The rum industry is an important force in the economy of the Dominican Republic. We had the opportunity to visit the Ron Barceló Historic Center and factory in Santo Domingo as the first part of a trip around the area to sample “Dominican Flavors”.
Ron Barceló was born in 1929 with the vision of Julian Barceló, a young Spanish entrepreneur, who founded Barceló & Co. in the city of Santo Domingo in 1930. The brand quickly became a reference among local rums and one of the largest and most prestigious Dominican enterprises. The company in 1992 undertook internationalization with very good results; Ron Barceló started exporting its products to Spain in 1994, being now among the market leaders in selling rums in Spain, followed by market entry into leading worldwide markets.
Ron Barceló Imperial [a rum aged for 10 years in American oak barrels] was awarded the prize by the prestigious Beverage Testing Institute of Chicago as the best rum in the world, carrying the badge of being the first rum to get the highest score in the history of this institute: 97/100.
Rum is distilled from the juice of sugar cane plants. The company owns extensive sugar cane plantations and rotates the plantings monthly, with harvesting about one year later. The cut sugar cane is brought to the factory whole (10 feet tall and longer) and then is cut into small pieces that will facilitate entry into mills. In the mills, large pressing machines compress the cut pieces of cane, until obtaining 100% of the juice from them. The juice is then fermented, converting the sugar to alcohol (~ 7-8% by volume) and carbon dioxide. The “mash” is then distilled to obtain a rich and balanced ethyl alcohol at 96% alcohol per volume.
The distilled alcohol is then aged a minimum of one year in once used American oak barrels in giant warehouses (pictured above). Many of the barrels have been purchased from the Jim Beam (bourbon) company; the bourbon does not leave much more than a trace of flavor in the barrels. After being used at Ron Barcelo, barrels are refurbished, including the charring of the insides (see photograph below).
The rums produced at Ron Barceló range in age from one year old to 10 years old (Imperial), with a special 30th anniversary rum being aged an additional two years in used French oak barrels.
After our tour of the factory, we had the opportunity to visit the museum where we learned about the complete manufacturing process (including the recycling of the byproducts in the process — crushed cane, carbon dioxide, etc.). At the end, we were give the opportunity to taste some straight aged rums and a rum cocktail made with orange juice, lime, and spices — delicious!