In our July box, we are honored to featured the storied Brugal rum. Below is an interview with Jassil Villanueva Quintana, a fifth generation Brugal family member. She is the first woman to become a head distiller for Brugal Rum and is currently the youngest Master of Rum in the industry. Below is our conversation with her that goes behind the label:
What is it like to grow up with a family brand and now take part in running the business as part of the fifth generation?
In my house we spoke of family tradition for as long as I can remember. I grew up being part of the world of rum and it was that magic that always inspired me. I am proud to represent Brugal and our long family tradition of creating the finest rum.
In what ways, if any, has the recipe changed since the company first started?
We have adapted to the times by creating new products within the portfolio, but our traditional products have not changed their recipes since they were first created by previous generations of Brugal Maestros Roneros.
Can you share any family stories that have been passed down from generation to generation about the start of the company?
I would say that the story that has marked me is how the rum was sold in the beginning. Brugal Rum started with my great-grandfather selling from house to house; it was the family members who were the first to personally offer rum to clients in the local neighborhoods.
What sets Brugal apart from other rum brands on the market?
The purity of the spirits we distill, the water from the mountains of Puerto Plata, the care which we treat each one of our barrels and the time we give to each of our aged rums so that they can give us what we need from them. The secret is the quality we achieve in the product and the legacy of five generations who have worked to maintain consistency.
What are the markers of excellence in rum?
The characteristic of a good rum is in the visual part: clear, bright and without cloudiness. For the nose that the aromas are present and pleasant, balanced, woody increasing with the years and slightly fruity. And in the mouth, the taste should be pleasant, balanced, have body, wood flavor (tannin) and oily according to the aging time.
When I design a new rum I keep in mind those characteristics to let my mind create from what we have in our warehouse.
How has the brand changed in recent years?
The brand in its core is always the same keeping our key values and belief in good rums. Our family tradition and pure spirit were always key ingredients in the brand.
In what ways has the demand for rum changed?
In recent history, the spirit industry has opened the doors to women and there are many of them playing decisive responsibilities in big brands. The world of distillates is no longer exclusive to men, now it also has its feminine side and everyday more women are drinking rum worldwide.
Also, we see a growing demand in the premium rum category focused on sipping rums.
What are some challenges you face?
As a fifth generation I have had the opportunity to receive an invaluable legacy. One of my challenges is to keep that legacy intact, so that the Brugal tradition, which fills Dominicans with pride, continues to produce the best rums and allows us to bring more welfare to our people.
Are there any new trends you've seen lately using rum?
The premiumization that we see during the last years has been the response to the consumer who are drinking more quality dark spirits. Even though rum classics like a mojito and daiquiri will always be present I see cocktails like rum manhattans coming forward - cocktails that celebrate the innovative complexity of premium sipping rums.
What's your favorite way to drink Brugal?
There is a Brugal Rum for every moment, and the best way to enjoy it will depend on the occasion. I could not choose just one way because then I would be depriving myself of the experiences that others give me. The essence of Brugal is to share it. Celebrating with someone special is the best way to enjoy a glass of Brugal rum.