I just finished Ron de Venezuela, the book that tells you the history, past and present of a Controlled Denomination of Origin with a brilliant future to come. While reading, I realized how much I owe Ron Santa Teresa’s Rum Master, Néstor Ortega, who I consider my private Rum Bible. We have been working together during the past 11 years. He’s the one I call when I have a doubt regarding sugar cane, molasses, distilling, ageing, blending añejos and even mixing with them.
I did my first rum testing guided by Néstor and I had the privilege of spending hours in his lab looking at, smelling, testing and tasting molasses, alcohol, light rums, heavy rums, artisanal rums and finally the blends that he jealously treasures and have been awarded worldwide. He showed me the fundamentals of pot and continuous distillation. He taught me the difference between our Ron de Venezuela rums and the Caribbean rhum agricole. He introduced me to “the magic of rum.”
Under his guidance, I started to write professionally about rum and because of him, and the wonders of Ron de Venezuela, of course, my palate is absolutely rum biased. While reading the book by the fireplace, I couldn’t avoid enjoying one of my favorite añejos in the world: Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera.
For the first time since I discovered it —back in 1996, when it was first launched to celebrate the bicentennial of the Hacienda Santa Teresa—, I had it straight, in a balloon glass. Suddenly I realized, what does it means for a spirit to be smooth, rounded and perfectly balanced. And I finally understood why some experts compare it to Cognac and Armagnac.
Then, I decided to share with you the official description that I wrote for Santa Teresa about this rum: the pioneer of the Solera ageing method in the world rum industry and the only one that is totally aged through this ancient system, for centuries the secret of Spain’s sherry and brandy producers.
Following the description, you will find the tasting notes written, hand on hand with Néstor. The glass and bottle pictures on this post were shot by Holger Stork, one of the best product photographers I have worked with. He shot them in my home studio in Caracas and I had the honor to be his photography director.
| Photo Courtesy Ron Santa Teresa
Criadero de Solera, where the magic happens…
Ron de Solera. In the Solera, oak barrels are set in four rows one above the other. There, through the Solera process the rum makes a long journey: the crianza decants by cascade through the layers of barrels, ending as the final crianza in large French limousin oak vats. Thus as it slowly moves from barrel to barrel, it achieves its mature, balanced body, and the perfect ageing roundness that makes Santa Teresa 1796 distinctive and inimitable.
The”Mother Rum”, an aged elixir, more than 25 years old, is blended with high purity añejos. It is at the Solera that begins the barrel’s crianza. Once the rum achieves its desired maturity, one portion is decanted by cascade, from the first row on top, to the second one, until the rum reaches the fourth row of barrels, close to the ground. This crianza gives Santa Teresa 1796 its freshness, equilibrium, strength and a good portion of its maturity.
Once the progression of cascade decanting is done, only a portion of the rum on the fourth row of barrels is taken to a second process: the slow and calmly final crianza in large oak vats, where the maturing process is completed.
| Photo courtesy Alberto Vollmer Foundation
Hacienda Santa Teresa, circa 1960
To the sight: amber reddish color, rich in tears.
To the nose: fruity aroma, with honey and dark chocolate notes.
To the palate: honeyed and complex, tobacco and leather notes, roasted, smoked… This is a rounded rum, it has the perfect balance that only the age-old Solera method can provide. Firm bodied, yet delicate, elegant and velvety. It evokes the essence of the oak in which it was aged.
| Photo Adriana González
Rum Master Néstor Ortega