Rum Experiences in Puerto Rico You Shouldn’t Miss
You don’t have to be a rum connoisseur to appreciate the indelible mark this iconic spirit has made on Puerto Rico’s narrative
Often called “The Rum Capital of the World,” Puerto Rico produces 70 percent of the rum sold in the U.S. The island’s rum production dates back to the early 16th century. Spaniards brought sugar cane crops from Hispaniola (today the Dominican Republic). The island’s first sugar cane mill was constructed in 1517. By the mid-19th century more than 700 sugar cane plantations had been established, as well as a good number of sugar refineries and rum distilleries. Although the sugar industry eventually diminished, rum-making endured. Today the rum industry adds over $300 million to Puerto Rico’s economy annually. It’s also responsible for more than 700 jobs in the island’s distilleries.
For a taste of Puerto Rico’s rich rum history, book a tour or mixology class at one of the distilleries. Some of them have produced rum for more than 100 years. Here are a few places to add to your rum discovery itinerary.
Crafted by hand in small batches, Ron del Barrilito rum is aged in vintage American white oak sherry barrels—a process that’s remained the same since 1880. A Heritage Tour showcases the family legacy behind Puerto Rico’s oldest distillery, including a look at Hacienda’s historical landmarks like the lovingly preserved family mansion. The interactive Mixology Tour teaches guests the art of creating classic bar-quality cocktails. The Tasting Tour allows guests the unique opportunity to taste the “angel’s share” of rum, the part of rum that naturally evaporates from the barrel during the aging process. The tasting experience includes Dos Estrellas, Tres Estrellas, Ron del Barrilito Cuatro Estrellas and Cinco Estrellas.
When Don Facundo Bacardí Massó purchased a small distillery in Santiago de Cuba in 1862, it was the beginning of a rum revolution. Over the next several decades, Bacardí rum earned celebrity status and even helped fuel tourism to Cuba from the U.S. during the Prohibition era. In 1930, they built distilleries in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The facility located here is the world’s largest premium rum distillery. Hone your cocktail making skills with the Mixology Class, where you’ll craft the classic Mojito and shaken Piña Colada. During the class, you’ll learn more about Bacardí’s history, as well as pick up a few new bar skills.
The Rum Tasting Tour showcases Bacardí’s premium rums and includes a chocolate pairing. A trolley tour to the family museum and an overview of the company’s history are part of both experiences. If you aren’t able to secure a tour or have less time to enjoy the distillery, consider the Casa Bacardí Bar Visit. A ticket gets you a tasty cocktail, a locally-made empanada and the chance to chill at the waterfront Pavilion with a fantastic view of El Morro, an iconic fortification and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
San Juan Artisan Distillers is located about 22 miles (34 km) west of San Juan. It’s Puerto Rico’s only working sugar cane plantation estate and distillery. Inspired by the use of sugar cane early rum makers in Puerto Rico used, owner Pepe Alvarez planted his first crop and started the process of creating his own rum distillery. However, before they were able to harvest it, Hurricane Maria destroyed the crop entirely.
That setback only fueled his imagination. The result: fruit-flavored rums made with fruits locally sourced from farms in San Sebastián, Santa Isabel, Manatí and other regions. Tour guides provide insight into their rum making process and showcase the company’s dedication to sustainability. The 1½-hour tour concludes with a sampling of rums crafted by San Juan Artisan Distillers.
Opened in 2019, Crab Island Rum Distillery is the first distillery on Puerto Rico’s southeast island of Vieques, where owner Ivan Torres was born and raised. He returned to the island to pursue his dream of creating handcrafted artisanal rum after earning his college and master’s degrees in the states. Torres sought the guidance of renowned rum master Luis Planas, who mentored him through the early stages of developing the business. Ingredients for the coffee and orange infused brands are sourced from local growers on Puerto Rico’s main island. Free distillery tours and tastings are available.
More rum experiences
Situated in the heart of Old San Juan, La Casita de Rones opened its doors in 2016. Co-owned by Joel Vazquez Rivera and Ramon Díaz, it’s the flagship store of Rums of Puerto Rico, a marketing arm of the island’s Department of Economic Development and Commerce. This distinctive rum experience showcases authentic Puerto Rican tapas and entrees that pair well with one of their craft rum-based cocktails. A well-curated shop offers an ample selection of apparel, glassware, bar accessories and other rum-inspired souvenirs.
In addition to his work with La Casita de Rones, co-owner Joel Vazquez Rivera channeled his passion to share Puerto Rico’s rum culture by creating Puerto Rico Rum Journey. The program provides visitors an easy way to book rum tours, experiences, events and buy merchandise. You can either go to their website or book through the app which is available in iOS and Android via the App Store or Google Play. They offer a selection of rum distillery itineraries, as well as tips on additional places to explore in each destination. Available itineraries feature many of the above-mentioned distilleries, with Casa Bacardí being the most popular. The app also offers a “rum experts” experience where users can unlock collectible badges on their digital passport to win prizes and level up their rum expert status.
“Hopefully, this program will make Puerto Rico a rum destination and spread the word that our rum heritage has not been discovered by all who visit the island,” shares Vazquez.
Address: Calle Comercio San Juan
Cost: Call program for details