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The Rum and Coffee Collab Warming Up Your Winter Boozing

 
PUBLISHED IN interview, rum, ron colón
Fact: If you have a pulse, there’s a good chance that the elixir of life we call “coffee” is probably your lifeblood. Most of us simply can’t function without its firm (yet loving) caffeinated kick in the backside. And while there are many different ways we can wax poetic on the perfection of coffee, here’s the thing:

Looking for a decent bottle of Rum to give your cuppa a little extra kick is really inconvenient. Especially if you’ve just bundled yourself up under a pile of blankets. With the dog. Because it’s really (really) cold outside. Luckily, Ron Colón heard that calling. (Well, in a purely metaphorical way.) 

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Co-owner Felicity Gransden worked to fuse some of El Salvador’s finest ingredients into a coffee-infused Rum that’s killing the game. We talked to Felicity about Ron Colón’s origin story, how El Salvador’s volcanic terroir factors into the Rum and some of the best ways to turn coffee-infused Rum into your next favorite cocktail.
 

Can you talk to us about your role at Ron Colón?

Felicity: I am one of the co-owners of the new Rum brand Ron Colón Salvadoreño. I joined the team in 2018 to develop the recipe for our coffee-infused Rum. I’ve been working in the industry for around six years now and I have always been passionate about the science of flavor and aroma. 
 
Previous to Ron Colón I worked with the brand’s founders at Our/Vodka, an innovation project from Pernod Ricard. My role there focused on activating the brand in the European market, however, I also had the opportunity to work closely with the distillery managers and learn about the distillation process.

Now, at Ron Colón, I am responsible for liquid development and managing our growing brand ambassador team. We now have nine brand ambassadors based in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

Flaviar Five Bar T
1. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to fly, so I could go above the clouds where the sun is always shining.

2. How would you describe Ron Colón in three words?
Bold. Authentic. Rockstar.

3. What is your favorite music and what drink goes with it?
I love soulful music. The best drink I can think of to pair with it would be a classic Manhattan.

4. What would you eat and drink for your last supper?
I always have the same answer to this question — my Mum’s homemade lasagne paired with a rich, dark, oaky red wine.

5. Assuming Ron Colón is your favorite, what's your second favorite Rum?
I’m a huge fan of the Clairin Rums from Haiti.

Tell us more about Ron Colón — why was the brand created? How did it evolve?

Felicity: Ron Colón Salvadoreño is a Rum passion project founded in 2018 by Thurman Wise and Pepijn Janssens. Both Pepijn and Thurman have worked in the industry for many years and the idea to create a Rum brand together had been part of their conversations since 2017.

Ron Colón was inspired after visiting El Salvador. It’s the smallest country in Central America and is home to fine sugarcane and high-altitude specialty coffee. That first trip sparked an idea to create a new style of Rum that combined these two raw ingredients.


Where is Ron Colón made? Where does blending happen?

Felicity: Ron Colón is blended and bottled in the Netherlands, even though the Rum is aged at source. Initially, we found a local partner in El Salvador, but for qualitative and safety reasons we decided to start up in Europe and are aiming to also start bottling in the U.S. next year. Our dream is to one day have a field-to-bottle solution in El Salvador.
 

How many Rums go into Ron Colón? Where do they come from and how did you choose them?

Felicity: Ron Colón Salvadoreño Rum is made from a special blend that creates a complex flavor palate. The blend includes a six-year-old Salvadoran Rum from Licorera Cihuatán distillery in El Salvador, a three-year-old pot distilled Rum from Worthy Park Estate distillery in Jamaica, and unaged high-ester pot-distilled Rums from Worthy Park Estate, Monymusk and Hampden distilleries.
 
We needed to do something to make it ours and to make our own unique blend.
 
The column-distilled Rum is very bright, fresh and dry, whereas the pot-distilled varieties bring more spices, honey and richness to the blend. By combining column-distilled and pot-distilled Rums from different origins, the overall flavor offers contrasting characteristics that interact to create something quite unique.
 

What percentage of your Rum is from El Salvador?

Felicity: So, we always say three-quarters. That's why we choose to talk about Cihuatán's distillery so much and explain the flavor and the process in a way that educates people about the brand.

