Happy Earth Day, everyone! Here’s a look at one of the world’s greenest rum producers, Distillery Serralles.
by Mike Streeter
Along with six of my rum drinking friends, I pile into a shuttle that is bound for Ponce, a small town on the south side of Puerto Rico. Our driver weaves through the heavy rush hour traffic of San Juan which eventually gives way to the lush hills and mountains of the island’s rural interior. An hour later we are back on the coast in the town where the Serralles family has been in the sugar and rum business for nearly 200 years.
If you’re not familiar with the Serralles name, you might be surprised that Distillery Serralles is one of the largest in the Caribbean and has an annual output capacity of 15 million proof gallons. Their main brand, Don Q, is the most popular in Puerto Rico and is a huge source of pride for the local community.
When we arrive at the facility, we are greeted by Roberto Serralles, a 6th generation rum producer and our guide for the next few hours. As we walk through the facility he tells us about his family history and the tradition of local rum production. The first members of the family moved from Spain to Ponce in 1820 where they soon built a sugar plantation. They started to produce rum in 1865 and launched the Don Q brand in the early 1930’s.
The quality and local ownership of Don Q quickly made it the number one rum brand in Puerto Rico. In 1978, Don Q Cristal was launched and its light body and mixability made it an instant hit. To continue their ability to grow, Serralles has acquired other distilleries throughout Puerto Rico. Roberto joined the team in Ponce 8 years ago after completing his PhD in Environmental Science. His focus has been to push for expansion of their brand and facility with an eye on green technology.
The tech push is evident when Roberto shows us his new still; a five story, five column giant that remains under construction. It is state of the art and, once completed, will increase the distillery’s capacity and efficiency.
As tropical storm Emily nears Ponce, we head indoors where we have the opportunity to meet Master Blender, Sylvia Santiago and sample several of their rums. We talk about the future of the Don Q brand and how distribution and access in the US has increased over the last few years. Gran Anejo, their top-of-the-line aged rum, remains a big seller along with their traditional gold and white rums and complete line of flavors.
After a day with Roberto, our group is inspired by the rum distilling tradition of his family. As we leave, we know that we will continue to see very good things from Distillery Serralles. A special thank you goes out to everyone from the Serralles team for making this such a memorable trip. You’re the best!