Born as a passion project amongst spirits industry friends after an unexpectedly beautiful and inspiring trip to “the murder capital of the world”, Ron Colón, aims to showcase and honour El Salvador and local flavours. We delve into the brand’s story and find out more about its stunning High Proof Aged Rum and Coffee Infused expression.
Ron Colón’s story began in 2018 when two friends and colleagues, Thurman Wise and Pepijn Janssens embarked on a crazy 22-day bar-hop through 16 Latin American countries. On arriving in El Salvador – a country they knew little about other than its crime rate and bloody history – they were blown away by its pristine beauty and grit. They spent what little time they had there discovering the coast’s world-class surf spots, magnificent volcanoes and the incredible fresh produce and coffee. This trip sparked in the pair an obsession to develop a product that would honestly depict the rich and colourful El Salvador that they had come to love. As Co-Founder, Thurman Wise puts it,
“Ron Colon came from this place of always wanting to do a rum and then being truly inspired by a place that can make some of the best rum.”
Thurman and Pepijn formed a team of like-minded individuals, including their then colleague, Felicity Gransden, whose unique talent for flavour innovations has much respected. The trio then brought Chris Rehberger and his Berlin-based team at Double Standards on to develop the brand’s visual identity; Tobias Jegenstam to tackle social media; and finally, Andres Trigueros and his family at Jag’s Heads Coffee, who have been producing coffee in El Salvador for more than 150 years.
Why “Ron Colón”?
In 17th century, sugar cane and its products were to the world powers what oil is these days. Colonisers often traded with Native Americans, using rum as a bartering currency.
In 1892, President Carlod Ezeta decided to rename the Salvadorian peso “Colón” after Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón, in Spanish). The Colón remained the official currency in El Salvador until 2001 when it adopted the US dollar. The brand’s decision to reclaim the lost currency pays homage to El Salvador’s history and rum as a much-valued commodity. The bottle design also features an old Colón coin that can be popped off and collected.
Ron Colón High Proof Aged Rum
Ron Colón is a blend of Salvadorian rum and two Jamaican rums. The local rum is made at Licorera Cihuatán, a part of Ingenio La Cabaña of El Salvador, one of the largest and oldest sugar producers in the country. Sugar cane is harvested from the neighbouring region and processed at the 100-year-old mill. The molasses undergoes fermentation with proprietary yeasts for 36 hours, before being distilled by Master Distiller and Blender, Gabriela Ayala, in a modern, multi-column still. After distillation, the rum is aged on site in white oak, ex-Bourbon barrels for six years.
This aged Salvadorian rum is then blended with 15% unaged pot still Jamaican rum from the funky trio of Worthy Park, Hampden and Monymusk, as well as 15% three-year-old Worthy Park rum. The RCS team state:
“The rums we have chosen for our blend create an unusual flavour palate. The Salvadorian rum on its own brings a fruit-forward tropical nose with a light dry finish. In addition to this, we wanted an earthiness, with a fiery warm flavour, to create the perfect liquid. The small amount of Jamaican rum completed this flavour profile and created the perfect balance.”
The brand’s transparency regarding its blend is notable, as is the fact that there is no misleading age statement or large number on the label (which is just as it should be, seeing as it contains an unaged component). The Ron Colón High Proof Aged Rum is then bottled in The Netherlands – although the goal is to move this to El Salvador – at a hefty 55.5% ABV.
Ron Colón Coffee Infused High Proof Aged Rum
Coffee is El Salvador’s biggest export product and its quality is valued highly throughout the world. Therefore, the RCS team were adamant to produce a coffee-infused rum.
The beans used are bourbon coffee beans from the El Ciprés region, growing at 1700m next to the famous Santa Ana volcano. Bourbon coffee beans were chosen as they have a buttery sweetness that pairs perfectly with rum. The beans are naturally processed; this is a slow process where the beans are consistently turned by hand to ensure they dry equally. This deliberate method allows for the bean to interact with the natural sugars from the coffee cherry (the fruit around the bean) over a long period of time, giving the final bean a more fruit-forward flavour. It can also bring out a funky, fermented character, perfect for pairing with the Jamaican portion of the rum blend. Roasted by Jag’s Head Coffee in North Carolina to a medium roast.
The original Ron Colón rum is cold macerated with these whole coffee beans for 48 hours to create Ron Colón Coffee Infused High Proof Age Rum. This allows enough time for the beans to impart their rich cherry, chocolate and honey notes but cuts it off before any bitterness is released.
Tasting Notes – Ron Colón Salvadoreño Range
Ron Colón High Proof Aged Rum
The first aromas are that of the unaged Jamaican distillate followed by the fruity Salvadorian. Think fresh, young banana peel, honeydew melon, juicy peach, acetone, dried pineapple, zesty lemon, raisins, vanilla, oak , a touch of liquorice and dried prunes.
An initial pepper-spiked sweetness moves quickly through, driven by an engulfing heat from the ABV. The earthy funk takes a backseat to tropical fruit, coffee cherry, cacao nibs, black tea and a good deal of spice (cloves, nutmeg and dried chilli). We soon get over that first booze hit and settle into scrummy milk chocolate caramel bejewelled with dried fruit and slivers of almond.
It’s a beautiful, earthy and surprisingly fruity number with a sturdy spice backdrop and an alcohol level to be taken seriously.
Oh me oh my, how to choose?! There are a number of great cocktail recipes to try on the RCS website. One of our favourites would have to be the Rum Old Fashioned (recipe below).
RCS Rum Old Fashioned
50ml Ron Colón High Proof Aged Rum
10ml sugar syrup
Two dashes of Walnut Bitters
Orange zest and Luxardo Maraschino Cherry garnish
Add ingredients to an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Stir down to mix and add garnish.
£35.59. Buy it here at The Drink Shop.
Ron Colón Coffee Infused High Proof Aged Rum
Unsurprisingly, the first nosing is all about the coffee. The cold maceration of freshly medium roasted beans imparts warm, earthy, caramel coffee notes, with gentle roasted notes, intensely dark chocolate, vanilla and woody spice.
Imagine walking into a coffee shop frequented by a priest carrying an incense burner. Rich and fragrant roasted coffee and bitter chocolate combine with aromatic smoke and an echo of bitter herbs. Nutty, dark chocolate brownies tempt the palate and someone’s been stewing fruit for jam somewhere off in the corner. A powerfully transportive rum with a full ABV hit disguised by a whole host of complimenting flavours.
Any cocktail that could do with an coffee hit. This would make a killer (potentially lethal) Espresso Martini. The RCS have come up with a Cold Brew Martini recipe that is definitely worth a go (see below).
Cold Brew Martini
50ml Ron Colón Coffee Infused High Proof Aged Rum
50ml cold brew coffee
25ml sugar syrup
Stir in a tall glass or shaker with ice until cool and the correct dilution for your personal taste. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass.
£38.99. Buy it here at The Drink Shop.