There has been a brief pause since my last my last post. Events have occured, situations changed, and lifestyles altered. The only thing relevant to here would be my half year in a tiki bar, a complete crash course in all things tiki and cosplay. But some things haven’t changed, like my love of rum.
As quality and novelty are ratcheted up throughout the spirit world, a plethora of new rums have been released. One that caught my attention is Uruapan Charanda from the state of Michoacan in Mexico. Charanda is a D.O. protected style of rum. As far as I can tell, the sugarcane must be grown on the hillside and down into the valley surrounding the city of Uruapan and that’s about it. There’s no specifics on stills or agricole vs industrial rum, just locale. Mexican rum might seem an oddity but charanda has a long history in the region.
Cane was first introduced to the Caribbean in the 1520’s by Columbus through the Dominican Republic. Within 20 years it had spread to Mexico. Since the Spanish colonized Mexico, they outlawed distilling sugarcane to protect their other colonies’ production, which meant knowledge of distillation percolated throughout Mexico but not rum production. This probably led to the beginnings of mezcal distillation that Mexico is so closely associated with.
As Spain lost its grasp on Mexico, nearing independence in 1821, ‘vino de canne’ production was allowed throughout the country in order to collect taxes. Distilleries popped up and Michoacan, at one point, had over 100 of them. One brand, Charanda, named after the indigenous word for ‘red soil’, became the eponymous name for the region’s rum. Even though Mexico is now the second biggest producer of rum after Brazil in the Americas, the number of distilleries in Michoacan has dwindled to only a handful. Not only is sugarcane being pushed out for other crops like avocado, berries, and macadamia nuts, but, unfortunately, it is more lucrative to work for a cartel than it is to sweat it out cutting cane all day. The D.O. was established in 2003 in order to protect the threatened tradition.
Uruapan Charanda is named after the nearby town. Miriam Paulo Pacheco is the fourth generation head distiller in a family of distillers whose roots go even further back into mezcal production during rum’s prohibition. It comes in an eye catching azure bottle and doesn’t strike as rum at first glance. This bottling, Charanda Blanco, is a 50%/50% blend of agricole rhum on copper pot stills and molasses based rum on continuous armagnac stills.
Uruapan Charanda Blanco pours thin and clear into the glass. On the nose, there is obviously sugarcane in there, like fresh pressed juice. Beyond that there are wisps of vanilla and ocean spray. So far, the agricole half is dominating. But that changes upon first taste. There are typical hits of grass and hay but they have a sweetness to them, more similar to elderflower. And there’s a salinity but it marries with a gaminess, a taste of not-sweet fruit jerky. Vanilla always lingers in the background. The finish tingles and causes salivation, a good touch of acidity. Overall, the lightness contrasts with the funk on the nose as I was expecting a more bracing rum.
A wonderful addition to the world of agricole-esque rhums. While it leads on like it’s going to be a brisk agricole similar to Paranubes, another Mexican offering, it quickly detours into a softer landing, making it great for agricole neophytes. But, there’s a unique savoriness that is worth it to those with more experience to take in too. Daiquiris would be my call, especially a Hemingway. I tried some of Uruapan’s 100% agricole rhum as well and it was a treat. Miriam said that was a while out for stateside distribution.