WHO’S YOUR PAPA?
The “world’s first single-island rum from the Philippines”, Don Papa Rum, has launched in the country, as the South African craft spirits movement gathers pace
South African rum-lovers are in for a treat as the days of a couple of nondescript bottles being wedged on the brandy shelf as an afterthought are fast fading.
Don Papa is the latest rum brand to arrive on these shores and is sure to find traction among local consumers, with its accessible and inviting caramel- and vanilla-scented flavour profile.
Don Papa is distilled from sugar cane from the Filipino island of Negros, which produces some of the sweetest molasses in the world. It’s then aged in American oak barrels for over seven years, before being blended.
The Philippines is the third-biggest rum market in the world after India and the USA (some 18 million cases are consumed annually) and the Asian country shares a number of similarities with SA, including its climate and vibrant drinking culture.
For former Remy Martin Marketing Chief Stephen Carroll, a visit to Negros and hearing “stories of an island that had everything; from the world’s finest sugar cane to beautiful beaches, mountains and volcanoes… even guerillas in the hills!” while on a sixmonth sabbatical in 2011 was all it took to consolidate his idea of the brand.
Together with Filipino marketing mastermind Andrew Garcia and later, Frenchman Matthias
Cadeac D’Arbaud, a former rock star and the brand’s international ambassador, Carroll set about establishing the Bleeding Heart Rum Company out of a 3m2 office in Manila. Over the past five years, the reach of Don Papa has spread over Europe and Asia – and now Africa.
“I have good memories of SA while working in multi-nationals. We saw an opportunity to introduce a different kind of rum to the market and have partnered with Truman Orange locally.
Rum is a versatile spirit with an easy-to-understand manufacturing process, and every rum has a distinct sense of place and provenance, which is helping drive its rise,” says Carroll, adding that the trio worked hard to overcome initial logistical challenges.
“Lost islands, volcanoes, pirates – there are no boring stories about rum!” quips D’Arbaud.
Besides the merits of its sweet taste, which is akin to a blast of tropical sunshine and lends an edgy note to rum standards like Cuba Libres and Mojitos, Don Papa also has its award-winning packaging to trumpet. The bottle is from France, the cork from Portugal, the label from Italy and the brand image of Dionisio Magbueles, also known as “Papa” Isio, has seen the brand garner a number of design and innovation awards. Certainly, Isio’s image is the kind you’d use for a tattoo or a
T-shirt to gain the approval of a discerning hipster.
“Papa Isio was initially a foreman at a sugar plantation. He was also a healer, a shaman and a seer, whose spirit and leadership played a critical part in freeing Negros from Spanish rule, ultimately leading to the independence of his beloved country,” explains D’Arbaud.
In a just a few short years, Don Papa has attained a global profile. What’s the secret of the trio’s brandbuilding success? “Stick to your vision, but don’t be afraid to take risks. Use a balance of qualitative and quantitative information wisely to make decisions and understand the end consumer. People will want to engage with you in different ways, so create an environment which allows for that,” advises Garcia.