Jun 18 2024

The Lovable Charm of Honey Rum, the Liquor from the Canary Islands

This drink, which originated in the Canary Islands a very long time ago, has a Protected Geographical Indication and is part of the islands' culture

It seems risky to say that the rum's origins are not in the Americas, but it's true, according to César Arencibia, director of Communication and Tourism at Destilerías Arehucas (on the island of Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands)."There's proof that sugar cane began to be cultivated here in the 15th century, and from here it traveled to Santo Domingo, brought by Spaniards”, he says.  

What is absolutely undeniable is that in the Canary Islands (where rum is also made today), a drink is produced from sugar cane distillate that is unique in the world. That drink is honey rum, (ronmiel) which has had its own Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) since 2005. First, it's important to note that honey rum is not rum. Its production begins by preparing a syrup made of water and honey (made from sugarcane), to which sugar and aromas are added. Nowadays, because it's easier to obtain, honey from bees is used. This syrup is prepared in a mixing tank until a uniform mixture is obtained. Rum is then added until achieving the desired alcohol content, which is always between 20% and 30%.

'The real change with honey rum is that its production has become industrialized. It used to be made in the back rooms of Canary Island food stores since the 1950s, with rum and honey mixed by hand,' says Arencibia. An ad from the June 1953 issue of Arucas magazine in Gran Canaria highlights this, promoting 'Ronmiel Las Colmenas, Canary Island style. An updated tradition. Taste this exquisite rum (sic.),' which shows how popular the drink was becoming.

Producers and promotion among tourists

Today, a few companies produce honey rum under the PGI label. Besides Arehucas, which makes two honey rums, Guanche and Doramas, there are others like Santa Cruz and Aldea, and Artemi -a brand that is part of Destilerías Arehucas-, whose tasting notes perfectly describe this drink: 'An intense mahogany-colored liqueur with a distinct aroma of citrus and honey. The taste matches the appearance, with a smooth, sweet flavor... notes of honey, orange, orange blossom, and even some caramel.'

If the 1950s marked the beginning of the still-artisanal production of honey rum and its popularization, it was in the following decade when the drink truly became more well known. The Canary Islands began welcoming a lot of tourists, and it was then that they started to fall in love with honey rum. "Tourists are very attracted to the drink because of the novelty and because it's a drink specific to the islands. This connection has helped determine the main export markets, which correspond to tourists' main countries of origin. We sell honey rum in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom... in some cases, it's the most popular drink to be exported, even before rum,” Arencibia explains.

Low in alcohol and versatile

One thing that sets honey rum apart is its lower alcohol content, at 20%, which fits with the trend towards lighter beverages. This makes it great to drink neat or over ice. 'It's also fantastic for mixing with citrus fruits or in cocktails like mojitos and piña coladas, where it adds a sweet touch. A popular shot in the Canary Islands combines honey rum, whipped cream, and cinnamon,' Arencibia adds.

Artemi suggests cocktails with honey rum because it's so mixable. One recipe includes honey rum with passion fruit puree, ginger syrup, and fresh lime, served with diced mango and Tajin salt. It's a symphony of flavors that showcases the versatility and unique character of this special liqueur."