The reformation of Santa Teresa

With bold Bacardi deal, a legendary rum emerges from Venezuela

Barrels are filled and sealed at the Santa Teresa distillery. Supplied photo

Wars. Runaway inflation. Gangs. Rugby. Rum.

The last 200 years have seen a lot of turmoil in Venezuela, and Ron Santa Teresa has been around for all of it. “The whole history of Venezuela has been quite volatile,” says brand ambassador Jason Browne. “The family is constantly battling outside forces to keep the company going.”

Today, despite being located in one of the world’s most unstable states, Santa Teresa’s owners, the illustrious Vollmer family, are not only continuing to make rum, but putting new energy into it, thanks to a 50/50 venture with Bacardi.

It’s an exciting development for an estate that dates back to 1796, before Venezuela’s 1810-’23 war of independence from Spain. That war claimed the lives of the original plantation owners, leaving only one survivor, a daughter, who married the scion of a wealthy German merchant family. Their son installed the first copper still and started making rum.

Five generations later, the Vollmers continue to produce exceptional rum while grappling with rampant corruption, violence, 700-per-cent inflation and rigid state rules. Now with the Bacardi deal, the family plans to increase exports some 30 per cent by 2020. That’s good news for rum aficionados here in B.C.

Santa Teresa is a rare single-estate rum. The family grows the sugar cane in a fertile mountain valley that Browne describes as “prime climate for making rum.” They use a combination of pot and column stills, which, along with aging in second-use oak barrels, provide the wide range of flavours and textures that contribute to the rum’s rich complexity.

“The other interesting thing is that it is a solera-based system,” Browne says. “It’s a lot like making a sourdough. There’s always rum that’s been in there since the very beginning.”

Santa Teresa 1796 is available at premium liquor stores across B.C. Supplied photo

For now only the Santa Teresa 1796 will be available here in B.C. A blend of four- to 35-year-old rums, it has notes of vanilla, toffee, dried fruit, spice, wood, leather and mellow tobacco. “It’s dry and it’s complex and drinks like a whisky,” Browne says. “It’s delicious. It’s got a very long, smooth and silky finish. It’s definitely a premium rum.”

And don’t think the history of Santa Teresa has been completely written yet.

The Vollmers have fought their country’s instability in myriad ways, with compassion, practicality and…rugby. When gang violence consumed their community, they built a rugby pitch so gang members could work out their rivalries on a muddy field. Today, gang-related crime in the area has almost disappeared.

Now Browne wants to hold a Santa Teresa-sponsored charity rugby match here in Vancouver. “It’s kind of like Aprons for Gloves… an amazing concept for bringing people together for a good cause,” he says.

Ron Santa Teresa 1796 is available at premium liquor stores around the province for a suggested price of $69.99.

Ron Santa Teresa,

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