Thursday, February 25, 2016

What is the Top Spirit in Panama?

     I think that you are in for a surprise.   With all of the fine rum produced in Panama, like Abuelo, Don Pancho Origenes, Zafra, and others, but the number one spirit in Panama is Seco Herrerano, a neutral spirit fermented and distilled from pure sugarcane juice.   I had an opportunity to visit the Varela Hermanos Distillery that produces Seco Herrerano in Pesa, Panama in 2011.  This is a very clean spirit that is fermented and distilled no 200 yards from where the cane is cut.   The spirit is passed through 4 column stills, charcoal filtered and bottled.

     Why is this not technically a rum?  It is lake Cachaca in Brazil, it is a neutral spirit.  In Central and South America the spirit must spend 2 years in a barrel to call it rum.  Seco is distilled to 95% ABV which will kill all of the flavor in the spirit and bottled at 80 proof.  Though it is made from sugarcane juice, it is truly a neutral spirit like Vodka.

    “When people try our Seco cocktails, they can’t believe it tastes so good because Seco’s reputation isn’t very sexy,” says Jose Carles whose Donde Jose restaurant offers more than 20 flavors of Seco infusions.  Seco takes on the flavor of what ever it is mixed with, neutral spirits have no flavor of their own.  It is a smooth spirit that infuses well with almost any mixer.  One of the favorite mixes in Panama is milk.