Don Pancho is the Pappy Van Winkle of Rum.
Pancho is a familiar nickname for Francisco Don Pancho Fernandez, Cuban, Rum-master, Maestro of the Havana Club, and master distiller. The title “Don” is the serious part. He’s so well respected at what he does, he gets the honorarium. For 50 years, Pancho made Rum in Cuba. Yes, some of that time was under Fidel. He was so trusted by Fidel – or Fidel loved his rum so much as a pairing with Cuban cigars – that Pancho was given free reign as long as his Rum was the best. Now when the time came, Pancho was able to cash in his chips (to Bacardi no less!) and exit Cuba. His quest? To Panama.
In a rusty, jungly shack at Las Cabras de Pese, Panama, lay the last Willet Pot still. This Panamania shed was surround by 1,000 acres of sugar cane. Pancho had discovered the Lost City of Z for Rum production. After many years the result is these two sensation Rums:
The 8 Year opens with harmonious notes of wild carnation, caramel, maple sugar, orange and apricot. This is a through-and-through age statement—most rums are age “expressions”—meaning that after eight years, the oak has matured the palate to a buttery feel of Macadamia nut, toffee, candied fruits and vanilla pod. Serve it neat, on the rocks, or in a magnificent cocktail.
The 18 Year is a luxury meant to be savored neat. Waves of honey, tea, cardamom and sweet figs fill the glass with their aromas. The 8 is certainly wonderful, but here the depth of flavor is sublime. Instead of one violin playing the harmony, it’s a symphony. The years of aging – again, truly an 18 year (the angels’ share is immense) – give the spirit a neverendingly smooth finish of cola nut, brown sugar, biscuit, saffron and candied hazelnuts. Serve with a slice of pure heaven.