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La Hechicera Rum

La Hechicera makes some of the best Spanish-style rum out there with nothing added: no sugar, no flavourings, no nothing. It was launched in London in 2012 by the Riascos family, whose involvement in the rum business goes back to 1994. Miguel Riascos Noguera learned how to make rum in Cuba after deciding to leave the banana business due to instability and insecurity in Colombia at the time. He sought a deal with the Cuban Ministry of Sugar with the purpose of establishing a rum factory in Barranquilla with the Cuban establishment’s technical support. As part of this arrangement, several qualified chemical engineers and master blenders were sent from Cuba to Colombia, including master blender Giraldo Mituoka Kagana who is still with the company.

Barranquilla, a city on the Caribbean coast, near Cartagena, was the perfect place to do this. Not only does Colombia has more species of flora and fauna than any other country in the world, but to get very technical for a moment, the city had been designated a Free Zone. In the rest of the country alcohol above 20% ABV was a state monopoly. Unlike in Venezuela, there were no private brands, which is perhaps why Colombian rum doesn’t have the same reputation as its neighbour.

The family bought in Colombian cane spirit and aged it in bourbon barrels to their own exacting standards meaning no sugar or other additives. But the rum would then be sold on to be blended into Colombian or generic Caribbean rums. It was time for them to have their own brand so they decided to bottle their own. The result was La Hechicera, by far the oldest rum that the family had aged and named Enchantress in Spanish as a reference to the magical fecundity and diversity of Colombia.

La Hechicera is molasses-fermented, column-distilled and aged in Jack Daniel’s American white oak for a minimum of 12 years. The oldest component is 21 years old. The rum comes off the column at between 88 and 96% ABV so it’s light in its congenic make-up, and yet it’s very characterful in its woodiness. It’s a beautifully-poised rum, perfumed and wine-like with intense notes of nuts and vanilla; the long ageing in no way overpowers the spirit. And all the time with that purity, there’s none of the sugar that you get in some Venezuelan rums.

At the moment they buy in the spirit, but the family has plans to build their own distillery in the near future though will continue to buy in spirit even when it’s up and running as they like the diversity of flavours. The company currently produces around 20,000 cases a year with plans to raise that to 100,000 in three years. It currently holds around 12,000 casks of rum so there’s plenty in stock. It’s been such a success, that the family has just released a new version called Serie Experimental #1 which is finished in casks that held Spanish Muscat for around 13 years so the oak was heavily impregnated with wine. They had 16 casks yielding 7200 bottles. The brand has also been working with wines from Napa Valley, with Canadian rye whisky, and with different natural fruits and infusions, things that tell the story of Colombia. La Hechicera is also engaging in a barrel exchange with Colombia’s largest independent brewery.

It’s a bartender favourite rum, with london bars like Amazamico making all kinds of interesting new creations and twists on classic. The mixologists there have made Old Fashioneds adaptations like the Gold Fashioned, made with a gold-coated (yes real gold!) cube of panela (unrefined cane sugar), as well as The Banana Republic, made with banana liqueur, bitters and a piece of dehydrated banana as a nod to the family’s involvement in the banana busines, and an Old Fashioned made with Antica Formula vermouth and strawberry and tobacco bitters to really brought out the chocolate in the rum. The bar has also created a Daiquiri meets Sidecar cocktail with lime juice, sugar, Italian vermouth and Cointreau.

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