A taste of Negros

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LIQUIDS DISTILLED in a certain place contain a piece of the land within them. In every bottle swims a record of time and space. Don Papa Rum’s new line, called Don Papa Cask, adds the spice of virtuosity in every bottle, as the Bleeding Heart Rum Company demonstrated via a tasting on Nov. 7 in Makati City’s Riedel Room.

Three cognac glasses were laid out for guests, each filled with the three Don Papa varieties already present: The Don Papa 7, the Don Papa 10, and the Don Papa Rare Cask. Guests were told to compare and contrast each:

• Don Papa 7 has a saccharine touch akin to bubblegum, refined by notes of vanilla and treacle; and there’s a picture of stickiness at the first sip: it’s like watching maple syrup flow from a wooden bucket.

• The Don Papa 10, the more complex rum aged in charred barrels, had notes of espresso, and perhaps in the knowledge of the darkness it was stored in, gave the taste a picture, perhaps of ashes falling after a fire.

• The Don Papa Rare Cask is a bit more special, combining the two techniques to create a unique spirit. It’s made out of the Don Papa 7, initially aged in ex-bourbon casks, then finished for a spell of 14 to 18 months in barrels especially made for Don Papa (we don’t use the word “unique” lightly). The “new” barrels once held Rioja wines from Spain, and were shaved, toasted, and roasted to be able to bring out a more complex flavor from the liquid it’s now destined to hold. The result gave an aroma of herbs and spices, a type of waxy woodiness one associates with wood used for sculptures of saints, light tobacco smoke, and perfumed skin. The taste meanwhile contains mostly the same notes, but boy oh boy, its heat penetrates — it sets the heart ablaze, and the residual heat comes out of your nostrils (almost) like smoke.

Andrew Garcia, managing director for Asia Pacific and cofounder of the Bleeding Heart Rum Company discussed why it’s important for them to continue to innovate. The rum, made out of local sugar grown in Negros, is distributed in some of the world’s most cosmopolitan watering holes, from Tokyo to Berlin. “I guess for us, it’s just a bit of a demonstration of our ongoing efforts to innovate,” said Mr. Garcia. “We wanted to make sure that people can see that we’re still trying to find ways to make better rum.”

As mentioned earlier, more than a record of climate, liquor also holds within its heart the hands and minds of the people who make it. Mr. Garcia says that it gives a drinker the idea of the skill and passion of the people in Negros, and by extension, the country.

“It takes a lot to make something like this. You really need high-quality people who are educated and have that touch to be able to produce a liquid, that as a finished product, can become [someone’s] favorite.

“It really illustrates that we have that kind of talent.” — Joseph L. Garcia