Ron del Barrilito Distillery, Puerto Rico
February 10, 2023 • North America, Puerto Rico, Travel
I’ve never been a huge fan of rum. I remember drinking basic rum and cokes when I was younger, but they weren’t special. To me, rum was always up there with vodka – boring and not very tasty. But then I stumbled upon a distillery in Puerto Rico and my view of rum was forever changed. My partner and I have been coming to the island every year since we met and I have fallen in love with “la isla del encanto” – so much so that we bought a small beach bungalow house on the south side of the island recently, but that’s another story for another time.Each year, before heading around the island to see his family, we spend a little time in the San Juan area. But we’re always looking for a new experience. One year that was zip lining, one year visiting a coffee plantation, one year exploring the pork highway, and every year, making a little time for a chinchorreo. This year we visited Ron del Barrilito, the oldest rum distillery on the island, for a short tour and tasting. Although Barrilito is the oldest, they’ve only been exporting their rum for about 7 years, so it’s still quite hard to find in the US. Driving in you can’t miss the sugar cane and the old windmill. It’s over 200 years old and was used for processing the sugar cane – today it’s used as offices.The grounds of the Hacienda are lush, and the back patio area is a perfect place to sit and enjoy a cocktail after your tour.The historic 1934 truck was originally used for deliveries. The remaining barrel from their original distillation is called La Doña and it’s been held there since 1952. The distillery says they will open it up to enjoy what’s left (what the angels haven’t taken already which is likely most of it) when the island becomes independent – so likely never.Pedro Fernandez would take samples of his rum into the small town squares in a small barrel like these (hence barrilito) and hand out samples. What makes the rum special for me is that instead of just being a distilled spirit, they age the distilled spirit in old white oak sherry barrels from Spain, mixed with all sorts of botanicals like cinnamon sticks. At the end of the distillation and aging process they add just enough water to achieve the require 43% alcohol – and that water is all rainwater collected on the property.The result is a product that is much more akin to a bourbon than a rum. They make all sorts of drinks out of it, and I learned it makes a fabulous old fashioned (my drink of choice). When I asked for one made from Barrilito in a fancy hotel bar in San Juan, I earned the bartender’s respect!
Ron del Barrilito
Edmundo B. Fernández, Inc.
Carretera 5, Km. 5.5
Bayamón, PR 00961
Monday to Saturday
Tour hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (make a reservation online if you can)