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Ron Abuelo Rum

Abuelo means grandfather in Spanish, so naturally, Ron Abuelo is named after one. José Varela Blanco who came to Panama from Galicia in Spain in 1908. Every bottle bears this date though the family only began distilling in the 1930s and the rum named in his honour was launched in the 1950s.

To make it, five different varieties of sugarcane go into the rum which all comes from its 1600-hectare estate near the town of Pesé. Much of it is hand-harvested. Unusually for Latin American rum, both molasses and pure sugarcane juice are used with an 80/20 split between the former and the latter. The two different types of sugar are fermented, distilled, and aged separately. Abuelo uses a special in-house yeast derived from pineapple. Fermentation takes place over about 48 hours to produce a 7-8% low wine.

Distillation is done in a 12.5m column still to produce a new make of around 78-84% ABV, low compared with many Latin American rums. This preserves a lot of congeners, 250mg per 100ml, so you get a new make with plenty of flavour. The two types of distillate are then aged for two years in ex-bourbon casks separately before blending together. The family has casks dating back to 1978, with only Appleton in Jamaica and Demerara in Guyana having older casks. This means that Abuelo has a lot of mature rum to play around with, largely from ex-bourbon barrels but they do have other casks including sherry, Cognac, and others which are used for finishing.

As with Port and sherry, Abuelo’s age statements are averages not minimum so for example the XV contains rums between eight and 43 years old. It’s aged for an average of 14 years and then finished for a further year. All Abuelo’s rums are blended from different casks except the Centaria which is aged in a solera.

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