Ron Colón’s story takes inspiration from El Salvador. We speak with Fiona Clara Bruce Castro, Ron Colón European Brand Ambassador about how the rum captures the essence of the country.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started in the bar industry.
I’m a half Spanish/half Scottish spirits geek, who loves to travel, visit distilleries and bar shows, and who goes crazy for all things rum, but also doesn’t mind talking about other distillates (except for maybe vodka). Oh yeah, and I bartend on the side.
Like many of my peers, I started in the industry out of necessity. I moved to Berlin a decade ago to see how I liked it here, and I took any jobs that were available. I did not begin to think about hospitality as a career until 5 or 6 years ago, when I landed a job in a small bar with a large selection of spirits which required a bit more than basic knowledge and a clientele that asked for classics. It was a one-woman bar. This meant I had no direct mentoring, but as my passion grew for the spirits world, it continuously pushed me to search for ways to keep learning and evolving.
How did you become European Brand Ambassador for Ron Colón?
It’s actually a beautiful story about rum love and friendships in the spirits world. During the first lockdown in 2020, I attended all the online talks organised by Chockie Tom (from Doom Tiki). I learned a lot from her programs. We started chatting and getting to know each other through the internet. She knew I’m a rum geek and she mentioned my name to Pepijn Janssens, co-founder of RCS, who sent samples my way. I was very pleasantly surprised with the product and instantly became a fan. The previous RCS brand ambassador in Berlin, whom I also ended up befriending, knew how passionate I am about the category, and when she decided to move out of the beverage industry there was only one firm recommendation from her for the position: me! And here I am, spreading the rum love.
What does your role as Ron Colón European Brand Ambassador involve?
Actually the job involves some of my favourite activities, so I can say I’m feeling quite fortunate.
Apart from now having a valuable reason to talk about rum all day, there is as much education as learning involved. I love researching and studying the history of the spirit. Also, when presenting the product, I have to gauge my audience and make sure they understand what they are drinking, learn where their questions come from and adapt myself to be as receptive as possible. In my opinion, education should be one of the most important duties of brand ambassadors.
In addition, I analyse the trajectory of the category as a whole within the industry and consider how to grow as a brand in this ecosystem. I’m constantly on the look-out for new accounts and trends. It goes without saying that I enjoy perks like getting to taste all the creations the bartenders invent with the brand, but there is nothing I enjoy more than relationship building: visiting bars and getting to know the people behind the stick.
Tell us a little about Ron Colón and how it’s produced.
Ron Colón was born as the passion project of two colleagues in the beverage industry, Pepijn Janssens and Thurman Wise, who went on a country hopping trip to search for the heart of their rum blend and found it in El Salvador. The original blend consists of different styles of rum and it was created initially with a pure focus on bartenders . It highlights the quality produce from El Salvador using for its core an unadulterated multicolumn 6 year old rum from Licorera Cihután and then it incorporates a staple of the category loved by many bartenders and connoisseurs worldwide, high esters pot still Jamaican rums. From the latter classification a 3yo Worthy Park was added and unaged distillates from Worthy Park, Hampden, and Mony Musk. It’s bottled at 111 proof (55.5% ABV) which makes mixing it in drinks a playground. Since its launch, Ron Colón has kept on evolving as a brand and pushing boundaries of flavour with each new expression.
What are the key differences between the expressions.
The aim was always to make something innovative but maintain the high quality of the original blend. With this in mind RCS started a partnership with Jags Head, a generational family of high-altitude coffee producers from El Salvador. From this partnership our RCS 111 proof coffee infused (red label) was born. This is the original blend infused with whole bourbon coffee beans from Jags Head. The beans go through a medium roast and the infusion lasts 48 hours at room temperature (16-18°). For the 81proof coffee infused (green label), the recipe had to be altered to still provide the full coffee flavour experience in a lower proof spirit. With the brand new RumRye the aim was to create a bridge in between spirit categories that historically have had their imbibers divided into two groups to hopefully bring them closer to each other.
What is Ron Colón’s point of difference ie what makes it different to other rums?
For me, every rum is different, but I can talk about what stands out about the company; the things that make me feel proud to be a member of the team.
First of of all, I love that the centre of the attention is on the liquid. The quality is outstanding. It feels great to present a product of such calibre, especially to bartenders, because the response is almost always positive.
Being as transparent as possible about what’s inside the bottle is paramount, and we try to live by that. It’s also pretty cool to be a brand made by bartenders for bartenders, because the focal point is on our needs. The versatility of the liquid and how it plays in mixed drinks makes it great to work with. The way the brand is expanding worldwide provides a proximity with international peers and through challenges and events we maintain the interaction some of us experienced during lockdowns.
In your opinion, how does the rum capture the essence of El Salvador?
The whole project was started with El Salvador as inspiration. The name of the brand makes reference to the currency of El Salvador previous to dollarisation. The label’s design was created imitating the currency notes replacing old colonisers busts with the ancient temple ruins, volcanos, and the national bird: the turquoise-browed motmot.
Having Jags Head as partners gives us insight to coffee production in El Salvador and the work behind providing a ‘farm to cup’ experience. Coffee has been a very important crop for the economy of El Salvador. We have learned a lot about from the Trigueros family, the owners of Jags Head, who have been producing coffee for 150 years. The result is a very authentic flavour that together with the core rum made with Salvadorian molasses aims to give you a unique bouquet delivering a little sip of El Salvador with a Jamaican kick.
How is Ron Colón best enjoyed? Can you recommend some signature serves.
I thoroughly recommend drinking all the expressions as sippers, but I encourage you to try them all in classics and twists. The versatility of the product will not disappoint, and you can discover a lot of flavour affinities that you never thought of before. A Banana Old Fashioned with the blue label is a crowd pleaser. A Right Hand Cocktail with the red label will make you come back time and again, and a Coffee Tonic with the green label is great as a night starter. Shots are #notformortals.
What are some trends in the rum category that have impressed you of late?
Transparency is a very welcome trend that I hope keeps on trending. People are starting to develop curiosity about what’s in their glass, not just bartenders, and that gives a chance to educate consumers.
I’m personally enjoying seeing more women distillers in the category having more visibility and getting praise for their work. For example, the work of Gabriela Ayla at Licorera Cihuatán as master distiller and blender should be mentioned here, since it’s present in our blend.
There are many “trends” now that in my opinion should have been a must in the rum category for decades, like recognition for the labour the spirit demands, and the people that make it.
And then there are trends that should never die. Like good old speed daiquiri challenges.
Any closing comments?
Be curious about what’s in your glass, respect the liquid and the work of the people behind it, and drink more rum. Cheers.
In partnership with Ron Colón.