• History of Puerto Rico Rum

Puerto Rico’s Liquid Gold: The History of Rum

Puerto Rico’s title as “Rum Capital of the World” is backed by centuries of experience distilling this liquid gold. For almost half a century, the Greater Antilles has been known for its rum tradition dating back to the beginning of the sugarcane production under the ruling of Spain. Today, this tradition that began in a very artisanal and rudimentary form has evolved to be one of the island’s main industries. The result: a quality product of international recognition that has been present in every historical celebration. About 70% of rum sold and consumed in the United States comes from our island. But how did we get here? Let’s take a look back.

In 1493, on what was his second voyage to the Caribbean, Christopher Columbus brought with him sugar cane from Spain to Puerto Rico. Shortly thereafter, Juan Ponce de León, Puerto Rico’s first governor, planted the first sugar cane fields in the Island during his governorship. This would prove to be a crucial moment in our history since rum production in Puerto Rico is closely linked to the production of sugar since rum is distilled from the fermented juices of the sugar cane. The process is simple, sugar cane juice (guarapo) is extracted and boiled at a high temperature, the process yields a syrup called molasses that when mixed with water and is fermented produces the distilled spirit rum.

Puerto Rico’s rum history can be traced back to the 16th century. The elaboration of rum began on a sugar mill located in Añasco in the 1520s. A few years later, between the 1540s to the 1550’s rum plants were established in Bayamón and Loíza. During that time, the rum produced in the Island was for consumption of locals.

Rum quickly became a trading commodity and had limited but constant export during the 16th century. Rum was always available and was the drink of choice of the slave masters and the slaves. It was also the favorite drink of privateers and pirates who would drink it while out at sea and steal it from trading ships that traveled through the Caribbean.

After a series of ups and downs in the rum industry, mainly due to the Prohibition Era in the United States, the Second World War, and changes in customer tastes, in 1948, Rums of Puerto Rico was created to promote local rum brands. Since its beginnings, Rums of Puerto Rico, has focused on identifying better processes that benefit the production and marketing of rum in Puerto Rico, as well as, elevated quality standards.

Today, while sugar cane plantations have virtually disappeared in Puerto Rico, distilleries all around the island still produce large amounts of rum every day. Puerto Rico rum manufacturers are very diverse and have products for every taste, whether it is white, gold, dark, flavored, or spiced rum. Within this wide range of Puerto Rican manufacturers we find rum products like Don Q, Bacardi, Trigo, Ron Barrilito, Ron Caray, Club Caribe, among others. Each brand and each product has its distinctive feature, but if there is something that unites them is the fact of being manufactured in Puerto Rico and its implications.

The versatility of the Rums of Puerto Rico is only matched by the quality of their preparation. No other country in the world has the regulations and the attributes of the Puerto Rican rum industry. For example, by law, all Puerto Rican rums must be aged at least 1 year, gold rums for 2 years, and premium rums for no less than 6 years. Therefore, Puerto Rico can affirm that its produces the best rum in the world. While you are visiting Puerto Rico make sure you check out the Rum Route (www.rumroute.com) to live the experience and taste of Rums of Puerto Rico. Enjoy it neat, on the rocks, or with your favorite cocktail. Puerto Rican rums are perfect for every occasion, whether to relax by the beach with a refreshing piña or to kick the night off with a Barrilito Old Fashioned.