Weekend Sip: How Ernest Hemingway became a rum brand (and a mattress brand)

The bottle

Papa’s Pilar Rum Legacy Edition 2021, $79.99

The back story

Many of us know Ernest Hemingway from having read “The Old Man and the Sea,” his Pulitzer Prize-winning novella, when we were in high school. And that’s to say nothing of his other classic books, including “The Sun Also Rises” and “A Farewell to Arms.”

But now, there’s another way to appreciate the great American author, known for his concise literary style and manly swagger. Namely, by sipping a Hemingway-branded rum.

Actually, Papa’s Pilar, the rum inspired by the author and created through a licensing agreement with the Hemingway estate, has been around for nearly a decade. (“Papa” refers to Hemingway’s moniker and “Pilar” to the name of his beloved boat.) But the brand has been making a push to go more select, recently introducing what it calls its “Legacy Edition.” It’s a blend of hand-selected rums, with the oldest having been aged 24 years; the liquid is finished in both rye barrels and sherry casks, adding to what is billed as its “distinctive” quality.

There’s nothing new, of course, about spirits that are tied to celebrities — even celebrities who are no longer with us. (Hemingway died by suicide in 1961.) In this column, we’ve written about a John Wayne bourbon and an Elvis Presley coconut water-flavored vodka, just to name two examples.

Papa’s Pilar “Legacy” bottle comes in a special case.
Courtesy Papa’s Pilar Rum

In the case of Hemingway, it’s all part of a much larger branding effort: David Stickles, whose First Light Brands licensing agency works with the Hemingway estate, notes the many Hemingway-themed items out there, such as eyewear, pens, fishing equipment, even bedding. The latter is billed as follows: “While your days might not be as exotic as his, you can rest easy and recharge on the Ernest Hemingway collection of luxury mattresses.”

Stickles told MarketWatch that it doesn’t end there: Many more Hemingway items are “in the pipeline,” he said via email.

While some might question if there’s really a connection to be made between the Nobel laureate author and a luxury mattress, there’s definitely a link between Hemingway and rum. Hemingway sampled his fair share of the spirit when he spent time in Cuba — to the point that a variation of the daiquiri, the rum-based cocktail, was created in his honor. Of course, it’s also hard to overlook the fact that Hemingway had a problem with alcohol. Indeed, a famous quote attributed to him declares that a good scribe should “write drunk, edit sober.” In truth, Hemingway was said to do most of his drinking when he wasn’t working, but he drank in any case.

What we think about it

We always feel that rum is neglected as a serious sip, largely because many associate the spirit with mixed drinks. Not that we don’t like a refreshing daiquiri ourselves, but a good aged rum can have as much flavor and complexity as a good Scotch or bourbon. Certainly, Papa’s Pilar Legacy speaks to that notion. It’s sweeter than some aged rums — you’ll pick up a big note of molasses, almost bordering on maple syrup — but it has a mysterious and inviting warmth to it, with a final hint of peppery spice.

How to enjoy it

The Papa’s Pilar team says to have this one neat — and we heartily agree. Still, if you insist on a cocktail, Papa’s Pilar head distiller Ron Call suggests using it in a whiskey-based drink, such as a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

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