Cover Kasama Rum

The proud Filipina-Polish drew from her rich cultural background, strong family bonds, and learnings from growing up with a beverage industry icon to deliver a world-class product that is distinctly Filipino

It is as sweet a story as any of a father bringing his daughter to work. Alexandra Dorda, 30, shares an early memory: “I remember being as young as five years old and every time we went to a restaurant my dad would take me to the bar to meet the bartender, see if our products were stocked, and check out the cocktail menu.” Her father Tad Dorda, co-founder of leading spirits brands Belvedere and Chopin, is widely credited in the industry for having changed the general perception of vodka and bringing Polish vodka in particular to the forefront. “My father is truly a pioneer in the vodka category,” the proud daughter shares. “His passion for his craft inspired my love of the spirits industry.”

While the love has always been there, perhaps following his father’s footsteps was not always part of the plan. Alexandra majored in international relations at Stanford University and then went on to work for the Chobani Yogurt brand in Manhattan. She did go back to Poland to help out in the family business doing some marketing and new product development for them: “I loved seeing what it took to bring a new product to life and all the elements that need to come together– from liquid and design to packaging and sales.” But she eventually moved on to become an investor in a private equity fund where she was “investing in sectors such as telecommunications, agriculture, and infrastructure.”

See also: Tatler's Guide To The Best Asian Rums 2021

Still, that strong entrepreneurial and creative spirit she inherited from both parents proved to be too powerful to ignore. It was during her stint as an investor when she started producing small batches of Kasama Rum. Kasama is the Filipino word for together and draws from the local culture’s penchant for gatherings. Of course, it is no coincidence that Alexandra chose to produce a Filipino product. “I am so proud to be a Filipina– my mother is from Quezon City, and I spend as much time as I can in the Philippines. Every time I visit, I am in awe of the talent, creativity, and tenacity of Filipinos. Most of all, I am so amazed by how Filipinos are filled with warmth and joy no matter the circumstances. I chose the name ‘Kasama’ because it speaks to the warmth of Filipino hospitality. Kasama is all about celebrating good times with good company (even if that looks a bit different now during the pandemic).”

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It did not take much for Alexandra to decide to shift all her energy to developing and producing Kasama Rum, and she gives proper credit to both sides of her family. “I developed my love of the spirits industry through my father, but I’m proud to continue the strong entrepreneurial tradition that we have on both sides of our family. My family has deep roots in the hospitality industry as well. My maternal grandmother, Gloria, was a successful entrepreneur and owned several clubs and restaurants in Manila in the 1950s, which was very rare at the time. My Filipino heritage is extremely important to me and when I realized I could combine my family history, expertise in the spirit category, and Filipino roots to fill a hole in the market, the idea for Kasama came very naturally.”

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Kasama Rum Founder Alexandra Dorda
Above Kasama Rum Founder Alexandra Dorda

When asked why she chose to produce rum, Alexandra explains: “I always knew I wanted to develop my own brand and I’ve always loved rum, but I didn’t feel like any of the existing rum brands were speaking to me. They were often focused on really tired nautical tropes like pirates, sailors, and sea monsters. Rums typically harken to the past, and I really felt like rum needed a breath of fresh air and a more modern approach.” She did her research and discovered that the Philippines is not only one of the biggest rum producers in the world, but also has some of the best sugarcane, which is the base ingredient for all rums.

See also: 5 Native Filipino Liquors, Spirits, and Wine

What makes Kasama Rum special? “The sugarcane is pressed, fermented and distilled, then aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels,” the proud founder intimates. “The ageing process gives Kasama its golden hue, mellows the overall flavour profile, and leaves you with a hint of vanilla on the nose and palate. After Kasama is aged, we bring it to Poland where it is bottled at my family’s distillery. Kasama is the only rum that is bottled in Poland, and for me, it is very special to connect the two places that I am from in this unique way.”

The result is not only literally intoxicating but completely memorable and unique. Not the typical flavour profile that is “heavy and sticky sweet,” but more on the light and easy sipping side “with delicious notes of pineapple, vanilla, and a touch of sea salt.” Alexandra recommends it as a good sipping rum or as a base for tropical cocktails like a Filipino daiquiri that utilizes fresh calamansi. The branding is fresh, unconventional, but unmistakably Filipino with hand-drawn illustrations on the bottle of native plants such as santan, sampaguita, and heliconia, as well as postage stamps and the word mabuhay (a formal Filipino greeting).

See also: Do You Need A Drink? Here Are 4 Rum Cocktails To Make At Home

The young brand has a long way to go (it is currently being sold in the United States only) before it can be put on the same pedestal as the elder Dorda’s vodkas, but Alexandra is surely working hard to get there. They have several collaborations underway, including one with Filipino chocolate brand Oodaalolly. She declares, “I am focused on growing this brand internationally and continuing to tell the story of the Philippines in a modern and compelling way.”

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