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Meet The Maker: Jassil Villanueva Quintana

The first woman to become a Maestra Ronera for Brugal rum is also the youngest Master of Rum in the industry. She talks to Douglas Blyde about the newly-released expression, Maestro Reserva, including the “dark aromatic toasting” technique that informs it.

Describe your journey?

I joined Casa Brugal in 2010, although my immersion into the world of rum dates to my childhood. Growing up surrounded by the sights, sounds, and aromas of the Brugal distillery, I developed a deep appreciation and reverence for the art of rum-making. My father belonged to the fourth generation of the Brugal family and had been working at the company for more than 30 years, therefore I was familiar with the world of casks, our rich heritage and storied traditions. Subsequently, during university, I seized multiple opportunities to immerse myself in operational internships within the company.

What did it mean to be the first woman to become a Maestro Ronera for Brugal rum?

The notion of a woman ascending to the position of master rum maker had never been contemplated in previous generations. Extensive training under the guidance of the Maestros Roneros from the fourth generation, where I delved into the intricacies of blending and ageing rums, provided me with a unique understanding of the distillation and maturation process, in turn enabling me to approach rum-making with precision, creativity and ingenuity.

What might a typical day look like?

A typical day involves a delicate balance of art and science. I start by overseeing the blending process, ensuring each batch maintains our signature flavour profile and I might spend hours tasting several rum samples, refining the blends to perfection. I work closely with the Maestros Roneros discussing techniques and innovations to push the boundaries of rum-making. Additionally, I engage in meetings with colleagues to strategise and plan for upcoming releases. Beyond the confines of the warehouse, I actively promote rum culture locally and internationally, participating in industry events, seminars, and tastings – I’m not just a master blender but a custodian of a rich family legacy.

What makes Brugal’s distillery a special place?

Brugal’s distillery holds a special place due to its picturesque location in the Eastern Dominican Republic. Nestled among green sugar cane fields and overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the warm tropical climate and sea breeze contribute to the ageing process, imparting unique character to our rums. It’s here, in Puerto Plata, located in the north of the island, where our rums begin their ageing process to develop distinctive flavours.

How did Brugal’s latest release, Maestro Reserva come about?

Maestro Reserva is the culmination of years of dedication. Our latest release was meticulously crafted to achieve a perfect balance, showcasing depth and complexity.

What is so special about the technique used to raise Maestro Reserva?

Our exclusive Dark Aromatic Toasting technique involves using our finest rums aged in American Sherry casks. These are carefully decanted and lightly charred to the precise moment where fire, wood, and a small amount of residual rum come together, drawing out delicate natural caramel pearls from the lingering sugars within. Enriched with these extra aromatic compounds, the casks are then carefully refilled and aged under our warm Dominican sun, resulting in a remarkable natural amber liquid.

What does it taste like?

Maestro Reserva showcases a velvety texture with notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak. The nose reveals honey, and red fruits balanced by a hint of smoke. The palate offers dark chocolate, dried fruits, toasted nuts and orange peel. The finish has a creaminess with a touch of bitter brown sugar. It’s best enjoyed neat or over ice, sipped slowly with friends or enjoyed alone.

How has Brugal reduced its carbon footprint?

At Brugal, sustainability is at the heart of what we do. We’re committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions in all our operations. An important number of initiatives are in place related to water replenishment, energy efficiency, waste reduction, the use of our by-product “vinassa” as an organic fertiliser, and eco-friendly packaging.

Who is your consumer?

Someone who appreciates authenticity, quality, and craftsmanship.

What is special about the UK from a rum drinker’s perspective?

The UK holds a special place in the hearts of rum enthusiasts due to its rich history with the spirit. From classic cocktails to innovative mixology, the UK offers a vibrant rum culture that celebrates diversity and creativity.

Where can we find Brugal Maestro Reserva?

Our distributor in the United Kingdom is Edrington UK, and you can find Maestro Reserva at The Whisky Exchange & Selfridges.

When is Brugal’s next release due?

Stay tuned for exciting announcements about upcoming releases. We’re committed to pushing the boundaries of rum-making, exploring new flavours and techniques to surprise and delight our discerning consumers.

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