The Secrets Behind Tanduay's Century-Old Success
Throughout the decades, only one rum brand from the Philippines has dominated the world stage along with brands from other countries. Very few Filipino brands, in fact, have lasted more than 100 years, and Tanduay has been in business for 167 years. With new and younger leaders on the helm, the company is looking to grow its business even further, not just in the many islands of the Philippines where it has dominated rum sales for years. It is also expanding to its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, mainland China, the United States, and even as far as Europe.
What makes the brand relevant and loved after more than 100 years? Lucio Tan III, the millennial president and CEO of Tanduay attributes it to three things: research and development, the diverse cultural heritage and flavors of the Philippines, and the company’s distinct and unparalleled rum-making process. “Identifying the target market and knowing their needs is where it begins for us. Once you know the market, you will find the opportunities. From there, we look for the best partner to reach the market. Finding the right partners to achieve our targets is very crucial for us. We also rely on our team of spirits craftsmen who collaborate with the marketing and export teams on which products of Tanduay will suit the market’s taste and preference,” Tan shared.
The heart of the brand, though, is the rum-making process itself. There are different ways to produce rum. Tanduay uses a distillation process that dates back to the 1800s. Tan said that their rum is traditionally Spanish in style, as the brand was established during the latter years of Spain’s colonization of the Philippines. Before the distillation, Tanduay makes sure that it has the best ingredients to work with. It uses juices from heritage sugarcane grown in one of the country’s sugar capitals, sourcing its sugarcane from its sister company, Victorias Milling Corp. (VMC). Tanduay’s distillation facilities are also under the Lucio Tan (LT) Group of Companies like VMC -- Absolut Distillers, Inc. and Asian Alcohol. Tanduay uses Grade A molasses, which are yielded from the sugar extraction and refining process. The finest natural water sources from the islands are treated through reverse osmosis and demineralizer are also used in making the rum. In the fermentation process, Tanduay uses saccharomyces cerevisiae without any other bacteria inoculant or type of yeast.
The fermentation time lasts for 27-30 hours. This is timed this way to limit the production of any unwanted by-product/congeners that might affect the quality of the alcohol. Fermentation temperature is likewise controlled using a Plate Heat Exchanger. Tanduay uses a variety of distillates in barrel-aging its rums. Its “light rums” are distilled at 95% ABV and pot still rums at 90% and below. When it comes to the barrels used for rum-aging, the company uses bourbon casks made from American White Oak, with a No. 4 Alligator char. The interaction between the oak barrel and rum is central to the color, aroma, flavor, and texture it eventually produces. The harshness of the alcohol in the barrel is reduced after two years and a woody flavor comes out while retaining the lightness of the molasses. In five years, subtle notes of vanilla and oak spices take over. And for rums that are aged longer, tropical fruity flavors come out with creamy and caramel notes. Being in a tropical country, Tanduay rums age faster compared to countries in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. No sugar and glycerol, however, are added to Tanduay premium products. After the rum is made, it goes to the bottling plants, and Tanduay produces one of the largest quantities of bottled rum daily at 77,000 cases. “People ask me about Tanduay’s staying power, and I would add strict adherence to quality and consistency among those I’ve previously mentioned. It’s not enough that you know your market and make sure that you source the best ingredients. It’s also about maintaining the standards you have set. At the same time, it is also important to be open to innovation. That’s the only way you can grow as a business while maintaining the tradition that have initially propelled you to success,” Tan said.