Papa’s Pilar Rum channels Ernest Hemingway in a modern way

Colin Joliat

Ernest Hemingway is a legendary adventurer and drinker, and you can get a little taste of his greatness in Papa’s Pilar Rum from the Hemingway Rum Company. This isn’t your average distillery’s rum though, it’s co-created by an ad agency.

First let’s take a look at the rum. I’m a sucker for an interesting back story, but if the product sucks, it’s going in the garbage. That’s not an issue for Papa’s Pilar, which is named after Hemingway’s boat. They have two different rums on the market right now, a 3-year-old blonde rum and a 23-year-old dark rum, and each is fantastic.

The Blonde Rum is blended from rums between 3 and 5 years old. It has a well rounded aroma but citrus fruit is definitely the key player with a little bit of the oak left over. It’s more creamy than I expected and tastes like tropical fruit with a little vanilla. For those who worry about the finish of young spirits, it’s as smooth as silk with little to no aftertaste.


The dark rum is a blend of rums up to 24 years old (age statements work differently than scotch). This gives the nose plenty of complexity with vanilla and cinnamon along with sweetness of honey. The taste is much spicier than it’s blonde brethren with a little nuttiness and plenty of bourbon flavors drawn from the barrel. The finish is full-bodied, long and lingering. You could probably sip this all day and dream about going on a real adventure instead of just drinking one.

Both of these are blended from Caribbean, Central America and Florida and aged using the solera process in bourbon barrels and port wine casks then finished Spanish sherry casks. The clever marketing starts right from the get go by claiming that the reason they have a vast array of rums is because that’s the way Hemingway’s adventures would have it. Whether that’s the case or they just wanted to be cost efficient will never be known, but it makes for a nice story.

The real story though is that an ad agency, CP+B, wanted to build their own story and then create a product to match. They went to great lengths to create the backstory with Hemingway’s adventures and his love of rum. I’m not suggesting it’s fictional, because it’s most certainly not, but they spun it all into one product before the spirit even existed. It’s brilliant marketing. Why deal with a brand’s existing legacy when you can write your own from the outset?

Some people may spurn a product developed based on marketing not distilling, but the rum itself puts any concerns to rest. They aren’t selling a story in a bottle. They’re selling great rum that happens to be built out of an amazing tale.

If you’re bored, I’d highly suggest nosing around the frustratingly slow Papa’s Pilar website. It’s a fun look at both the story they’ve crafted for the Hemingway rum as well as how you make rum in general.