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We also have Jamaican pot-distilled Rums that are just there to bring in these prolonged characteristics in the background that build complexity.

For us, this was important because, obviously, Cihuatán makes all of their own Rums. We needed to do something to make it ours and to make our own unique blend.

That’s a perfect segue into our next question about terroir. Do you think it influences your Rum production and if so, how?

Felicity: El Salvador is quite interesting because they have all of these volcanoes surrounding every part of the country. That means that the soil involved in El Salvador regenerates really quickly.

Ron Colon is all about innovation and authenticity and has successfully married two of El Salvador’s local flavors together.

This is especially important because when you have things like coffee trees and plants, they pull out all of the nutrients very quickly. So having a volcanic-type of soil and growing sugarcane there will ensure that they get as many nutrients as they need very quickly.

That means you're able to grow them quicker and at a higher quality than you would elsewhere, which produces a better flavor.


Can you give a brief overview on Ron Colón’s two expressions?

Felicity: In our portfolio we have Ron Colón Dark Aged Rum and Ron Colón Coffee Infused Dark Aged Rum, both bottled at 111 proof.

The Dark Aged Rum is characterized by its bright, fresh fruit aroma. The ambition was to create a smooth, full-bodied Rum, with plenty of tropical fruit flavors at a high proof. The Rum is made from a blend of column and pot-distilled varieties from different origins. The main body of the liquid is sourced from Licorera Cihuatán distillery in El Salvador. It is distilled in a modern multi-column system and is light and dry with plenty of fresh, green notes. To bring complexity and new characteristics to the Rum, we add a high ester pot-distilled Rum.

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The Ron Colón Salvadoreño Cold Coffee Infused
expression offers a Rum experience that is totally different from the Dark Aged Rum. Our aim with this expression was to authentically showcase all the flavors of the Salvadoran coffee beans. The coffee infused Ron Colón Salvadoreño is made with Jags Head Coffee’s single estate bourbon coffee beans from the El Ciprés region on the Western side of El Salvador.

The coffee trees are grown at 1,700 meters above sea level on the side of El Salvador’s famous Santa Ana volcano. The beans are dried using the natural process and are consistently turned by hand to ensure they dry equally over a period of four weeks. This slow process allows for the bean to interact with the natural sugars from the cherry — the fruit around the bean — over a long period of time, giving the final bean a more fruit-forward flavor.

Our goal was to bring together the best of Salvadoran coffee and Rum. Ron Colon is all about innovation and authenticity and has successfully married two of El Salvador’s local flavors together.

Can you tell us where the idea of infusing coffee in Rum came from and what makes it so special?

El Salvador has a long and rich history in producing coffee, at one point coffee accounted for 90% of the country’s exports. El Salvador has the perfect environment for growing coffee – a warm climate, high altitudes and volcanoes. Knowing this gave us the idea to use coffee in some way in the Ron Colón project.

I have always been passionate about the science of flavor and aroma.

Although the pairing of coffee and Rum isn’t new, the combination typically features in sweet liqueurs. Our idea was to create something quite different - a subtle, dry, fruit forward coffee flavour, perfectly balanced with the natural sweetness in the Rum.
 

Can you tell us how the partnership between Ron Colon and Jags Head came to be?

Felicity: Jags Head Coffee are our partners in El Salvador. In 2018 we were searching for a coffee roaster in El Salvador and came across Jags Head — both a producer and a roaster in one! Owned by Tomas and Andres Trigueros, the Trigueros family have been producing coffee for over 150 years and Andres is now a fourth generation producer. 

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The Jags Head Coffee farms range from 1,200 to 1,800 meters above sea level, and the beans selected from Ron Colon are grown high up on the side of the famous Santa Ana volcano. This ensures that the coffee plants can make the most of the nutritious volcanic soil, producing a naturally sweet and fruity cup. All Jags Head farms are situated in the Apaneca-Illamatepec mountain range, the most renowned region in El Salvador for growing coffee. 
 
In 2019, Andres and Tomas opened the Jags Head Roastery in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are now able to offer a farm to cup experience. Tomas oversees all growing and processing of the coffee cherries and Andres is the head roaster.

Some might say that El Salvador is more known for coffee than Rum. Does Ron Colón hope to change this by also giving El Salvador’s sugarcane industry some of the limelight?

