August 16 is International Rum Day and for that reason we introduce you to the youngest rum master in the world: Jassil Villanueva, from the prestigious Brugal rum from the Dominican Republic, a delight that has no gender.
Ron Brugal was founded in 1888 by the Barcelona exile Andrés Brugal Montaner, who had learned to make rum in the lands of Cuba before arriving in the Dominican Republic, a benchmark of liquor greatness …
At present, this rum house is considered by connoisseurs as one of the best in the world and it is no wonder, since since then, the descendants of the family Brugal they elect in conclave the new rum master and the most recent has been Jassil Villanueva Quintana, who talks exclusively for VANIDADES.
How long have you been the master rum maker?
Sometimes I don’t like to say my age because many find it hard to believe that a 33-year-old woman is the master blender from a company like Brugal, which exports to more than 50 markets… But I was chosen in 2011 after a very challenging contest between several cousins who are the fifth generation of a family in love with rum.
Have you always wanted to be part of this complex world?
Since I was a child! I grew up hearing my family tell the stories of Ron Brugal. My dad belongs to the Brugal family and has worked in the company for 25 years; He taught me to love the Dominican tradition and the artisan production of rum, which is part of the culture of the country and the DNA of our family; he is the current production manager and a maternal descendant, so his last name was lost.
When did you start working in the company?
Since I was in college, at the beginning I wanted to get involved in the operational and I went for the logistics, but it was the partners and master-makers of the fourth generation who encouraged me to leave because of what I was passionate about: the romantic and creative side, that is say, make the rum.
Do you have a feminist stance on the power of women in worlds that are still considered masculine?
Since prehistoric times there have been differences between men and women, but I think they have already been disappearing; As women we have managed to reach new levels and at the beginning of my career it was quite overwhelming to be a woman in a historically masculine world, because you have the responsibility to change the rules of the game, but since we are doing something that we are passionate about, overcoming challenges makes us give the best of ourselves. If you love what you do, it only shows what you are capable of.
A woman is the maker of one of the best rums in the world
In the world there are many tequila, mezcalera, whiskey and gin masters, do you think it is time to stop emphasizing it?
The spirits industry has opened the doors to women without fear and there are many of us who have decisive responsibilities in big brands. Every day more of us have proven to have the skills and knowledge to create a new standard where these differences between men and women are not significant. All sectors will have to open up whether they want to or not.
What distinguishes Dominican rum –in general– from others such as Cuban, Venezuelan and Guatemalan rum, which are the most prestigious?
In general, Dominican rum is special due to the unique climatic conditions of the region and the quality processes; In the case of Rum Brugal, it is differentiated by its inimitable quality, which is due to many such as the purity of the alcohols, the water from the springs in Puerto Plata, the enormous capacity of the wineries to accommodate the aged ones and the double aging in barrels. Finally, I will say that keeping the rum masters in the family makes love even greater. That is why it is an admirable rum worldwide.
Can you share a bit about the process to understand it better?
Its artisanal elaboration begins with a double distillation, it is necessary that in a first stage, the rums age in American white oak barrels (Quercus Alba) of medium toasting and, later, continue their aging in European oak barrels (Quercus Robur) that have previously been used for Jerez wines. Wood, as a key element is the differentiation of Brugal 1888, gives it its unique character. The company is the only brand that is entirely produced on the island.
Toasting and drinking is a social experience, today that we are experiencing a global health crisis, what do you think is the role that liquors have at this time?
A tasting is a journey through the inner world of a spirit. Rum is one of the most joyful ways to be Dominican and we want to share it. At this time, this experience allows us to feel close to others from our home, enjoy it slowly neat (direct) or with ice, with your friends, with your partner, and if you fancy a cocktail, do it without fear… Brugal 1888 is so sophisticated that you won’t feel overwhelmed; that I promise.
Happy international rum day!
CATA’s notes: Sherry, toffee, nuts, red fruits and citrus.
Persistent: peach, coffee, raisins, dates and vanilla.
Tasting: The Maestro’s Tip, by Jassil Villanueva, a rum master from Brugal.
It is served at “the temperature of the Dominican Republic”, the heat of the Pico Duarte mountain, between 24 and 26 degrees, this enhances the aromas of bourbon. Little by little and the caramelized flavors of the caramels, sherry, peaches and red fruits are felt.
1 ounce of Rum Brugal 1888
50 ml cold coconut water
60 ml of natural syrup
6 green seedless grapes
3 or 4 pinches of ground cloves
The zest of half a lime
a pinch of salt
5 sprouts of holy basil to decorate.
* Place the ingredients in order in an old fashion glass.
Glass shaker or mixer
Measuring glass or tequila shot
1 oz (50 ml) aged dark rum and white rum
1 ounce (50) ml white rum
15 ml of Cointreau, Curaçao of Orange
15 ml of almond or walnut syrup (the original is called Orgeat)
15 ml of juice of regular lemon syrup and grenadine.
* Shake the shaker with all the ingredients and serve with a strainer in a tall glass.
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By Gabriella Morales-Casas