History of Puerto Rican Rum: 150 Years of Serrallés Rum
On a recent summer evening, we were invited to take part in a historic moment, the 150-year celebration of the Serrallés rum empire. The event took place at the Serrallés Castle, a mansion built in the 1930s for the founder’s son, Juan Eugenio Serrallés. The majestic castle, completely dressed in lights, could be seen from the city below and a spectacular fireworks show lit up the sky. The two-acre estate was transformed into a grand party reminiscent of the Gatsby-era. Strolling through the gardens, we indulged in perfectly aged rum while enjoying some cigars that were being hand-rolled on site by our friend Harry. There were seven bars in and around the castle where top mixologists from around the world crafted spectacular cocktails. It was quite an extravagant affair.
Rum has been part of Puerto Rico’s history since the early 16th century, when Spaniards brought sugarcane from the Hispaniola (Dominican Republic0 to Puerto Rico. In 1517, the first sugarcane mill was built in Añasco. Sugarcane became a major industry in Puerto Rico and by the mid 19th century, there were over 700 sugarcane plantations on the Island. Besides exporting sugarcane, the Island began producing rum, a by-product of the plant. An amazing discovery proved that boiling sugarcane juice (guarapo) yields molasses and when mixed with water and fermented, a distilled spirit is produced. Hello, RUM!
It was Don Juan Serrallés, a Spaniard from Cataluña who imported a still from France and began producing his first casks of rum at Hacienda Mercedita in 1865. Their brand Don Q, named after the family’s favorite novel, Don Quijote, was launched in the 1930s. And just like Don Quijote searched for a perfect world, the Serrallés family embarked on a quest for the perfect rum recipe.
The unique strain of yeast, the artisan aging in American white oak barrels and the art of blending are exclusive elements of the Serrallés family that have been perfected through six generations. Today, their Don Q brand is the best selling rum on the Island and preferred by locals to any other rum.
Rums in their portfolio include Don Q Cristal, Don Q Gold, Don Q Añejo, Don Q Gran Añejo, Don Q 151, Don Q Limón, Don Q Coco, Don Q Mojito, Don Q Pasión, Ron Caliche, Blackbeard and Palo Viejo. The top of the line is the Don Q Gran Añejo. It is a blend of rums aged between 3 and 12 years and Solera rums aged up to 20 years that according to the family, creates a balance between sweet and dry that you won’t get in other spirits.
During the event however, we were treated to the family’s grand cru of rums, their 20 year, grand reserve. Only 1,865 bottled were produced, in honor of the year the company was founded. All we can say is WOW!
Congratulations to the Serrallés family and cheers to continued success. Now its time for a rum cocktail!
Images by @GusAntonetti & Joe Colon