Felicity: El Salvador is very famous for the beautiful coffee they produce! It’s true that the other countries in Central America are well known Rum producing nations and in El Salvador the Rum industry is much younger.
In the past, the sugarcane grown in El Salvador was used mostly for sugar production and Rums were imported. 

It is great to see the molasses from sugarcane production being used to make Rum and in turn, having Rums from this region become more well known.
 
In El Salvador, we source our Rum from Licorera Cihuatán. The distillery opened in 2004 and is still the only Rum distillery in the country. They are part of the oldest and largest sugar producers in El Salvador — Ingenio La Cabaña of El Salvador.

We use Cihuatán’s six-year-old Rum as the base for Ron Colón. The sugarcane used to make the Rum is grown and processed by Ingenio La Cabaña, where they have been growing and producing sugar for 100 years. It is great to see the molasses from sugarcane production being used to make Rum and in turn, having Rums from this region become more well known. 

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Our ambition was to marry the two biggest exports from El Salvador, bringing the worlds of coffee and Rum together. We use the same approach in the way we activate the brand, by bringing mixologists and baristas together to share knowledge.
 

How can people enjoy Ron Colón? Neat? In cocktails? If so, which cocktails?

Felicity: I have two recommendations for each of our Rums, plus a delicious recipe that you can try with both!

For the coffee-infused Rum, I would recommend a light, fresh highball, plus a richer stirred drink. That way you can enjoy the flavor at both ends of the spectrum. A Coffee Tonic works perfectly as an aperitif, for a richer experience, I would recommend a Coffee Negroni.
 
I’m very proud of this new Rum — we’ve had excellent feedback so far.

For the dark aged Rum, I would recommend a Yuzu Highball — very light, fresh and citrusy. Or one of my favourite creations made by our UK Brand Ambassador Steph DiCamillo, the Banana Old Fashioned made with a banana oleo syrup.
 
We also have our Coffee Ritual shot, a great first way to try the Ron Colón Rums. Just pour a shot in your favourite glass, take an orange slice, dip one side into raw cane sugar and the other into fresh ground coffee. Sip and enjoy!

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Recipes: 

Yuzu Highball

- 50ml Ron Colón Salvadoreño Dark Aged Rum 
- 150ml Capi Yuzu Soda
- Lemon oils
Glassware: highball
Garnish: lemon zest 
 

This Rum is Bananas

- 35 ml Ron Colón Salvadoreño Dark Aged Rum
- 10 ml Banana skin oleo (equal weight banana peels and white sugar, combined, left overnight, strained)
- 2 dash Brazilian bitters
- 1 dash toasted almond bitters
Method: stir down on ice
Glassware: rocks
 

Coffee Tonic

- 50ml Ron Colón Salvadoreño Coffee Infused Rum 
- 150ml Fever Tree tonic water
- 1 dash Walnut bitters
- Lemon and orange oils
Glassware: highball 
Garnish: lemon zest
 

Coffee Negroni

- 25ml Ron Colón Salvadoreño Coffee Infused Rum
- 25ml Antica Formula sweet vermouth
- 25ml Campari
- Orange and grapefruit oils
Glassware: rocks 
Garnish: orange zest

What can we expect next from Ron Colón?

Felicity: We have just released a new style of Rum to add to our portfolio. Ron Colón Salvadoreño Coffee Infused Rum at 81 Proof. We approached this Rum as a completely new style — it isn’t simply a low alcohol version of the 111 proof.

We have created a new recipe to make it a richer coffee experience; the flavor notes are more focused around dark chocolate, cherries and plums when compared with the 111 proof. I’m very proud of this new Rum — we’ve had excellent feedback so far. It offers a new way to experience the flavors in coffee and Rum and provides a lighter option for our portfolio.
 
In the beginning of 2021, we have a real innovation coming down the pipeline. But that’s for the next interview.
 

READ MORE ABOUT: interview, rum, ron colón

By Jackie Gutierrez-Jones

Jackie Gutierrez-Jones

Jackie is a lifestyle writer, editor and unabashedly proud Miami native. She believes that croquetas and Gin cocktails are suitable precursors to lifting heavy weights over one's head.

 

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