Venezuelan rum: 2 centuries of tradition aged with producers’ passion
By Carlos Seijas Meneses
Caracas, Aug 16 (EFE).- A favorable climate for the cultivation of sugar cane, the aging process and more than two centuries of experience all make Venezuelan rum a prestige product that is exported to more than 100 countries and contributes almost 3 percent to the GDP of the country, which on Tuesday commemorates the international day of this liquor.
The president of the Venezuelan Rum Promotion Fund (Fonproven), Guillermo Cardenas, told EFE that the country’s rum “has been generating and capturing the attention of the consumer, both nationally and internationally,” above all starting in the 1990s, when producers began turning out premium and super premium versions of rum and it stopped being considered just a folk beverage.
“We have rums that have competed at international fairs and have won many prizes. … The premium rums nowadays have great value and great prestige,” said the head of Fonproven, which represents 13 producers, or 90 percent of the Venezuelan market.
The sector, in addition, is an “icon for creating jobs” in the regions where the industry is located, directly employing about 2,500 workers and indirectly some 9,000, he said.
Predictions are, he said, in 2022 for the domestic market to exceed a million cases (containing 9 liters, or 2.38 gallons, each), after declining in 2020 to 350,000 cases as a result of the pandemic and the recession.
The rum sector destines 30 percent of its production to the export market, making it one of the main products Venezuela sells abroad, according to the Fonproven chief.
“We have members (who export to) more than 100 countries. One member gets to more than 100 … and there are others who get to 80, 40 and others who are just starting up and will have five (or) six countries,” he said.
According to figures provided to EFE by the Venezuelan Exporters Association (AVEX), rum sales abroad grew between 2020 and 2021 by about 45 percent, rising from $66.3 million to $96.159 million.
The international business director for Santa Teresa Rum, Bernardo Lopez, told EFE that the beverage is one of the products that is not only considered to be “very good in the country, but also abroad they recognize it as one of the best in the world.”
“We’re very proud to be able to say that, from Aragua (in the north) rum is being produced that nowadays is going to more than 100 countries in the world, the market foci being of course the United States, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, England (and) Canada where we’re having the most important levels of investment,” he said.
The company has set a goal of exporting to 160 countries by 2027.
Rum connoisseurs, including Cardenas and Lopez, agree that the weather conditions for growing sugar cane and the process of aging the liquor are key elements in rum production.
They said that the changes in temperature – high during the day and low at night – make the exchange between alcohol and the wood in the casks where the rum is aged more efficient.
According to rum master Nancy Duarte, one of the two Venezuelan women devoted to the profession, the country is “blessed” by its climate conditions.
In a tour of the Santa Teresa storerooms, where the rum is aged, Duarte told EFE that the temperature changes make the wood in the casks expand and contract, a process that “gives color, aroma and flavor to the alcohol.”
In addition, according to Venezuelan law, for a liquor to be designated as “rum” it must have been aged for a minimum of two years.