November 2011

Don Q Rides Again

story and photos by Brian Huff

 The star of the show against a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

There are three absolutes in Puerto Rico. Rum is the national spirit. It is illegal to produce unaged rum. And on this island, which produces most of the rum consumed in the United States, Don Q is the rum of choice.


When the patriarch of the Destilería Serrallés family, Don Sebastian Serrallés, came to Ponce, Puerto Rico in the early 1800s from Spain to found a sugar plantation, he also became the unknowing sire of Puerto Rican rum. “He came to the conclusion that nothing more was needed now but to look out for a lady to be in love with; for a knight-errant without love was like . . . a body without a soul.” These words were written by 17th-century Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, distilling in poetry the essence of his literary hero and legendary dreamer, Don Quixote, for which Don Q rum is named. And they proved prophetic on this Caribbean island. For in 1865, the son of Don Sebastian Serrallés, Don Juan, mirrored the passion of Cervantes, distilling in alchemy the essence of molasses from the womb of a French copper still. Don Quixote’s “lady to be in love with” was named Dulcinea del Toboso. Don Juan’s was named rum.

The Don Q Team (left to right): Steve Jurbala, South Central Regional Sales Manager, Serrallés USA; John Eason, Vice President, National Sales Manager, Serrallés USA; Tom Conte, Director of National On-Premise Accounts and Mid-Atlantic Sales Manager, Serrallés USA; John Gomatos, South East Regional Sales Manager, Serrallés USA; Félix J. Serrallés Jr., President & CEO, Destilería Serrallés; Roberto J. Serrallés, VP/ Business Development, Destilería Serrallés; Yisell Muxo, National Field Marketing Director, Serrallés USA; John Meisler, Mid West Regional Sales Manager, Serrallés USA; Rob Ortiz, North East Regional Sales Manager, Serrallés USA; and Carl Russo, South West Regional Sales Manager, Serrallés USA. Not pictured: D’Shawn Kerrins, Western Regional Sales Manager, Serrallés USA.

Today, there is more to Destilería Serrallés than meets the eye—or palate. Holding court within is Roberto J. Serrallés, Vice President of Business Development, Ph.D. in environmental science, the son of President & CEO Félix J. Serrallés Jr. and sixth-generation of the family business.

Roberto pioneered the original sustainable distillation process by which Don Q rum is produced. “The sustainability program’s core element in terms of vision,” says Roberto, “is the concept of industrial ecology. In nature there are no ‘waste’ streams, as all biomass becomes nutrients or inputs for other living processes.” In the King’s English, when rum is distilled at the Destilería, waste is either cycled back into the process as energy, or recycled into other useful products, such as industrial compost and irrigation water.

This green approach to spirits distillation did not exist anywhere before Roberto’s investment in it at Destilería Serrallés. And although it has been adopted by other spirits producers, most other Caribbean rum distilleries continue to dump their waste water, into the ocean, for example, damaging this fragile ecosystem.

Joseph D. Cinque, President and CEO of AAHS, present Félix J. Serrallés Jr., President & CEO of Destilería Serrallés with the 2011 Five Star Diamond Award for Don Q Gran Añejo.


Roberto is an alchemist as well as an environmentalist. “That the magical side of rum-making is really in the aging, that interaction of the wood and the alcohol is a true alchemy.” Destilería Serrallés hosts a round table of award-winning rums: Don Q Cristal, Don Q Gold and BlackBeard Spiced Rum all have their places. The champion, however, is Don Q Gran Añejo, a blend of rums aged three to 12 years in American white oak and sherry barrels and utilizing small quantities of the spirit aged via a solera process, as well. “Solera,” says Roberto, “adds beautiful earthy, musty notes to the blend that help make it so beautifully balanced and smooth.”

Accolades for Gran Añejo include a score of 93 points by THE TASTING PANEL, and on the evening of September 14, 2011, the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS) awarded Gran Añejo its prestigious 5 Star Diamond Award, a distinction given to only three spirits previously and never to a rum. In addition to this distinction, Félix J. Serrallés Jr. was surprised with a Lifetime Achievement Award for “the exponential growth of the Serrallés enterprise” and for his “dedication and philanthropic support to the community and environment of Puerto Rico.”

Inside Casa Don Q, Don Quixote—for which Don Q Rum is named—and his sidekick Sancho Panza, stand carved in wood, dreaming their dream and fighting the good fight.


Among all the people present at the AAHS award ceremony was Esteban Ordonez, Corporate Mixologist and National Brand Ambassador at Serrallés USA. His tasting notes for Gran Añejo reads: “Its rich bouquet is intoxicating yet subtle. The first impression is slightly sweet and nutty, giving way to a complex mid palate of tropical dry fruit, pineapple and caramel with a perfectly balanced sweetness, spice and a little smoke. Its finish is a pronounced, harmonious, mellow alcohol taste with great length and refined complexity.”

Or is that Don Quixote rhapsodizing about his “lady to be in love with”? I’ll have to read my Cervantes while enjoying Gran Añejo, then compare my notes.  

THE TASTING PANEL, 6345 Balboa Blvd, Ste. 111, Encino, CA 91316
Content ©2016 THE TASTING PANEL magazine. All rights reserved