Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rumstylin' at Varela Hermanos with Abuelo

     Today the adventure started at 8 o'clock when the van picked us up at the hotel and took us to the airport to meet the helicopter.     After an hour or so flight, we were touching down at the Varela Hermanos distillery and sugar plantation.     The flight was a special treat for me because I haven't been to Panama before.     Being able to view the land, the beaches and the ocean was spectacular.     As we approached the distillery, we circled the plantation and could see the thousands of acres of sugar cane and the hubub of activity going on in the fields.     This is harvest time in the sugar cane world in Panama.     Varela Hermanos still cuts the sugar cane by hand and hauls it back to the cane crusher with carts that are pulled by oxen.    You want to talk about a green operation, all the work is done by machetes, man and oxen.
     Once the cane reaches the processoing plant, the cane is unloaded from the carts and placed in a hopper that carries it up to the crusher which extracts all of the juice from the cane and sends it directly to the fermenting tanks.     This is the beginning of the process which will produce the "Seco" a rum like product that is very popular here in Panama.    The dregs of the crushing if you will are baled and dried to become the fuel that fires the burners that heat the stills and boil the sugar cane juice.     

     Once the fermentation is complete, the product is run down to the huge column stills and the alcohol is extracted and purified.   Varela Hermanos only uses column stills in the production of both the Seco and the rums produced at the plant.     There is no molassas produced here at the plant, but cane juice and cut cane is shipped about an hour down the road to the suger processing plant that makes sugar and sends back molasses to the plant for fermentation and distillation into the rum products.    

Today's adventure was an interesting trip because it was good to see a company that is interested in taking care of the local people and providing jobs rather than modernizing and leaving the people of the town of Pese without work or a means to survive.     This tradition of caring for the towns people is a great thing, and the work is appreciated by the towns folk that work the fields, plant and the grounds of the plantation.     Tomorrow I'll get into the rum portion of theoperation and talk about the process and the new Ron Abuelo Centenuria rum.     ;o)