Yesterday Pat and I went to the Ron del Barrilito factory for their tasting tour. They’ve been producing rum there (with a brief pitstop in medicinal alcohols during prohibition) since 1880.
The tour began in the visitor’s center, which is a new building since the original was knocked down by Hurricane Maria. Our tour guide was Edgardo, who is studying chemical engineering and hopes to take over as master blender one day. Since we were the only two people on the tour, we had free rein to converse and learned a lot of interesting stuff from him.
We started with a briefing on the history of the company, from its roots as Spanish naval officer Fernando Fernandez’s hacienda, to its sugarcane production and subsequent rum business, to post-prohibition development of new versions.
From there we headed outside to the hacienda (where a member of the Fernandez family still lives) and the windmill where they formerly ground sugarcane. Currently it’s their administrative offices!
We weren’t able to see the bottling process since that portion is closed on weekends, but we got an extensive look at the barrel warehouses. The barrels are placed first, and then the rum is siphoned in and labeled with the year. As the master blender puts together each batch, he uses this information to assemble 2 through 5 star rums.
The oldest rum barrel in the place is from 1952 and, per the request of erstwhile owner Pedro Fernandez, is to be opened exclusively on the day Puerto Rico gains its independence. According to Edgardo, it’s got about 30 years before most of it evaporates away, so we’ll see how that works out.
Finally, the tasting portion! We were given samples of a 2 star (aged 3-5 years), 3 star (aged 5-10 years), 4 star (10-20 years), and 5 star (20+ years) rum to try. Edgardo encouraged us to smell first and sip slowly, to really get a sense of each flavor profile; he even gave us items like cinnamon and coconut to smell alongside the rum to pick out its nuances. As the rums progressed in age they became noticeably smoother. Pat and I both like the 4 best, even above the 5, which was bolder but less sweet.
At the end of the tour we were given certificates and tokens to exchange for a rum cocktail at the bar.
While we were drinking, Pat decided to buy a bottle of the 4 star rum, which was a bit of a production – you have the option of drawing it and sealing it yourself.
It’s even on the official registry.
And that was our rum adventure! Which reminds me, if your name is Ron your name is rum. Enjoy!