More than a half-century after his death, Hemingway still looms large. He was a great writer and a drunk, a devoted husband and an adulterer, a man both vicious and hugely sentimental. He was a hunter, fisherman, and bullfight enthusiast who loved animals. He inspired many people, including me—I would not be writing this, or anything else, without the legacy and example of Papa.
Big game fishing was one of his passions. In 1934 he ordered a beauty of a boat—a 38-foot customized cruiser—from the Wheeler shipyard in Brooklyn. It was delivered to him in Key West and named the Pilar, after one of the central characters later to appear in For Whom The Bell Tolls. He set numerous records from his perch on the flying bridge, including a 420 lb. marlin and a 785 lb. Mako shark.
Papa’s Pilar Rum is homage to that magical life, although you might think that there was no rum left after Hemingway finished drinking it. It comes in two varieties, light and dark, but last year a special edition dark version was released: blended solera style in Port and Bourbon barrels, finished in Sherry casks, bottled at 43% alcohol and selling for $40.
Hemingway’s preference was for light rum, at least in his signature daiquiri, but there’s little doubt he would have loved this stuff. The texture is rich, thick, and unctuous, almost syrupy. On both the nose and palate, it offers a sensory overload of cinnamon, clove, baking spices, honey, cocoa and mocha. It is rum as it should be, a spirit that makes you stop and think.
You could make any number of cocktails with Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum Limited Edition, but the obvious choice is an Old Fashioned, a drink not normally associated with rum. If you’ve forgotten or never knew, here’s the short course:
Take one or two thick orange slices, cut off the rinds (unless you like the taste of orange rind) and muddle them at the bottom of a large rocks glass with a sugar cube and 3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters, along with a splash of water or soda. No, don’t include a maraschino cherry, unless you’re a fan of chemical additives. Add several ounces of the rum, as much ice as you want or need, and find a comfortable chair. Enjoy the sunset and raise a glass to Papa.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is forthcoming from Black Opal Books in Spring 2016. For more information, go to amazon.com