I have a dislike for fancy, glitzy, misleading marketing. That’s probably not a surprise to anyone. Today I stumbled upon an ad for Papa’s Pilar Ernest. I’m in a particularly sarcastic mood and felt like dissecting the marketing that’s surrounding this release from a company well known for lying about additives in their rums. Looking at their own website and comparing it with Robb Report, they seem to both describe the aging process of Ernest in a different way. More on that confusion a little further down this page. When looking at photos of the bottle, its case and the press releases, they seem to have pulled out all the marketing stops.
Let’s start by making a list:
1. Fancy-ish bottle.
2. Fancy case. Is that real leather? Got to smell it to know for sure.
3. Dangerous looking stopper that’s screaming for attention.
4. "Creative" looking label which apparently states “Ernest”.
5. The meaningless letters “XO” on the label.
6. “Smooth” South & Central American rum blend with no age statement.
7. The components in the blend are 4.5 years, 5 years and 23 years old. Four and a half! Not 4, not 5, not 4 and 3 months…..4.5! Of course it needs a 23 year statement in there. Where have we seen that before?! That 23 will provide the consumer with more confidence, surely.
8. To make it seem more exclusive, they have finished the blend. Not once! No no, that’s for the riff raff only. They felt they had to beat the French and finish it two times! Or is it three? It’s like the more times you distill a spirit, the better it gets. If that doesn’t make you open your wallet then I don’t know what will!
There is a good chance these rums were in ex-bourbon barrels at their respective distilleries. Then they were put in new American oak (wood injection!), then in ex-Cognac and ex-Armagnac barrels, as per the marketing messages below. At least, that's how I read it at first, since the Robb Report article mentions "the rum was given ANOTHER finish in Cognac and Armagnac barrels". As you can see below, both articles contain a slightly different aging description, where one could also think it's been in new American oak for all its life, which does happen....but is not as much fun to rant about. This would mean part of the blend has been in new oak for 23 years. Over oaked anyone?! Although the 23 year component could just be a drop, or a lie. Likely cheap Panama rum. It would also mean that all three rums from different distilleries would have been aged in 36 month air dried American oak barrels. What a coincidence. If that's the case, we can erase one barrel and one finishing layer and subtract 100 to 200 marketing dollars. Fair?! Does it show I'm confused by these two marketing messages?! Anyhow, let's stick with the first theory...for fun...and because the distiller says:"...double finish the rum in new heavy-toasted American white oak barrels made of 36-month air-dried staves". If it was finished in these 36 month air dried blah blah, then the rum surely wasn't aged in these same barrels in the country of origin. Right?! :)
Unless a new barrel can't be considered a finish, these are three finishes? They are really selling themselves short on the label in that case, where it says “double finished”. They should have put “triple finished” of course! What were they thinking? Could have charged an extra $100. They also forgot to mention it's been in FOUR (or THREE?) different barrels! Another $100 down the drain. With so many missed opportunities you start wondering if the marketing manager is the right fit for the job.
You might think this stuff is bottled at 40%. Wrong! They decided on a very daring 50%! That’s something positive. Now, before I get too positive, let’s mention the price of this 400 bottle release....and the main reason why I wrote all this drivel. It's $599. 5-9-9! That's United States Dollars, not Turkish Lira. For a NAS South/Central American rum blend that’s suffering from cask FOMO, brought to you by a company with a questionable reputation. Let me think, should I buy Ernest or some rare cask strength Appleton pot still rums? Ernest or five cask strength Foursquare ECS expressions? Ernest or ten 23/25/30/40 year solera rums? I think I’d buy Ernest, said no one ever.
Let’s have a look at what’s being said about it on the web.
From Papa’s Pilar marketing: “Ernest is a harmonious blend of hand-selected rums from South and Central America, expertly crafted with the utmost precision and masterly blended by 7th Generation Master Distiller, Ron Call.”
Lol, “expertly crafted with the utmost precision and masterly blended”. They forgot to mention “masterly finished”….or “finished masterly”. But then they would have used the word “masterly” twice, which is not a good thing. Perhaps they couldn’t find a similar word for masterly and figured they should just forget about it.
“After the initial aging process, it undergoes a unique double-finishing technique that sets it apart from the rest: first in new, 36-month air-dried staves in heavy toasted American white oak barrels, imparting rich and robust flavors. It is then double-finished in both Cognac casks and Armagnac casks, further enhancing the complexity and depth of the rum.“
Forget about everything you’ve ever tasted and anything you know about rum. This one’s "unique" double finishing technique, which isn't unique, sets it apart from all else! Buy!
From Robb Report: The liquid is a blend of 4.5-, five-, and 23-year-old rum from South and Central America that was double-finished and bottled at 100 proof. First the blend was put into heavily toasted American oak barrels made from staves that were air dried for 36 months, and then the rum was given ANOTHER finish in Cognac and Armagnac barrels for less than a month. “We really wanted to push the envelope on what the category has seen before,” said Call in a press release. “This is what led to our decision to double finish the rum in new heavy-toasted American white oak barrels made of 36-month air-dried staves, a process that enhances the deep natural vanilla and slight cocoa notes that carry over into our rum and create an extraordinary sensory experience.”
I agree, they are really pushing the envelope here! The envelope of nonsense. The only thing we need added to this effort are the usual rum “experts” with all their conflicts of interest, preaching to us that this rum is fantastic! Buy! Buy! Buy!
I’m sure some people who buy this will go oooohh and aaahh over that stopper. But, if you are crazy enough to spend $599 on this product, please promise me you’ll put it in a blind tasting lineup. Remove the bling from the equation and find out what's left. Lastly, if anyone is thinking of gifting this to me for Christmas…..please don’t. Give me a bottle of Appleton 8 instead and donate the rest of the money to a good cause. Actually, don’t gift me anything and donate all of it. That definitely trumps putting the money in the pockets of this company.
I did warn you about sarcasm.