Start the Year Sipping Cocktails Made With the Best Rums In the World
If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico for New Year’s Eve, and you want to experience Puerto Rico to the fullest, you must do a rum tasting tour or have your own personal rum fest while there. This small Caribbean island is home to the best rums on the planet, hence the moniker Rum Capital of the World.
Puerto Rican rum is the star of cocktail titans such as rum and coke, piña coladas and mojitos. About 75% of the rum consumed in the U.S. hails from Puerto Rico. Rum production is a business of great pride and tradition on the island, with some of the distilleries dating back more than 100 years.
History of Puerto Rican Rum
In 1493, on his second voyage to La Española (the Dominican Republic), Christopher Columbus brought with him cut sugar cane from the Canary Islands. In 1506, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León brought Creole sugar cane rootstocks from La Española to Puerto Rico. Eleven years later, in 1517, the first sugar mill in Puerto Rico was established in Añasco.
Sugar production involves extracting sugar cane juice, known as guarapo, and boiling it at high temperatures, a process that yields crystallized sugar and syrupy molasses. Sugar cane laborers working at the first sugar mills in Puerto Rico discovered that mixing molasses with water and leaving out in the sun, thus fermenting it, produced a distilled spirit. In the 1650s, Puerto Rican rum production began as a byproduct of the sugar cane industry.
In 1865, Don Juan Serrallés, a Spaniard from Cataluña, started producing rum at Hacienda Mercedita with a still he imported from France. In the 1930s, the Serrallés Distillery launched the Don Q brand.
Types of Rum
Puerto Rican rum typically comes in four varieties:
With a milder flavor than gold or dark rums, light rum is most often used to create mixed drinks that don’t need to have a bold rum flavor, such as mojitos and daiquiris. Examples: Don Q Cristal and Bacardí Superior.
As rum mellows in barrels over time, it takes on golden or amber hues. Gold rum offers a fuller body than light rum and richer flavor, with subtle flavors of vanilla, almond, citrus, caramel or coconut. Example: Don Q Gold.
The term dark rum is deceiving because its color ranges from pale to black. Dark rum is aged longer in heavily charred oak barrels, which produces more flavorful profiles, hints of spices and a strong molasses or caramel overtone. Example: Bacardí Select.
Flavored and Spiced Rums
Flavored rums and spiced rums are rums to which flavors (caramel, citrus, cherry, mango, coconut, banana, etc.) or spices (vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, etc.) are added to create a wide range of interesting varieties. Examples: Bacardí Limón, Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum.
Best Puerto Rican Rums
By law, Puerto Rican rum must be made in Puerto Rico using only molasses, a continuous distillation process, and a one-year-minimum aging process in white-oak barrels, with gold rums aged at least two years and premium rums aged no fewer than six years. Puerto Rican rum is the only spirit in the world with such legal requirements.
Don Q is the iconic Puerto Rican rum. It was launched in 1934 by the Serrallés Distillery, which was founded by Juan Serrallés in 1865. The rum was named after Don Quijote, the main character in Miguel de Cervantes’ novel “Don Quijote de la Mancha,” published in two parts in 1605 and 1615. Among the most popular Don Q rums are Don Q Cristal, Don Q Gold, Don Q 151° and Don Q Gran Reserva.
The top-selling spirit in the U.S. is a Puerto Rican rum. Originally founded in Cuba in 1862, Bacardí has faced many challenges throughout its history, including the takeover of its facilities in Cuba by the Cuban government in the 1960s. Bacardí’s distillery in Cataño, across the bay from Old San Juan, is the largest premium rum distillery in the world. The brand’s favorites include Bacardí Superior, Bacardí Spiced, Bacardí Reserva Ocho and Bacardí Coconut.
Ron del Barrilito
Created in 1871, Ron del Barrilito is known for its deep, complex whiskey-like profile. El Barrilito (The Little Barrel in English) is a blend of rums aged six to 10 years in charred oak barrels and the only rum of its type that is blended before it’s aged. Produced in small batches using traditional 19th century processes and sold and consumed locally, the rum comes in two varieties: dos estrellas (two stars), better for mixing, and the smoother tres estrellas (three stars), ideal for sipping.
Like Don Q, Palo Viejo is manufactured by the Serrallés Distillery. The variety is a favorite for classic drinks like coquito, Puerto Rican’s version of eggnog. Palo Viejo is hard to find outside the island, so take full advantage of it while you’re there. In 2015, the brand expanded with Palo Ready, a cocktail-in-a-pouch drink made of Palo Viejo rum mixed with various juices to create cocktails including sangria, limoncillo and rum punch.
Rum Tasting Tours
If you like rum, you shouldn’t leave the island without doing a rum tasting tour and/or visiting one or more of the distilleries. Below are some resources to help you plan this adventure.
From their rich history to their incomparable flavor, Puerto Rican rums are a great part or the Puerto Rican experience. So try different rums while you’re there for New Year’s Eve, take a rum tasting tour or visit a distillery or two, and discover why this small Caribbean gem is known as the Rum Capital of the World.