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Tanduay Rum and Friends – the best rum in the world?

tanduay rum

Is Tanduay Rum the best in the world? Having been traveling and working around the Philippines for almost ten years it is fair to say that I have not only heard of, but have had my fair share of Tanduay Rum and indeed the many other fine products produced by the wonderful people at Tanduay (such as Tanduay ice – a Smirnoff Ice clone). Yet it was when I visited Cebu that I really started thinking about the product.

Firstly I was drinking a lot of it, neat on ice in case you were wondering, but it was the billboards I was seeing that truly began to trouble me!

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“Tanduay Rhum the worlds best rum 4 years running”

On a billboard I saw a sign that boldly stated “Tanduay Rhum the worlds best rum 4 years running”. Now I like it a lot, but having lived for 3 years in the Caribbean and considering myself somewhat an officialdom on all things rum, I found this claim all together too bold.. I do indeed like it, but best in the world I’m not quite sure about. Best rum in the Philippines, sure, best rum in Asia, probably as there are actually few “real” rums made in the region, but was it the best in the world? And whom had made this bold statement of affairs?

History of Tanduay Rum/Rhum

They trace their origins back to the 1850’s and rather unsurprisingly the Spanish during the colonial era., Over time they would morph into the Tanduay Distillery, Inc in 1935, during the American occupation of the country, concentrating mostly on their core product of rum.

Fast forward 80 odd years to now, and well Tanduay Rum is not only the national drink (maybe after San Miguel beer), but you can buy all different styles and vintages, as well as their own range of alco-pops known as Tanduay Ice (more on that later). Their Ice drinks are an obsession of mine. For the longest time flavors consisted of “white”, “red” and “blue” although they’ve since branched into non-colored flavours, such as cranberry, lemonade, and even a “light” version with less sugar. Again these guys get their very own section at the end.

tanduay

It is not the best rum in the world

So, as to the rum itself and my ingrained snobbery (I used to live in the Cayman Islands). Tanduay Rhum is not the best rum in the world. It generally has a funny orange color when compared to the rums of the Caribbean, as well as a weak and even watery taste.

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The colour of Tanduay is actually one of the weirdest parts about it. As stated I have drunk a lot of rum, but this is the only orange one that I have encountered across the globe. BUT whilst I am saying it is not the best in the world, please do not think I am a hater.

Why do they say it is the best rum in the world then?

This where things get a bit complicated. It has won awards and been proclaimed the “best rum in the world” by various people. But, well hey that means nothing. It is though at times the best selling rum in the world, often alternating with Bacardi on this. Amazingly this also puts it into the top 10 selling liquor brands in the world.

So, if “best selling” equals “best” then these find chaps do have some right in saying it is the best in the world. Yet by this metric we would also be saying that Snow Beer is the “best beer in the world”. It is not the best beer, it is though the biggest selling beer on the planet. On this one at least we will give them some kudos. When you consider it is predominately drank by Filipinos, and Bacardi is drank by, well the world, that is some achievement.

You can though find Tanduau Rhum usually anywhere where is some kind of Filipino diaspora, which is quite a bit of the planet. It is easy to find in places such as Hong Kong and even the Marshall Islands, but the weirdest place I have ever seen Tanduay Rhum was in a hotel in Anju County of North Korea. The DPRK does not get all that many tourists, but Anju County is visited by literally nobody, yet the one hotel was selling bottles of rum clearly marked “not for export”. I ended up seeing it other weird places in North Korea and have personally never been able to solve this very brief mystery of when North Korea was awash with Tanduay.

You can read about Anju County here.

I actually do like it though

Again in case I am sounding like a hater it is truly not the case at all. Tanduay Rum is definatelynot without its charms. In fact some of the negatives, like it not being too overbearing make it a perfect easy summer drink. And lets look at the facts! A bottle of rum for $1 in the shops or $1.50 in a restaurant is pretty good value.

tanduary-best-rum
Ranges of Tanduay Rum

Apparently there’s even a Tanduay Rum USA! Well that’s what happens when you put an embargo on Cuba. Havana Club is actually the best rum in the world, sorry guys, but at least you’re still the best rum in the Philippines.

