Ernest "Papa" Hemingway is among the greatest American authors of the 20th century. But he was much more than that. Hemingway's passion for life was legendary, as was his international celebrity as an avid outdoorsman, adventurer and big game hunter. The Caribbean was his favorite playground and rum his spirit of choice. For generations of American men, Hemingway was a man to be emulated.
There is now a pair of world-class rums that draw their creative inspiration from Hemingway and his bigger-than-life persona. And what appropriate homages they are. Papa's Pilar Blonde and Papa's Pilar Dark are blends of aged rums handcrafted from sugarcane molasses sourced from Florida, Central and Latin America and the Caribbean.
The column-distilled rums used in the Papa's Pilar Blonde are aged 3 to 7 years before the master distiller transfers them to the distillery's Solera, a system for maturing spirits and fortified wines perfected by the Sherry and Brandy de Jerez producers of Spain.
In the Solera system, the older rums "educate" the younger ones, enhancing their taste and character. Solera aging also ensures that the blended rums will be consistent from one year to the next. The system utilizes a series of oak casks arranged in 3 tiers. The barrels on the top tier contain the youngest rums, those on the middle tier contain older rums and the barrels on the bottom are filled with the oldest rums. When deemed appropriate, the master blender will remove half the contents of the barrels from the lowest tier for bottling. Those barrels are then filled to capacity with rum from the middle tier. Young rums from the barrels on the highest tier are used to fill the casks on the middle tier. And so it goes year after year.
For the Solera used to mature Papa's Pilar Rums, the top two tier barrels are comprised of American bourbon barrels. The third and final tier used for the Blonde features Spanish Sherry casks, while the third tier for maturing the Dark is comprised of used Port barrels and a fourth tier consisting of Sherry casks.
The golden hued Papa's Pilar Blonde is bottled at 42% alcohol content (84 proof). The rum has a medium-weight, velvety textured body and an enticing bouquet of vanilla, light spice, chocolate, toffee and a hint of toasted oak. The longer the rum is allowed to breathe, the more delightful aromatics come to the forefront. Its entry raises not a trace of heat as it fills the mouth with a delectable array of cane and oak-induced flavors. The finish is long, spicy warm and laced with the flavor of tropical fruit.
Equally seductive is Papa's Pilar Dark, an artisanal gem made from a blend of both column- and pot-distilled rums that are aged up to 24 years before entering the Solera. It is bottled at 43% alcohol (86 proof).
During its stay in the Solera, Papa's Pilar Dark develops a reddish/brown hue, a silky textured body and a fetching bouquet of vintage Port, vanilla, baking spice, cacao and cloves. Its palate is an elegant offering of Sherry, plums, cinnamon, ginger and dried herbs. The finish is thoroughly satisfying. It's a perfect spirit to serve neat after a memorable dinner.
In case you're wondering, Pilar is the name of Hemingway's much beloved, 38-foot fishing boat. It was the nickname he called his wife, Pauline, and the name of the female lead character in his 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Not everyone can just slip away and jaunt off to the Caribbean, but sipping one of the Papa's Pilar Rums may be the next best thing.