A good liquor comes with a story. A new rum, Ron Abuelo Centuria, produced by Varela Hermanos has one worth telling. The sugar cane is grown on a Panamanian estate founded by Don Jose Varela Blanco in 1908, after emigrating from Spain. He established the first sugar mill in the Republic of Panama. In 1936, he began to distill alcohol from sugar cane juice along with his three sons. The Ron Abuelo Centuria is a limited edition bottling marking the century of production. The Varela family opened up private stock from their reserve that’s been aged up to 30 years.
The essence is in the spirit, which is priced at $130 for a 750 ml bottle. I tasted from a small sample provided to me. The notes dance in a tang of flavors — sharp and full, with a velvety disposition as it passes down the throat. It’s more appropriate for sipping in place of a whiskey, than as a party cocktail. It’s the kind of rum, I imagine, one might taste, while telling stories, cast in an amber hue. Cigar Afficionado describes it like this: “When it enters the mouth, with its voluminous body, the first sense is of the welcoming mouth feel—lush and smooth. Sweetness pours over the palate, and then comes a rush of spice that creates the rum’s nuances: sweet pastry and honey taffy, licorice drops and orange peels, ripe bananas and butter rum candy.”
An interesting detail I learned about the company in this investigation is that they actively promote green practices. Alternative fuels such as bagasse and shoot are used instead of bunker oil. Instead of burning sugar cane, they were the first manually cut the harvest, which reduces C02 emissions and produces more enriched soil. they also use recycled glass in their bottles.
Varela Hermanos is a major presence in the Panamian town of Pese, where they established a vocational institute. Students train in industrial electricity, welding, sewing and computers. It’s nice to know these things when sipping from the new batch..