In honor of National Rum Month, we caught up with Roberto J. Serralles, vice president of business development of Destileria Serralles in Ponce, Puerto Rico. His family’s business has been producing Puerto Rican rum for more than 146 years and includes the Don Q, Caliche and Palo Viejo brands.
CHEERS: What are some of the rum trends you’re seeing—how has the category changed in the past decade in terms of products and how people drink it?
RJS: One of the most promising trends is in the “premiumarization” of white rum. The white rum segment of the category has become a bit “commoditized,” particularly with the abundance of cheap, unaged white rums used in private labels, which gives white rum the image of blenders and frozen cocktails. Caliche Rum is our attempt to elevate the white rum segment of the category away from the commodity white rum by bringing depth and character to the final product through aging (three to five years in barrels as well as solera aged rum) and careful blending.
With the resurgence of traditional cocktails, a well-structured, super-premium white rum provides bartenders and mixologists a great deal of versatility without sacrificing structure and character. It’s indeed exciting times for the rum category.
CHEERS: We understand Serralles has been doing a lot of experimenting with aging your rums–are you using the different aged rums in existing products or developing new formulations?
RJS: Yes, we use a spectrum of aged rums in our products; from blends of one- to three-year-old rums in our Don Q Cristal to six- to 12-year- old rums in our Don Q Gran Añejo. But we are continually testing new methods of aging and new formulations.
One of our latest projects, which shows great promise, is making unique blends before aging, and then after some aging, reblending them with different stocks, and then aging them again. The idea is to develop unique layers of flavors, character and structure in a finished blend. Keep in mind, to be labeled a Puerto Rican rum, you must age at least one year.
CHEERS: Is there an optimum age for rum?
RJS: It really depends on the aging conditions of the site (temperature and humidity), quality and condition of the cask and the proof at which the rum is aged. For aging very old rums, you want lower temperatures, well-conditioned casks and low proofs.
CHEERS: What are some of the differences in the way people in Puerto Rico enjoy rum vs. other key markets?
RJS: Puerto Rico is the rum capital of the world, and as such, rum is more than a beverage, it’s a conduit for deepening relationships and turning ordinary occasions into extraordinary events. Puerto Ricans tend to drink rum in very simple cocktails, with lots of ice and surrounded by friends.
In Puerto Rico, rum consumption spans the entire spectrum of occasions, from informal weekend gatherings on the beach with friends to formal ceremonies like weddings and graduation parties.
At one of my best friends’ recent wedding, the formal toast was not made with champagne, it was made with Don Q Gran Añejo. Cheers!