Interest in diverse rums beyond the white variety that are the basis for so many cocktails has been growing as new releases come on the market from traditional regions like the Caribbean to unexpected sources like the Philippines, India and the Czech Republic. One of the best-known Guatemalan brands has been Botran, which chose to get out of the market for two years and now returned with a new approach to a more sophisticated market. To find out more In interviewed Botran’s Ivan Valdez, senior global brand manager for Licores de Guatemala.
Why did Botran have a hiatus on its sales for two years?
As Guatemala’s top-selling aged rum, representing Guatemala in over 50 countries around the world, we took some time to revisit our brand and market strategy. At a global scale, we elevated our vision to “to fill every glass with the bright and vibrant spirit of Guatemalan rum,” resulting in a fresh look and new certifications that highlight the brand’s provenance and rum mastery. Subsequently, our in-market strategy led us to a quest to find the partner with the capability and drive to position Botran Rum in the premium segment. Thus, our refreshed brand, solid credentials and strong partner make it the perfect timing for a reinsertion to achieve sustained growth in the U.S. market.
What are the new certifications?
• Botran is Guatemala´s top-selling aged rum with the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) of “Ron de Guatemala”
• ISCC PLUS (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification) accreditation, certifying Botran as the world’s first sustainable rum across all parts of the rum journey, including plantations, mill, distillery, ageing facilities, and bottling
• Certified Carbon Neutral from SGS in recognition of Botran´s house Guatemalan Spirits commitment to our planet. Since 1977 Guatemalan Spirits has planted and grown more than 1.8 million trees in Guatemala. (Consequently, it self-mitigates its carbon footprint without the need to purchase carbon credits.)
What does sustainability mean vis-à-vis rum production?
In 2019, Botran was awarded ISCC PLUS by the International Sustainability Carbon Certification, thus becoming the first sustainable rum in the world to become sustainable throughout the entire rum-making process (social, harvest, distilling, ageing, bottling) rather than a section of the rum journey. Thus, we carry our “ISCC” seal proudly on every back label of our products; moreover it is a commitment to sustainable practices such as:
• Facilities equipped with the right conditions for our workers to grant their safety and well-being
• Water management – More than 96% of water used in our mill is recycled
• Waste management – we use cane bagasse to produce clean energy
• Clean energy – we use biogas, reducing our fossil fuel use by 40-50%
Is the San Andres distillery the same one used by Zacapa?
Yes, Botran and Zacapa share the same distillery. But please note that Botran uses different sugar cane, has its own aging facility in Xela, Quezaltenango, and has three female Master Blenders that only work on Botran rums: Magda López, Master Blender and Ageing Facility Manager; Yazmín Chapeton, Master Blender and Head of Manufacturing & Blends; Leslie Taracena, Master Blender and Blend Researcher & Coordinator.
What is Botran’s “Dynamic Ageing System”?
Botran’s Dynamic Ageing System is actually more complex than a traditional solera system. Instead of using the customary solera pyramid structure, we’ve created a vintage stacked system that works in vertical columns. Over the years, our three Master Blenders have perfected this aging regimen, elevating it to an art form.
Different types of casks are used in each column to keep the process dynamic, with a focus on amplifying flavors and aromatics. As our rums are blended, the casks are repositioned, and the process is repeated. Over time, the younger rums take on the big, bold flavors and distinct personalities of the aged rums. Each blend is created to specifically highlight desired characteristics. This is an adapted solera system that adds complexity, and creates roundness and homogeneity across the Botran portfolio.
Is the rum market increasing in sales and number of rums entering the market?
In 2021, the total rum market in the U.S. reached a total volume of 198 million liters. While the standard and value segments in rum are decreasing (5-year compound annual growth rate of -1%), growth is coming from the segments at higher tiers. That is the premium, super premium, ultra-premium, prestige and prestige plus segments with a 5-year CAGR of 4%, 20%, 22%, 10% and 44%, respectively.
How would you distinguish between a Guatemalan rum and one from other regions in the Caribbean?
Guatemalan rum has a Protected Designation of Origin, which is safeguarded by the National Association of Alcoholic Spirits Beverage producers of Guatemala. It has been recognized in 32 countries, including those in the European Union. Guatemalan rum style is unique from crop to drop and it all happens in Guatemala:
• Our terroir has vertisol soils, which can only be found in 2% of planet earth.
