A visit to the Arehucas Distillery, the oldest rum maturing bodega in Europe, offers a truly sensual experience.
The statue of Alfredo Martín Reyes welcomes visitors at the entrance to the Arehucas Distillery, in Arucas (Gran Canaria). In 1935 Don Alfredo reopened the old Factory of San Pedro, originally inaugurated back in 1884, but this time dedicated exclusively to rum production. Today, from his pedestal, Don Alfredo seems proud of his legacy, an international landmark in rum culture. Indeed, these facilities are home to the oldest rum maturing bodega in Europe.
This bodega for the aging of rum is a true temple to the culture surrounding this popular drink, twinning Gran Canaria with the Caribbean. On entering you will be overwhelmed by the rich aroma of wood, history and aguardiente spirit that emanates from the 4,308 American white oak barrels. Nearly three hundred of them are embellished with the signatures of world famous cultural, sporting and political figures, who at one time or another came to Arucas to see at close hand the site where every year over three and a half million bottles of rum are manufactured, the equivalent to an Olympic size swimming pool.
Among the famous celebrities to have left their signature imprinted on the barrels are footballer Johan Cruyff, singer Tom Jones, tenors Plácido Domingo and Alfredo Kraus, soprano singer Montserrat Caballé, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Willy Brandt and chess player Anatoly Karpov, to name just a few. You are free to wander around and see more, you are sure to be amazed.
One of the attractions of the tour is that visitors can follow the rum production process all the way through and wallow in the atmosphere of a company that combines tradition with modern methods. Along one of the corridors you might bump into Manolo Viera, who boasts being the longest serving employee in the factory. His son forms part of the second generation of his family to work at Arehucas. After forty years of dedicated experience, he concludes “where there is sugar cane, there is rum”.
And Manolo is absolutely right, but the process required to obtain this top quality product is quite a complex affair. The jewel in the crown of the Arehucas Distillery, ‘Captain Kidd’, is the only rum to be directly bottled from barrels in which it has remained since 1983. Visitors can also view the casks in which this golden elixir patiently matures, until it has become the treasure sought after by rum lovers.
One of the most eye-catching stops along the route is at the spectacular distillery, a kind of cutting edge steel and copper sculpture where the actual distillation process takes place. The fermented juice enters the first column, the steel one, where it is brought to boiling point before being passed through to the copper one, where its alcoholic content rises and all its undesired impurities are eliminated so as to obtain the ideal spirit.
The harvesting and crushing of sugar cane at the plantation belonging to the distillery starts around the middle of March. At this time we can see - and smell - the machinery and mill at work, making it an added attraction.
Past and present are constantly intermingled, with the same capacity for the combination of rum. The original old building has been restored to improve its energy efficiency and to be better adapted for its visitors, while the old industrial chimney has also been refurbished, which is still used in the fermentation process. Likewise, the thoroughly modern quality control laboratory sits alongside the barrel repair workshop, a wholly artisan task.
The Arehucas Distillery is a company that literally has roots. It currently cultivates three hectares of ecological sugar cane in Arucas, just a stone’s throw away from the factory, and has another eight hectares down at Pozo Izquierdo, on the southern slopes of Gran Canaria. It all begins with a sugar cane and continues with a passion that began back at the end of the 19th century, and after all these years is still alive, giving off those wonderful aromas.
Price of entry:
Adults: 4,20 euros. Children: free entrance.
Regular guided tours are given in Spanish, English and German, and tours are also offered in Polish and French (subject to availability). No prior appointment necessary.
The visit is rounded off with a tasting session of rum and liqueur made here at Destilerías Arehucas SA.
Opening hours: 09.00 to 14.00 from Monday to Friday. Closed on public holidays.
Telephone: (+34) 928 62 49 00
Address: Era de San Pedro, 2 (Arucas, Gran Canaria)