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PBSA Visits Oldest Rum Distillery in Puerto Rico!!
After the recent P.B.S.A. National Leadership Conference held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Roger Oldham, President of the Professional Bartending Schools of America toured the Serralles Distillery in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The Serralles Distillery, the makers of Don Q. Rum, is the oldest rum distillery in Puerto Rico and actually distributes and sells more rum in Puerto Rico than the Bacardi Company whose headquarters is in San Juan. Accompanying Roger on the trek across the beautiful country side from San Juan to Ponce was his companion Nancie Nolan, David and Quinn Edwards, Directors of the Nashville campus, and Will Cobbin, Director of the Cleveland, Ohio campus and his companion Karen Stroup.
The PBSA group gathered in the lobby of the Caribe Hilton to embark on their trip to Ponce around 1:00 in the afternoon. They loaded in a new van driven by their trusty driver who was not only very knowledgeable but had a laugh that reminded you of Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong. His knowledge of Puerto Rico and the various attractions made the long ride to Ponce go very quickly.
Ponce, is a city named after it's founder, Loiza Ponce De Leon, the great grandson of Juan Ponce de Leon. Ponce was founded in 1692 and is known as ÒLa Perla del SurÓ (Pearl of the South). It's the second largest city in Puerto Rico. The people of Ponce are very proud of their city. As our group entered the city limits, we were amazed by the giant letters PONCE reminiscent of the famous Hollywood letters in Hollywood, California.
Entering the grounds of the Serralles Distillery was definitely different than our previous tour of the Bacardi Distillery. Serralles Distillery does not offer public tours so we drove through the gate with little fan fare or fancy entrances. The driver assured us that we were going to see things that very few people outside of the workers of Seralles ever get to see. We were definitely excited.
Meeting us in the lobby was Silvia Santiago, the Senior Vice President of Manufacturing. She had spoken at the PBSA Leadership Conference a few days earlier, and we knew we were in for a treat by getting a personal tour of the facilities by senior management. Also on hand was Alberto Torruella, the Vice President of Manufacturing. Alberto grew up around the Serralles Distillery and has worked at the distillery for many years. His knowledge of Serralles was simply amazing.
The Serralles Distillery started manufacturing rum in 1865. Serralles is the oldest distillery in Puerto Rico, and the largest producer of rum in Puerto Rico, as well as the second largest producer of quality rums in the United States. The flagship brand is Don Q. Rums including Don Q. Cristal, Don Q. Limon, Don Q. Coco, Don Q. Grand Anejo and many other flavors of Don Q. The Serralles Distillery also produces Ron Rico rum, as well as gin, vodka, Creme de Cocoa, Blue Curacao, Triple Sec, and grenadine.
Due to time constraints and only having 1 hour to tour the distillery before the workers stopped production, Alberto started our tour in reverse. We started the tour at the packaging building and worked our way backwards through the distillery. Alberto handed us hard hats and we jumped on golf carts and took off onto the grounds of the distillery. Alberto chauffeuring Will and Karen from Cleveland with David Edwards driving Quinn, Roger, and Nancie on the other golf cart.
Fifty feet into the tour, David almost took out the side of a building in his golf cart and this was before any rum tasting what so ever. Seems there was a lot of play in the steering. After Roger threatened David with a demotion, he got his driving under control.
The tour had many highlights including the warehouses where the barrels were stored, the control room that was literally like the war room of the distillery that monitored all aspects of the rum distillation with about 20 giant computer monitors, and we also visited the electric plant.
Serralles produces their own electric after a hurricane had knocked out the power years ago which halted production for a month. They not only generate their own power now but have back up generators to ensure the world keeps getting it's supply of Don Q. Rum.
After the tour, we went back to Ms. Silvia Santiago's office where she educated us on the many different brands Serralles produces. She also shared some new products with us that are top secret and coming out in the next few months. We tasted a few of the products and I must say we are all now Don Q. fans. Silvia and Alberto shared stories about their many years at Serralles. It was the best and most personal tour any distillery had ever given us. As we departed, Silvia handed us each a gift bag topping off a wonderful afternoon.
Our driver was patiently waiting in the lobby and now it was time to get some food. He drove us to the historical Plaza de las Delicias. We drove around the square looking for a great place to eat. He pointed out the famous firehouse, Parque de Bombas, that years ago saved much of the City of Ponce from a major fire that threatened the whole city. It is now a free museum.
We went to the Bamboleo Restaurant in Downtown Ponce which served fine Mediterranean cuisine. It was early so we had the whole place to ourselves. After enjoying a great meal with our driver, it was time to head back to San Juan.
Professional Bartending Schools of America wants to thank the Serralles Distillery and Silvia Santiago and Alberto Torruella for an amazing day and PBSA looks forward to promoting the Serralles brands in the future.
Written by David W. Edwards