• We are a Guatemalan rum and use two varieties of sugar cane which are only used for Botran Rum: Chapina and Preciosal
• We do not use molasses (a byproduct of sugar production). We use the virgin honey which comes from the first crush of sugar cane – a highly concentrated sugar cane juice.
• We slow-age in altitude in the mountains of Guatemala at 2,300 meters above sea level.
• We have a distinctive dynamic ageing system, locally developed and inspired by the traditional solera ageing system.
Do you have a visitor’s center and tasting room? If so, can you tell me about it?
Yes, we do. We invite interested guests to learn more about the Casa Botran Experience at https://botranrum.com/casa-botran-experience/. Guests can book tours to learn about our rums, production, aging and more than 80 years of our history. Tastings are available as part of the Casa Botran Tour.
Are your various aged rums better for sipping or are they good for mixing?
While we believe everyone should enjoy our rums however they best like, we tend to suggest our Reserva Blanca and No. 8 rums for mixing. The Reserva Blanca was specifically made at the request of bartenders who wanted an aged rum profile to work with but didn’t want color to get in the way of creating vibrantly colored cocktails. We’ve employed a special activated charcoal filtration process that removes color but maintains taste. Botran’s No. 12 is an ideal choice for someone looking for a more sophisticated yet versatile rum that can bridge cocktails or sipping. For those who enjoy sipping on rums—neat or with ice—Botran’s No. 18 and No. 15 are especially outstanding options when it comes to savoring our cane spirits. These two in particular have been aged using ex-sherry and ex-Port casks, providing subtle shades of flavors and aromatics that are best enjoyed on their own.
Rum prices have been relatively moderate by comparison to many other brown spirits. Why?
For years, rum consumption has been tied mainly to classic cocktails (mojito, rum and coke, piña colada) leveraging on great mixability and sharing fun moments. Thus, still in 2021, 94% of the rum volume sits in the standard and value price segments (USD 22.49 and below). In contrast, those segments represent 57.4% for the whisky/whiskey category – a category primarily associated to a moment of reward and “on the rocks” drinking. While rum has evolved and we see a growing trend in premium, as a category, we have the challenge to change rum’s perception over the coming years from a mixable spirit used in cocktails to a premium spirit of distinction. Thus, more sipping-rum premium experiences and innovation will come in the future leveraging terroir, aging process, and barrel-types. This will foster a higher sense of connoisseurship and appreciation over the truth behind rum and create more premium-rum-lovers as they unveil the craftmanship and uniqueness behind rums across the globe. In the coming years, dark rum will continue to see growth in high price tiers with a 2021 to 2026 CAGR of 7%, 13%, 6%. 11% in the super premium, ultra-premium, prestige and prestige plus segments respectively.
Scotches and bourbons are increasingly being marketed as small batch and finished in special barrels. Has Botran any such intentions?
The use of special barrels has been our specialty since 1940 and is a distinctive trait in our dynamic ageing system. We use up to four special barrels for our No.18 and No.15, three special barrels for our No.12 and No.8 and two special barrels for our Reserva Blanca.
Nonetheless, we took our rum mastery to another level, releasing a Rare Blend bottling. These are limited editions that include Botran Rum finished in a fifth special cask. Most recently, we released Botran Rare Blend Guatemalan Oak (for the European market) and Botran Rare Blend Vintage Wine Cask (for travel retail), which featured a blend of rums aged 8 to 25 years that were finished in a very special cask. Right now, Rare Blend only goes to select markets.
Since the Caribbean is so hot and humid, does climate change have any effect on the plantations?
Climate does have an effect on plantations, mainly shifting harvest seasons. Nonetheless, we use advanced technology and work together with Guatemala’s Climate Change Institute to plan ahead and continue delivering the great quality that represents our protected designation of origin: Ron de Guatemala.
What are the threats from hurricanes?
Hurricanes are unprecedented events that rarely affect the southern area of Guatemala. Up until today, we have never been directly affected by such a natural threat, as our facilities are located precisely in this area of the country.
What other countries is Botran sold in?
In addition to the U.S., you can find Botran Rum in more than 50 countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Germany, Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia, Czech Republic, Panama, Croatia, Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Honduras, Sweden, Israel, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, Greece, etc.