Immerse Yourself in Rum History at Ron del Barrilito
Puerto Rico is famous for a lot of things, with rum being one of them. Back in the mid 1870s, Pedro Fernández started making his rum at his home (Hacienda Santa Ana) to share with his family and friends. Today, this hand-crafted rum is still made with the same recipe that Pedro used, and they welcome people from around the world to visit, learn the history, and enjoy this delicious rum. As soon as you drive down the entrance, you know this tour will be a break from the modern, high volume, super busy, commercial rum tours. When you get here, you are transported back to a simpler time, where they welcome friends with a taste of rum.
Ron del Barrilito is located in Bayamón, about 15-20 minutes southwest of San Juan. The visitor center at Hacienda Santa Ana is located on part of the Fernández family’s original tract of sugarcane plantation. The family started selling their hand-crafted rum to the public in 1880, and it is made the same way to this day (except that they no longer distill the alcohol from the cane).
In 2017, Ron del Barrilito changed owners, but the new owners continue to use Pedro’s original recipe, processes, blending secrets, long aging process, and even hand-labeling each bottle lovingly. These new investors have helped make Ron del Barrilito more accessible for everyone — they are marketing the brand, establishing new products, and have opened a visitors center with tours and “classes”.
We had been to this pretty rum producer a few times in the past, before they had any formal tours. It is a beautiful facility, but having a guide really helped us learn about the place and what makes Ron del Barrilito different from other rums. We decided to do their Mixology Tour, where you get both the historical “Heritage Tour”, and a class on making some cocktails.
The Heritage Tour
As you drive in, you see the sugar cane, the windmill, and the old manor home. There is history here! Once you check in at the visitors center, you can enjoy a complimentary cocktail from their bar. They have some tables/chairs set up or you can walk around and enjoy the antiques they have around the air-conditioned center.
At your tour time, your guide tells you about the Fernández family’s origins in Puerto Rico, how they started rum making, and where the name (“Ron del Barrilito”) came from. Then they take you outside, where you learn about the windmill (built in 1827) and the manor home. Next, they continue with the family’s timeline, and how they made it through prohibition. There is the woodworker’s shed, where the master barrel repairman was working on some old oak sherry barrels, making sure they would be able to be reused. Our guide told us about the barrels, and what makes them different from other rum producers’ barrels.
Our guide told us about the new investments being made at the facility, like the new rain collection/filtration system. Then we went into the production building where there are racks and racks of rum being stored from all years. Each barrel numbered and dated when filled. Some as old 1952! He explained how the discovery of this very old rum led to the birth of their 4-star and 5-start product lines.
You will learn the process of how rum is made. You can see the large vats where the rum is infused (macerated) with the fruits and spices (all natural) that give Ron del Barrilito its distinctive taste profile. They explained the mixing process. Finally we went into the bottling and labeling area.
As you walk through this tour, realize that this is the actual production area, where everything is done by hand, so you never know what step of the process you will see people working. It is a really personal tour, and it is so interesting to see. In the past we were lucky enough to see the workers hand-gluing the labels onto the bottles.
After the tour, you are free to walk around the yard or return to the visitors center. Tour takes approximately 30 minutes.
But our tour wasn’t over yet! After the Heritage Tour, we continued to rooms where they conduct their Mixology and Rum Tasting tours. These tours are kept small (maximum 10 people) which keeps the experience personal (and complies with current COVID-related guidelines).
Our guide was Timmy, a professional mixologist, and he was very personable and knowledgeable. Timmy taught us about the bar ware we would be using to mix our drinks, and what drinks we would be preparing. The cocktails may change day to day — I guess it depends on what your guide wants to make! So our guide explained step by step how to make each cocktail, and of course, gave us some time to taste our “work”!
We made 3 drinks using the Ron del Barrilito rums. First we made a special “Old Fashioned” with chocolate bitters and topped with cocoa. Yum! Next up was a fruity “Cosmopolitan”. Delish! Lastly was a delicious Piña Colada. Topped with the dried fruit, these were beautiful and tasty drinks! At the end of class, you receive a diploma! You can then take your cocktails and enjoy them inside or outside. What is not to like about this tour?
This Mixology Tour includes the Heritage Tour, the welcome cocktail, and the 3 drinks you prepare. The mixology part of the tour lasted approximately about 30 minutes, so the whole tour (heritage + mixology) lasts approximately 1 hour.
At the end of each of the tours, you are welcome to relax for a while in the visitor center (free wifi and clean restrooms), walk around the property, and grounds of Hacienda Santa Ana, enjoy more cocktails at the bar, or explore the gift shop for all the types of rums and other Barrilito goodies. You can buy a glass of the 4-star or 5-star rums at the bar if you would like to try them.
They also have a rum tasting tour, where you do a tasting of their 2-star, 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star rums. but that will have to be another time!
Visitors must be 18 years or older with a valid ID.
You can call Ron del Barrilito for more information at 787-415-8601
Ron del Barrilito is located on Carr 5 KM 5.5 in Bayamon. From the San Juan area, take Route 22 west to exit 10. Then take Route 5 south. Continue on Route 5 until you see a small exit to the right that goes toward Route 28. Get off at that exit, but instead of turning left to get onto Route 28, continue straight through the stop sign. Hacienda Santa Ana / Ron del Barrilito is just on the right side, past the small paved lot on the corner. Look for their sign (pictured here). Drive in through the open gate and park.
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