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I have not yet been able to try the American variety, but I am sure they have been true to the Jolibee logic, and keep it Filipino style, rather than copy other rums.

Tanduay rum introduce Tanduay Ice!

What is Tanduay Ice? At some pointhe company were going to branch out into other things, so when the world brought us Smirnoff Ice, these guys made a local variation called Tanduay Ice. Yes, it is a Smirnoff Ice clone, but again done to fit the tastes and palate of the Filipino market. There are now a number of flavours and varieties and I am not gonna lie, but I am in freaking love with the stuff.

Tanduay Ice and Friends

This though is a whole other bag of vegetables! The drink is obviously made by the fine folks at Tanduay Rum. The “white” flavor (we will get onto colored flavors later) is literally a direct rip-off of Smirnoff Ice. It is sugar, it is lime, it tastes like a soft-drink and it is booze! All the main food groups you need when hungover.

I remember being on a beach on Puerta Gallera and knocking my first ever one back in one go. It was hot, I was on a beach and with this drink, I was now in love. Many more were necked in one go on that trip.

Tanduay Ice and Friends

Expanding the range

Following “white” they decided to expand the range. Next in line they brought out Ice Red (Energy), Ice Blue (fresh), and Ice Yellow (still unsure what it is). It seems a little weird to name a drink after a color, but red really tastes red and blue tastes blue. I can’t really explain it better than that. Even when you order them, staff ask you what color you want! All rather amusing.

This was to remain the statues quo for quite a while and whilst no one complained the masses still wished that perhaps the guys here had something else up their sleeves, and a few years ago they again delivered.

The Latest Flavors of Tanduay Ice

Now this is where I think the guys got all smart, there are only so many primary colours. I mean who is gonna order a “Brown”? So, they moved onto flavours! Namely Lemonade, which is extremely good and tastes like an American style lemonade (rather than English) and Vodka and Cranberry which does a job Colour wise they are a lighter green and a darker red, for those traditionalists of you out there. There is also an Ice Apple, a darker green I guess that I also quite like. Sadly these ones are less available in bars, but you will find them at the 7/11, or cheaply at the supermarket. No Christmas is Christmas in the Philippines without a fridge full of booze.

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Tanduay Ice - New flavours

Jumping on the losing weight fad

There’s also Tanduay Ice light, which tastes bad, and Ice Zero, which I hate. Yet I am quite the loyal traditionalist when it comes to these things! I therefore do appreciate that they have a rightful place on the Filipino drink scene.

The ice zero, also technically I guess would also be Keto friendly. It is indeed possible to do Keto in the Philippines.

And that is the story of my love affair with everything made by the incredibly fine people at Tanduay. From Rum to alcopops, they really are an integral part of Filipino culture and hospitality. Never say no when offered a glass of the orange stuff, nor the fizzy white bottle of alcohol and sugar!

Are there any other Filipino brand setting the world alight?

With this being one of our most popular articles it sent me down quite the rabbit hole. I was to discover that Snow Beer (as previously mentioned) was the best selling beer in the world, but it was when I discovered the worlds best selling brandy that I lost my shit.

It turns out that whilst Tanduay is one of the best selling liquors in the world, it is not even the best selling liquor in the Philippines!!! Now, when one thinks of brandy, we think Cognac, or perhaps some top-notch stuff from Spain. No the best selling brandy in the world is Emperador, made and produced in the Philippines. Whilst a fairly new invention, they have grown to such levels that they even purchased Fundador Brandy from Spain.

You can read about Emperador Brandy here.

When it comes to the wonderful world of what people eat and drink, the truth truly is far stranger than fiction!

Written by Gareth

Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours, a published writer, and all round entrepreneur. He enjoys street food, and encourage others to get paid to travel the world.

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