The history of Brugal begins in 1888 in San Felipe de Puerto Plata, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The protagonist is Don Andrés Brugal Montaner who has given birth to a dynasty dedicated to the production of rum that has lasted for five generations. Originally from Spain, Don Andrés had moved to the Dominican Republic with the desire to continue and perfect the art of making brandy that is obtained from the distillation of sugar cane, a love that exploded after his stay in Cuba.
From those years and for half a century Brugal grew, until the nationalization of the sugar refinery and cane plantations by the bloody dictator Trujillo – later assassinated in 1961 – in the 1930s. The construction of the first warehouse for the aging of rum in oak barrels dates back to the previous decade. In 1976, thanks to the introduction of Extra Viejo, the company – now free to grow towards the international market – develops the premium rum segment in the Dominican Republic.
Even after the acquisition of 80% by the Edrington group, a Scottish multinational spirits company that also owns the Macallan, Highland Park and Glenrothes whiskey distilleries, the Brugal family continued to be actively involved in the company and in the production of the “Rum of the Dominicans”. Among other things, the founder’s family is proud of a rule that has never been violated: the Maestros Roneros – responsible for the 360-degree production, true conductors of the product from raw material to distillation to aging – must be chosen from among the direct descendants of the founder. The current “maestros” are Miguel Ripoll and Jassil Villanueva, both representatives of the fifth generation and focused on the search for the perfect balance between preserving the heritage of Don Andrés and the innovation made necessary by a very demanding production that aims at the premium segment. Jassil Villanueva is also the first female Maestra Ronera for Brugal, as well as from the Dominican Republic. It is worth noting that at Brugal – which has 1,200 employees in its country of origin alone – 40% of management positions are occupied by women: a contribution that is considered vital for the success of the company.
The production of rum by Brugal – 55 million liters per year – has been carried out with great care in Puerto Plata since 1888. Unlike most modern rum brands, produced from molasses and distilled in multicolored stills that transform the raw material imported from other countries, Brugal uses only local sugar cane molasses, coming from four of the five sugar factories in the country that process the country’s cane. The molasses arrives by tanker from the Ingenios of Colòn Central in La Romana and from San Pedro de Macoris.
The time of aging is also fundamental: up to 85% of the rum flavor derives from aging in cask, and it is for this reason that Brugal makes use of all the experience coming from the Edrington group: thanks to the work done by the Masters of Wood by Macallan, some of the best cask ex-Sherry – sherry casks are among the most valuable and expensive to find – arrive in the Dominican Republic for the aging of Brugal rums.
The first barrel used for aging is ex-Bourbon American white oak; the second is made of European oak ex-Sherry Oloroso, and has characteristics that make it unique in the panorama of rum production. Produced by hand and of great economic value, it is used for aging Sherry Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez between 18 and 24 months and then, when it is still at maximum yield, thanks to an exclusive agreement with Edrington it is sent to the Dominican Republic. . Having one of the best barrels in the world still at full capacity built with oak wood from the forests of the Spanish Pyrenees, in full release phase, produces an exceptional rum rich in nuances and aromas ranging from wood, dried fruit, vanilla , caramel and cocoa up to vanilla and honey and which we were able to appreciate during Casa Brugal, a highly reserved format that Edrington offers in some countries to local distributors, also to deepen the culture of the Dominican Republic.
After the barrels, the tropical heat of the Caribbean country plays a special role in the aging process of the Brugal. Rum aging is often carried out in Europe for a commercial yield reason: Angel Share – i.e. the amount of rum that evaporates from wooden barrels during maturation – in Europe is about 2%, while in the Caribbean it oscillates between 8 and 12%. In this way, only 65% of the initial content of a barrel remains after five years of maturation. In short, one year of aging in the Caribbean is equivalent to three years in Scotland. This implies that, to fully express the potential of the barrels, a rum aged for ten years in the same barrel in the Dominican Republic would have to age from thirty to forty years to have the same aromatic potential.
The Maestros Roneros are well aware of the effects of the so-called “tropical aging” on rum, and for this reason they have arranged for the Brugal warehouses to be strategically positioned under the heat of the Dominican sun. The goal is to intensify the aging process, bringing out the best from the barrels to give the rums character and complexity. The rest of the production is done by the attention and care for quality at every stage of production: the bottles, for example, are worked by hand, applying the net, the sealing wax and the adhesives one by one.
In Italy Brugal is imported and distributed by Velier, a historic Genoese family business that deals with the import and distribution of spirits, liqueurs and wines. Founded in 1947, it is therefore 75 years old, during which the quality of the products and their passionate dissemination have always been the main way to access continuous commercial and reputational growth.