Meeting with Gabriela Ayala, Master of Wine of Cihuatán

Gabriela Ayala Maître de Chai de Cihuatán

How did you develop an interest for rum ? Where does it came from?

My story is very different from most Master Blenders. I am a pioneer in my country, as El Salvador did not have a rum industry before Cihuatán Rum. In college, I studied Chemical Engineering, and I am grateful that that decision has allowed me to become better at my craft. As a child, I felt the need to learn. My curiosity led me to experiment and then, create.
Everything started in my childhood where, and I was inspired by my father, who was a chemical engineer himself. Thanks to him, I was able to interact with the fascinating world of a laboratory. I learned from his experiments, from discovering new things.

I believe that this paternal heritage fits perfectly with the Cihuatán project. The moment I joined Cihuatán Rum, everything was new! There were many things to learn, to do, to experiment, to create and barriers to break down… that’s how, little by little, rum became my passion. There’s nothing like the blend of chemistry with the opportunity to make art and history at the same time through rum!

Behind each of our rums there is teamwork, a blend of the process of creation, an element of inspiration, our technical process and our great commitment. We are driven by crafting the ambassador of our country!


Joy Spence, master blender of Appleton told us that she had to fight in order to make herself a place in the very masculine world of rum ; what is the case for you ?

I consider Joy Spence to be a pioneer, as she paved the way for new generations of female master blenders. Thanks to her excellent work, the industry now sees the value that a female vision can bring when crafting a rum.

I would like to say that I have not had the same experience as Joy Spence, but that is something that, unfortunately, is experienced in Latin America in many areas. Again, I owe it all to my parents. Their education and work ethic taught me that with discipline, effort and passion for what you do, you are capable of opening doors, regardless of who you are.

What is the interest to blend heavy and light rums?

I love that these are totally opposite rums, not only in their sensory profile, but also in their personality.

For me, a light rum is discovering the barrel in which it was aged. I describe it as a subtle, elegant, easy to understand rum… which is why they are generally the most preferred.

To taste a heavy rum is to discover its origin: the earth, the sugarcane. Heavy rums are the ones that best share the Cihuatán Rum DNA, as they are more aromatic and complex.

Both allow me to share our stories about our Mayan heritage. Through the years, I have discovered that, by blending them, new nuances, flavor and aroma profiles can be achieved.

For example, I was able to craft Cihuatán Nikte´s floral profile through blending both of these types of rums. By blending, is also how I was able to craft Cihuatán Sahumerio´s unique and charming profile.

Do you ever plan to release a rum only made of heavy rum (if you haven’t already) ?

In fact, yes! In 2023 we are launching the second chapter for Cihuatán Folklore, in which we will show how our heavy rum has evolved in different types of barrels. This will be a unique opportunity for all fans of the brand to acquire the most distinctive and complex rums from our cellars! I can’t wait to share them with all of you.

Cihuatán equipe

You draw a parallel between your job and art, can you tell us more ?

The blending of the technical and artistic aspects of the crafting of rum is something I’ve learned through practice. At the beginning, in large part to my chemical engineering background, I was more technical. Thanks to the incorporation of Eugenia Ramirez to the Cihuatán project, our Marketing Manager, and her initiative to give the brand a personality, I began to understand that we can share these stories and Mayan legends through the aromas and flavors of rum.

Honing my vision has led me to want to learn more about sensory analysis and neuro-gastronomy. When you deeply understand what can happen with your emotions when you smell or taste a rum, you can’t help but reach the conclusion that it is not just about a product, but the ultimate goal is to craft an experience and, for me, crafting beautiful experiences through rum, is art.

To what extent do you take inspiration from the Mayas & their culture, in your work ?

Quite a lot! The Mayan civilization was extremely curious, scientific, and innovative. It is impressive to see how we still use their inventions today!

Part of our work philosophy at Cihuatán Rum is precisely that, to experiment and innovate. This is a huge challenge, since we spend every year thinking about what innovative rums we can craft to delight consumers, while also honoring our traditions.

You use a wide variety of cask to age your rums. Which ones are your favorites?

This question is very difficult for me because I like them all! If I had to pick one, it would definitely be the Mayan Ceiba barrel.

The Ceiba barrel is the perfect example of an outstanding result when experimenting and innovating with rum, while also honoring our Mayan heritage. This barrel allows us to offer rum consumers a new sensory experience, as it stands out for its balsamic and meaty notes. I chose the wood due to a Mayan legend, which is the perfect blend of story and technical prowess.

One of your rums is 53% vol. (Folklore), do you think of releasing other high strengths rum, perhaps cask strength or column strength ?

That’s right! As I mentioned, we are planning to launch our second chapter of Cihuatán Folklore in 2023. Due to the high complexity and exclusivity of these rums, we always release them at cask strength. This allows our rum fans to best discover and enjoy the nuances of Cihuatán!


Ce fût nous permet d’offrir aux consommateurs de rhum une nouvelle expérience sensorielle, car il se distingue par ses notes balsamiques et charnues. J’ai choisi ce bois en rai- son d’une légende maya, qui est le mélange parfait d’histoire et de prouesse technique.

What are the ongoing innovations for 2023 ?

As it is now a tradition for Cihuatán Rum, we have the upcoming launch of our Limited Edition for 2023, which I dare say is one of my favorite limited releases to date! We have been inspired by the elements for our limited editions: fire for Cihuatán Sahumerio, earth for Cihuatán Alux and if I can give you a small peek, wind and water are coming up in the following years! For now, I can only tell you that we are currently working on crafting some very interesting and innovative rums inspired by these elements.

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