‘Yo ho ho and a solera of rum…’ said no pirate ever.
Pirates have been given a historical pass in popular culture, at least the old school ones. They appear as cartoon buffoons like Captain Hook, loveable matinee idols like Jack Sparrow or the sherry-sipping gentlemen rogues of Pirates of Penzance. The real dudes, of course, were nasty, disenfranchised and often psychopathic kids (average age was around nineteen) whose brutal treatment of victims was far worse than Robert Louis Stevenson’s plank walk.
Still, who knows but that a rollicking Broadway musical may open in 3013 called The Crips of South Central Los Angeles ?
Our stereotypical pirate image arose from what was primarily a 17th century Caribbean phenomenon, and based on location alone, they did indeed drink busthead sugarcane hootch like everyone else. Likewise, starting in 1740, the Royal Navy supplied every sailor stationed in the British colony of Jamaica with a half pint of rum per day.
Chances it was not the sensationally smooth combination of solera blended rums up to 24 years old and finished in Spanish sherry casks like Papa’s Pilar Dark, but something closer to Sammy Hagar’s Beach Bar Grog Rum.
Solera System: 61 Words or Less
In a nut-flavored nutshell, Solera is the Spanish technique of fractional blending wines as they age—essentially, moving portions of a younger cask in a series of timed (over years) steps into older casks, the portion removed from the oldest going into bottles. As you may imagine, the final barrel winds up being a pretty seasoned chunk of timber.
A similar, but far more rare process takes place with Papa’s Pilar Dark; rare because the requisite space, skill and dedication to blend rums of various ages in this time-consuming process is rare. The result, it may be pointed out, is not inexpensive, but at $40 a fifth for the dark, not all that bad, either. The light version, called Blonde, is around $30 and at an average age of three years rather than 24, may not reflect the better value, but both are finished in that seasoned piece of oak mentioned above.
Il Faut D’Abord Durer: First, One Must Endure
The ‘Papa’ in the rum’s name is Ernest Hemingway; the ‘Pilar’ is Hemingway’s 38-foot, globe-trotting fishing boat which he bought in 1934 for $7,500 and which is still on display in Cuba. Named for his second wife, the boat has become an integral part of the history of the Caribbean—especially Key West, Bimini and Cuba. It was the vessel aboard which Hemingway set a world record in 1938 by catching seven marlin in one day.
Papa’s Pilar creators are Jay Maltby, formerly an executive with Bacardi and Cruzan and master distiller Lincoln Henderson, the genius behind Angel’s Envy bourbon, covered here last year—if that rings a bell.
If it does, gentle reader, you know for whom it tolls… And it ain’t Sammy Hagar.
Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum, around $40: Deep burnished mahogany in color, the rum offers scents of clove, honey, orange, root beer and toasted walnuts; the first sip is explosive; potent and soul-searing. Marmalade, syrup and molasses bounce around the mouth, making it an ideal pancake spirit. A long vanillin finish with port and espresso notes.
Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum, about $30: A beautiful, almost indescribably pretty color akin to the shade that cornstalks turn in November. The aroma shows sage and butterscotch, the mid-palate is loaded with creamy Meyer lemon, spun-sugar and light pineapple. As does the dark, and likely from the sherry barrel, some toasted coffee bean shows up at the end.