that producers are proud of, they will tell eveyone about it, not hide it or refuse to comment. I buy a lot of Rum, and although knowing that a rum has added suagr wont necessarily stop me from buying it ( I am not an anti-sugar millitant), I have the right to be told by the producer what it contains to inform my purchase. I don’t think that any harm will come to Don Papa as it continues to sell by the bucket load, specifically in France. I’m glad that you took the time to comment though as only through discussions will we flush out the truth.

  4. As someone from Manila and is trying to get more people into ron/rum/rhum, I should let you know that there are rumors that Don Papa is sourced. Rumors are they sourced this from a local company called San Miguel who is mainly known to produce San Miguel Beer. San Miguel was said to have produced rum but the launch didn’t push through. So Don Papa just bought the stocks.

    It became quite fishy when they released their 10 year around early or mid 2015. It used to taste less artificial around 2013. Now it’s just too sweet.

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