The start of a new year often brings with it optimism and hope for a chance to improve on the previous year. For me, however, 2017 hasn’t started off well and on one of the more frustrating days, I decided to put my focus on something that never seems to let me down: rum. Between the negativity the news brings, losing one of my dearest pets, and struggling with personal challenges to somehow figure out what career can come second best to my dream job (brand ambassador for a great rum), I decided to do some research on a rum that I was drinking over the Christmas holiday: Santa Teresa 1796.
The name Santa Teresa reminds me of my childhood. As a military brat, I lived in Madrid and would visit the Convento de Santa Teresa in Avila, Spain. I’m not sure if this is the same Santa Teresa that the brand’s hacienda is named after, but seeing the Spanish connection to the brand’s home of Venezuela, and the dates she was alive, I will use deductive reasoning to think, maybe there is a connection. Perhaps it was simply a name given to the estate in the same manner someone names their boat or villa. Regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof (I’m not religious at all), the name evokes a positive image to me and it would seem in a place often associated with political turmoil, this Venezuelan brand is living up to its virtuous name even if by accident.
Prior to seeing this bottle at the liquor store, I had never tried a rum from Venezuela. The suggestion to give this one a try was by a non-rum drinker that said it was the only rum that he never gets a hangover from; a problem he usually encounters. Poor guy. I generally get excited about trying new rums but somehow allowed this one to sit on the side of my bar for a few months. I finally cracked it open on Christmas Eve and found the rum to be quite nice, if not perfect. It is enjoyable both neat and on the rocks and I can see why it has been awarded numerous gold medals over the years. I’m a fan of the solera method which Santa Teresa 1796 does very well; a blend of aged rums which may surpass 30-year aging. The result is a well-balanced rum that has a sweetness on the nose, and a bit more dry in the mouth. The oak definitely comes through and while taste is subjective, this is a solid aged rum and super affordable.
One of the most interesting characteristics about the brand is what it does for its local community. I love supporting brands that want to do good beyond making donations for tax purposes. Many of the more visible brands may sponsor community events which is itself, a win-win for all parties. Santa Teresa, however has made a name for its Alcatraz Project which has played a huge part in decreasing crime rates tremendously for over a decade. This is not simply a matter of petty theft, but violent crime by gang members.
How does a rum distiller become the key to solving gang activity? Surprisingly, but quite cleverly, by teaching young men how to play rugby. If you go to Santa Teresa’s website, you can watch a 30-minute video which walks you through the story of Alberto Vollmer, President and descendant to Santa Teresa Rum, and the time the hacienda became a robbery target by a local gang. In search of weapons from the property’s guards and ultimate theft, Vollmer took a brave approach to not only find the individuals responsible, but to give them a choice of working on the hacienda or turning them into the police; a potential death sentence given the state of Revenga during 2003.
I would encourage you to watch the video as it goes into depth the harsh reality for young men in Revenga. You learn about the power of a sport that not only was non-existent in Venezuela, but how discipline and teamwork have made the Alcatraz Project successful. Between rugby and the opportunities Vollmer has provided, violent crimes that were once 114 deaths per 100,000 persons, have dropped to 12 per the same. Of course, reducing crime is no easy feat, and in Chavez-era Venezuela, it was not without controversy. Still, Vollmer states of his reasons to help those that many would dismiss as hopeless, “in some way, we have to grow together. If you do not make a social difference, you will not have the right to remain here in the future.” That philosophy holds true for all of us and I can appreciate the brand for not only making a great product, and even if by accident and chance, that continues to work for their community.
Finally, Bacardi has recently taken on distribution for Santa Teresa Rum. It is probably easy for me to take for granted the access to rums from all over with the massive amount of liquor stores in Florida, but for readers outside of South Florida, this means that if your local liquor stores aren’t already stocking Santa Teresa, don’t fret! It looks like Bacardi has you covered.