Puerto Rico’s best distilleries uncovered

A distillery tour in Puerto Rico will journey you back in time to the plantation days, one of the most significant pieces of the puzzle in Caribbean history.

Rum is the official spirit of the Caribbean, and many people consume it all over the world. But few really understand the narrative of how it all began, and where it came from. Our distillery tours appeal to the most discerning of travelers, the most passionate of drinkers and most ravenous culture vultures, with unique insight into the world’s “noble spirit”. Learn about rum’s fascinating plantation past, watch the process of how rum is made today, and unravel the secrets of Master Blenders in the industry.

The distilleries in Puerto Rico are a huge part of the island’s history, and many of the rum destinations can be traced back to antiquity. From the famous Bacardi label to the locally loved brand of Don Q, there are so many great rums to try on a tasting holiday on this island.

Overview of distilleries in Puerto Rico

There are many rum brands that hail from Puerto Rico, with more than fifteen of these in the Mayagüez area, and some of the best labels in Arecibo. Distillery tours are fantastic across the Caribbean, but many choose Puerto Rico because of the famous Casa Bacardi.

Bacardi is a brand of rum that is enjoyed all over the world, is recognized in any bar or restaurant, and in any language. Originally made in Cuba, Bacardi is deeply intertwined with the Caribbean’s Colonial past. In 1910, Bacardi became Cuba's first multinational company, opening a facility in New York and also in Barcelona, Spain. By the 1930s, Bacardi had facilities in Mexico and Puerto Rico. It is now the largest rum distillery in the world.

Other distilleries include PitoRico and Hacienda Santa Ana, as well as Don Q which can all be visited as part of a trip to the area.

The history of distilleries in Puerto Rico

The connection between rum, sugar and slaves goes back a long time, making rum distilleries an attraction not only for rum enthusiasts, but for serious historians. Sugar production is an integral part of Puerto Rico's past, and the art of rum distilling was brought about by slaves who worked on the plantations across the islands.

The work on sugar plantations was incredibly tough, which was made even more grueling by the hot climate. Plantation owners used African slaves to meet their labor requirements, and this began a chain of trade that included a lot more than sugar.

Commercial distilleries started forming in Barbados, where rum was initially discovered, around the very early 1700s. Mount Gay Distillery is the oldest commercial rum distillery in the world, and is still open for business today in Bridgetown. Other Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico, started to develop distilleries and rum had become hugely popular, including with Colonial America. It even became New England’s most profitable trade in the 18th Century as the number of distilleries increased. Rum was then used as currency to purchase more African slaves to work on the plantations as a way to support this new export.

For a long time, America tried to make rum their national spirit. But the history of rum-making belonged to the slaves of the plantations. It was the slaves who learned to make alcohol through the fermentation of molasses, and it was the slaves who used the art of distillation to create the first ever true rums.

Hacienda Santa Ana was one of the first ever distilleries in Puerto Rico, where the world’s finest sipping rum, Ron del Barrilito, has been manufactured for centuries. Bacardi, the world’s most well-known rum, is also made in Puerto Rico and the distillery in Cataño offers tours and mixology experiences for visitors.

What happens on a distillery visit

A visit to a distillery is not only a great way of learning more about your favorite spirit and having more appreciation and understanding for what you drink – it’s also a superb history lesson. Like many spirits and distilled alcohols, rum has many stories and is an important part of local culture.

On our distillery holidays, clients will get a chance to learn more about where rum came from, how it was first made and how it is produced today. You can also enjoy a rum tasting masterclass, giving you all the knowledge you need to differentiate between different rum varieties. As well trying different premium rums, you’ll be taught to compare rums by sight, taste and smell.

Rum experts can also guide you on the best ways to taste rum, as well as recommend some of the cocktails or mixers that suit your palate.

The best distilleries to visit

On a Wine Paths rum tour, you will get to visit the world-renowned Casa Bacardi, the biggest distillery and rum label on the planet. Located in Cataño, this distillery offers three different experiences. We can take you on the Historical Tour or Rum Tasting Tour and finish off with a cocktail-making class. You’ll get to master the mojito, as well as two other classic rum cocktails. In addition to the tour and mixology experience, you can even bottle up your own Bacardi as a souvenir.

Other distilleries to visit are PitoRico and Hacienda Santa Ana. PitoRico is just an hour from San Juan, but its high altitude location means that it’s not the easiest place to get to. Hacienda Santa Ana does not offer official tours, but you can arrange to be shown around by appointment.

Another popular label we get asked about a lot is Don Q. This is the name to know if you are after authentic Puerto Rican rum, as it is loved by many locals. If you would like to find out more about the history and production process of Don Q rum, there is a museum nearby which offers a lot of information on the brand and the industry as a whole.


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