Rum Review: Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum

Since I wrote recently about the Hemingway Daiquiri, I thought it was time to review the rum associated, albeit tenuously, with the man.

Sanctioned by the Hemingway Estate, Papa’s Pilar Rum came on the market in 2013. “Papa,” of course, was Hemingway’s moniker. “Pilar” was the name of his fishing boat (and the nickname of his second wife). Together, they are intended to convey the rugged, adventurous spirit of the famed writer.

When you see the presentation of this rum, you know some thought went into it. It has a distinctive shape, designed to resemble an infantryman’s canteen. (Remember, Hemingway was an ambulance driver in World War I.) The cork top, engraved with a compass, is chained to the bottle, just as it was on a solider’s canteen. It’s not a very practical design for a booze bottle, but it’s a pretty one.

According to the producers, Papa’s Pilar is a blend of both pot-distilled and column-distilled rums from the Caribbean, Central America, and the United States. It is aged in ex-bourbon and port wine barrels, then finished in Spanish sherry casks. Finally, it is blended in Kentucky.

You’ll note that the bottle has a big “24” on it, but this rum is not 24-years-old. It is aged through the solera system, where spirit from a new barrel is mixed with spirit from an older barrel, aged for a while, then mixed with the next oldest barrel, and so on down the line. As a result, some of the rum in this blend might be 24-years-old, but by no means the bulk of it.

Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum has a strong aroma of brown sugar and cinnamon: sweet, dark, and rich. The flavor is sweet initially, with lots of vanilla, caramel, and citrus. Then the spice starts to come on, cinnamon and anise, balancing it out. It finishes on the dry side, medium-long, and slightly astringent, with the influence of the sherry aging making itself known.

A lot of rums remind me of other rums, but this one is unique in that regard. I wouldn’t be surprised if, under the great rum sun, there is another brand that tastes like this. But whatever it might be, it doesn’t leap to mind.

Papa’s Pilar is bold and pretty damn close to being one-of-a-kind. Just like Hemingway himself. I think he would have been quite happy to drink this rum.

Papas Pilar Dark Rum


Cocktail Recipe: Hemingway Daiquiri

Ernest HemingwayAs you may know, Ernest Hemingway was fond of his drink — much in the same way that a Great White Shark is fond of eating seals and surfers. To put it another way: he was a raging alcoholic. As such, he was distinguished by his thirst for cocktails, not his good taste in them.

Hemingway lived in Havana, Cuba during the 1930s, and often did his drinking at El Floridita where the great Constantino Ribalaigua Vert worked behind the bar. The self-proclaimed “Cradle of the Daiquiri,” El Floridita served a menu of cocktails that included at least five different versions of the Daiquiri that Vert created.

When Hemingway discovered El Floridita — supposedly he wandered in looking for a bathroom — he sampled the Daiquiri and found it to his liking. As Hemingway was fearful of becoming a diabetic like his father, however, he demanded a modification: “That’s good, but I prefer it without sugar and double rum.”

Antonio Meilán, a gifted bartender in his own right and an in-law of Ribalaigua’s, made a Daiquiri as Hemingway requested, and it became a regular part of Papa’s drinking rotation. At some point, a touch of Maraschino Liqueur was added to the mix, and a little grapefruit juice as well.

The cocktail that we now call the Hemingway Daiquiri is not for the faint of palate, even in its evolved form. It is strong and tart, and most will find it challenging to drink. If you are one of them, adding a small amount of sugar or simple syrup wouldn’t be out of the question. Although Hemingway might not approve, I suspect Ribalaigua would.

Hemingway Daiquiri

Hemingway Daiquiri


  • 2 oz. White Rum
  • 3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
  • Lime Wheel, for garnish (if desired)


  1. Shake ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wheel.


Cocktail Recipe: A Farewell to Hemingway

A Farewell to Hemingway

A Farewell to Hemingway


  • 2 1/4 oz. Kirsch
  • 1 1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/4 oz. Cherry or Raspberry Syrup
  • Lime Peel Spiral, for garnish


  1. Shake with ice, then pour unstrained into a collins glass. Drop in a lime peel spiral and top with club soda.


  1. From Charles H. Baker Jr.'s "The Gentleman's Companion."
  2. This is, according to Baker, "a sort of Kirsch Collins," which he invented for his friend Ernest Hemingway before sending him and bullfighter Sidney Franklin "off on the plane for New York, & Loyalist Spain."