Review: Don Papa Rum

Review: Don Papa Rum

The Philippines isn’t exactly known for rum, but why not? It’s hot, they’ve got sugar, and now they’ve got their own rum finally making it to the U.S. — Don Papa.

Filipino rum is a bit of a different animal, however, than you might be used to. I didn’t read up on this before tasting, but here’s the back story:

Don Papa Rum carries the long-standing traditions of Filipino rum making as a first-rate, expressive liquid that has amassed a cult-like following with spirits enthusiasts and industry insiders – a testament to its ability to transcend the rum category. The complex and delicious tasting rum offers a new taste that rum drinkers, brown spirit aficionados and newcomers to the spirit category can all enjoy.

The field to bottle process required to perfect “The Don” is no simple task. Don Papa Rum is handcrafted on the ethereal Philippine island of Negros, also known as “Sugarlandia,” where the lush, fertile land allows the sugarcane to flourish. The ancient sugar mills of Negros grind the Noble Cane, the original variety of sugar cane in Southeast Asia dating back thousands of years ago. This variant is much sweeter than others and transforms into the special “black gold” molasses used in Don Papa. These ingredients are then distilled and aged up to seven years in an ultra-humid climate, intensifying the interaction between the rum and the American oak barrels, drawing out the vanilla notes from the wood.

The key in all of that is that this Filipino sugar cane is sweeter than other strains. Tuck into Don Papa and you’ll soon see that’s no exaggeration. (The rum has no formal age statement but, as noted above, it’s “up to seven years” old.)

It starts right from the nose. Unlike most Caribbean rums, which are driven by vanilla notes, Don Papa is overwhelmingly fruity, featuring tons of orange, some coconut notes, banana, and a tropical hint. You can smell how powerful the sugar is — it exudes sweetness with a distinct candylike character.

The palate arrives much as expected. That candy-coated fruit character endures, here folding in some mint, more toasted coconut, and a bit of strawberry into that orange-dominated body. The finish eventually sees a bit of astringency (that classic petrol note so common with rum) that the sugar can’t quite cover up, though frankly, given the overwhelming rush of sweetness that comes before, this rustic character is almost a relief.

Tread with caution lest you go into diabetic shock.

80 proof.


Don Papa Rum




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Theo Macabeo on September 18, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    I’m definitely not a fan of the original Don Papa, however the 10 year is far less sweet, and carries more rich caramel and vanilla notes. Also of all spirits in the country rum is what their most known for. Tanduay is the second largest rum distillery in the world and largest in Asia, but only recently has come to the US I think a couple years ago.

    • Christopher Null on September 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

      Thanks Theo – I meant that in America, drinkers rarely think of the Philippines when they think of rum. I could have worded that better, I think.

  2. Bronx Anthro on February 9, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Mr. Null, I believe you’re remiss not to characterize this as a spiced and sugared spirit. The overwhelming vanilla note is clearly an additive and likely synthetic, and the product feels heavy in the mouth as well as sweet, suggesting that it’s been sugared post-distillation. I’m not saying it’s bad, but this is to rum what Amsterdam is to Gin—a highly flavored and sweetened offering targeting newcomers and those wanting their spirits to taste of vanilla. I give this a hard pass for unclear marketing and failing to approximate real rum in the slightest.

    • Christopher Null on February 10, 2022 at 11:07 am

      FWIW The company says this is not a spiced rum and that no added flavorings are included.

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