The Rum Revolution

The Rum Revolution

O ne of the highlights of Sotheby's Distilled auction, which will be open for bidding until 28 May, is a rare cask of Dictador 40 Year Old Rum, aged in their historic distillery in Cartagena, Colombia. This lot will be auctioned for charity having been graciously donated by the producer, Dictador Rum, with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Dictador Art Masters Foundation.

The mission of Dictador Art Masters is twofold: to use the work of top international street artists to help fund wildlife conservation projects at a local level in Colombia and to create one of the world’s most important street art museums through #ArtDistilled. Located in northern Colombia, Dictador’s former rum distillery has been transformed into a canvas onto which some of the most iconic names in the urban art scene are immortalising their art.

The lot is being offered In Bond only and is currently located in Dictador's historic distillery in Cartagena, Colombia. The 217 liters of rum will be bottled into circa 300 bottles, the labels of which will be customised with the buyer’s information. Dictador will then arrange for the bottles to be shipped, free of charge, to their bonded warehouse in Rotterdam. From there, international transport will be arranged through Dictador, with the buyer being responsible for the costs of the shipment and all local taxes and duties associated with the import of the bottles into your export destination.

Dictador 40 Year Old Rum 1980 labels personalised for the winning bidder.

Ahead of the auction Sotheby’s Spirits Specialist, Jonny Fowle, spoke with Dictador Distillery Master, Hernan Parra:

Jonny Fowle: Tell us about Dictador and how the distillery came about.

Hernan Parra: Our history is dating back to 1913, when my grandfather established Destilería Colombiana. The distillery has been in our family for three generations (with me being the third generation and current Master). We have always strived for what we believe are exceptional rums, celebrating revered practices that my father and my grandfather taught me, and elevating them to what in our concept is truly art.

In 2009, we started our international quest and thanks to the innovations added by my business partners we realise that we cannot promote our rums as anyone else does it. As in our case we specialize in old, finely aged rums where we monitor quality from our raw material (sugar cane) until the costumer has the product in their hands. Therefore, our process and output appeals to those who enjoy fine whiskies and cognacs.

A sherry cask of Dictador Colombian 40 Year Old Rum 62.7 abv. Estimate £90,000–120,000.

JF: In your opinion, what makes your Colombian rum so special?

HP: We cannot generalise Colombian rum as there is not an IG or DO to put all Colombian rums under the same roof. The reason for this is because most distilleries in the country are owned by the government meanwhile there are few independent producers.

Ever since my Grandfather, Dictador has been totally independent, allowing us autonomy over our production, which sets us apart from the other Colombian producers.
In the case of Dictador our spirits is made from the fermentation of virgin sugar cane honey, rather than molasses, distilled partly in copper alembic and partly in a steel continuous column, to achieve our signature medium-bodied rum.

For us the virgin honey (the reduction of the sugar cane juice) is the purest part of the cane and has always been the essential part of the family recipe. Following the distillation process, our rum is aged in barrels. As the years go by the contents of these barrels will begin to evaporate, so we have our own method of keeping barrels full by topping them up with rums from the same vintage, which allows us to provide vintage statements.

Artwork at the old Dictador Distillery for Dictador Art Masters

JF: What do you think defines the character of Dictador rums?

HP: In flavour profile Dictador is:

Dry, medium body with long finish when you sip them. In general, the category of rum and its regulation is more flexible than in Whisky. This means that there are some rum producers who add additives in their products to enhance flavour profiles which normally rums don’t have after a process of ageing. This is a type of practice which in Dictador is not acceptable and the family has worked under the same method of not adding anything after the process of ageing for the past generation.

Constant flavor profiles that you can find in our rum are: Roasted Coffee, vanilla and liquorice with a buttery texture in the mouth, from there it depends on the cask and length of maturation to develop more unique characters.

JF: This cask is 40 years old and finished in a sherry cask. Why did you choose to offer this cask at auction and what excites you about it?

HP: This is a very special liquid for me. Together with my father, Diego Parra, we worked on this special rum. This cask is part of a selection of very old rum casks called Jerarquia (which translates Hierarchy). This “reserve” which has casks between 35-45 years old rums, has special value to me as this cask reflects not only my work but my father’s too!! Regarding the particular cask chosen, this was celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year and its stunning liquid is ready to bottle!

Dictador Jerarquia 40-year old single vintage Dictador rum Tasting notes

On the Nose: It is very powerful at the level of 62.7% ABV and will take very long time to get out all the flavor profiles that this has as there are too many layers to go through while this rum breathes. Think of this as a spirt which has been condensing for 40 years in wood! Therefore, the tones are mainly a sensation of balsamic raisins.

In the mouth: Dry fruit, elegant and punchy with a long finish. Cocoa, liquorice and heavy in the palate with a coppery salted caramel. It can take hours to the spirit totally evolve and gives you all the full flavor. You can leave a glass served of this rum in a room and at the next day the whole place will smell like buttered caramel, while the liquid would totally change to silkier and creamy chocolate notes.

JF: The proceeds from this lot are to be offered to Dictador Art Masters, Dictador’s charity. Tell us about this charity and what projects they are working on.

HP: Dictador Art Masters is philanthropic arm of Dictador company. Established in 2018, the motto of the foundation is ‘For the love of art and nature’. The purpose of Dictador Art Masters is to promote art through traditional and non-traditional means and to preserve the vulnerable eco-system in the area surrounding the distillery.

To fulfill the first purpose, Dictador Art Masters took over our old rum distillery in the jungles of northern Colombia with the goal of turning it into the world's greatest graffiti museum. Some of the most famous and up-and-coming street artists in the world have made the journey to the old distillery. With a giant canvas of tanks, pipes, industrial distilling equipment and total artistic freedom, these street artists are turning an abandoned space into a riot of colour and creativity. Two editions of Dictador Art Masters took place to date and the third edition is planned for beginning 2021.

The area surrounding the distillery is a vital point in the fight to conserve Colombia’s remarkable biodiversity and Art Masters will also be contributing to conservation projects in the region. The distillery sits between the Perija and Santa Marta mountains, both of which contain incredible numbers of indigenous birds, plants, insects, and mammals. From the mighty Jaguar to diminutive hummingbirds, these jungles and mountains are home to some of the rarest and most important species in all of South America.

Artwork at the old Dictador Distillery for Dictador Art Masters

JF: For some people this may be their first time buying a rum barrel. What do you think makes owning your own rum so unique?

HP: To start, 40-year old single vintage rums are very rare and in limited quantities worldwide. In Dictador, due to the adversities of the time, my father and grandfather were selling rum but always holding a portion of what they believe was truly special. Today we are gifted to hold one of the oldest reserves. This rum was specially selected by me and, knowing already how rare this rum is, we offer the opportunity to design the label for the buyer with the desired abv. This is something that we have never done before and because of the relation with Sotheby’s we believe their clients deserve something special and unique.

Wine & Spirits
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