On location: Arehucas rum on Gran Canaria

arehucas factoryMark Ludmon visits the Arehucas rum factory on Gran Canaria

While I often long for lazy days by the beach or the pool, I quickly get restless. After a few days on the sunny island of Gran Canaria, I found it hard to resist the lure of rum. I had known for some years that Gran Canaria was the home of Arehucas rums, including a honey rum that leads the portfolio in the UK, so I set out on a trek across the island.

The tourist areas are clustered around the south of Gran Canaria while Destilerías Arehucas is in the north in a pretty town called Arucas. And Gran Canaria is not a small island. By road, the journey is about 70km – about an hour’s drive and up to two hours by bus – so this an excursion for only the most committed.

The Arehucas factory is on the outskirts of the town, high on a hill with views out towards the Atlantic Ocean. You know you have found it by the tall chimney with “Arehucas” spelt out in big white letters. The site is small but pretty, landscaped with old barrels, palm trees, cactuses and tropical plants, with a statue of Alfredo Martin Reyes, the founder of the Arehucas brand in 1940.

The distillery itself dates back to 1884, with the first rum produced a year later. However, the site is no longer home to distillation, with the sugar cane harvested, pressed and distilled in South Africa before being shipped to Arucas. Once the liquid has arrived, it is stored in the distillation rooms where there are tanks capable of holding a total of over 700,000 litres.

The spirit is monitored before being put into barrels for ageing in the biggest and oldest rum cellars in Europe. These “bodegas” store over 6,000 400-litre American oak barrels which have a capacity of ageing around 2.4million litres. In bodega number one is a collection of barrels which have been signed by celebrities, from the King and Queen of Spain and opera singer Placido Domingo to pop heroes Julio Iglesias and Wales’s own Tom Jones.

Arehuas cellars

The free tour – held every weekday from 9am to 2pm, and 1pm in the summer – starts with an introduction to Arehucas and its history, taking in the distillation room and cellars through to the bottling plant that can handle up to 18,000 bottles per hour. It ends with a trip to the factory’s small bar and shop where visitors are left to sample the broad range of rums produced there.

Alongside the white and golden rums, Carta Blanca and Carta Ora, are golden rums aged for seven and 12 years as well as a range of rum liqueurs, with flavours such as banana, coffee, mint, toffee and sweet almond honey. Arehucas also produces the 20-year-old Captain Kidd rum which retails at close to £200 a bottle.

The line-up is led by the premium honey rum, Ron Miel Guanche – taking its name from the aboriginal Guanche people who once lived on Gran Canaria. Blended with natural honey, it is rich and intense with the sweetness balanced by the dryness of the golden rum.

More than 45,000 people visit the rum factory each year – and I arrived just as a large coach party was finishing their tour in fine spirits. For holidaymakers like myself on the south of the island, the only way by bus is via the number 30 to the San Telmo bus station in the island’s capital of Las Palmas, changing onto one of several local buses to Arucas town centre. Combined with a look round Arucas and a visit to the sights of Las Palmas such as the home of Christopher Columbus, the trip is well worth the effort.

Calle Era de San Pedro 2, 35400 Arucas, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Tel: +34 928 624 900

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