Established on the island of Palma for four generations, the Quevedo family has given the keys to Santiago Bronchales, a renowned master distiller, who has given a new impetus to the house.
Santiago Bronchales is a man in a hurry! Contacted many times by us, he finally gave us some time to talk about his work at the Aldea distillery in the Canary Islands. Originally from the Basque Country, this whisky enthusiast, trained in Scotland, produces terroir rums that bring back to life the glorious past of sugar cane in these islands located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Morocco.
After more than twenty years working in the world of spirits, Santiago Bronchales is still not satisfied: “I continue to take great pleasure without seeing the passage of time!” enthuses, with a smile on his face, the one who has been collaborating since 2012 with José Manuel Quevedo, the owner of the distillery. Memories are vague, but it seems that the two men met for the first time during a festival. Santiago immediately fell under the spell of the Quevedo family’s rums. “It’s simple, I had never tasted a rum of such elegance! From that moment on, a friendship was formed and the desire to work together took shape.
The choice of pure cane juice rum
The Aldea distillery is located on the island of La Palma, where the Quevedo family is trying to keep alive the tradition of a rum made from pure cane juice. “This is what makes the strength and identity of the island’s rums,” said Santiago, who wanted to preserve the fundamentals of the house. José Manuel and his sister Maria Jesus Quevedo are the 4th generation of a family that has travelled extensively throughout the world.
Don Manuel Quevedo Aleman (1872-1968) was at the origin of the distillery’s creation in 1936. Ahead of his time, he was the first among his competitors to choose the direct distillation of sugarcane juice, in order to highlight the Spanish know-how. In spite of a more lax legislation than in France, the Quevedo family continues to set a strict line on the quality of its rums.
“Spaniards like and consume round and smooth rums of the Barcelo style (Dominican rum). With José Manuel, we want to bring more power and depth to the rums” says Santiago who is full of projects. The rums being distilled on wood fire in old Egret type stills.
A 100 % canary whisky and soon a 1991 vintage single cask
Due to its location off the coast of Africa, the island of La Palma enjoys the coolest climate of the archipelago. The high altitude cane is planted in terraces. What Santiago likes most about the Aldea distillery is the total confidence that the Quevedo family has in him. A lover of whiskies (with a preference for Scottish highlands), he has also created a 100% Canary whisky. I wanted to pay homage to the gofio,” recalls Santiago. This wheat flour, typical of the island, is a foodstuff that the Spanish cherish. My passion for whiskey did the rest.
I managed to convince José Manuel, and together we gave birth to Diablo. The result is surprising, blind the feeling of tasting a rye whiskey takes over, the breeding is not too marked. A great success. The range consists of several white rums, a Blanco at 38%, a Single Cane at 43%, as well as an organic white at 53% from the fields of the Quevedo family, owner of Aldea.
Among the aged rums are the Dorado (38%), the 8 years (40%), the Tradicion a series of vintage rums (the current one being 1997) at 43%. Aldea also markets a honeyed rum, as well as the Aborigen range (blended rums). What’s next for Aldea? “I can’t wait to launch the 1991 vintage single cask, a 100% Agricole rum with a powerful character and plenty of esters (aromatic components that arise during fermentation). Only 200 bottles will be marketed for this edition,” says Santiago, who hastily hangs up the phone, calling his teams to deal with a problem at the distillery!
The Canary Islands even have their own rum-based specialty, recognized by a Geographical Indication: the “ronmiel de Canarias”. More than one and a half million litres are produced each year (to be put in perspective with the 2 million inhabitants of the archipelago) but only a few tens of thousands of litres are exported directly, the rest in the suitcases of tourists of course.
It is a mixture of rum, cane juice or molasses, to which a syrup based on honey and sometimes plants is added: the final liqueur must contain at least 2% honey and be between 20 and 30% vol. It is therefore not surprising to find rum distilleries on the archipelago, sometimes equipped with ancestral small copper columns.
Extract from the book 151 Rhums, by Alexandre Vingtier.