Honey rum in Arucas, Gran Canaria
It’s the Caribbean which has the reputation for rum, not the Canary Islands. But sugar cane has been cultivated on Gran Canaria for over five centuries, long before Columbus took a farewell gift of seedlings to Hispaniola in 1493 after a stop en route to the New World.
And Destilerías Arehucas, Europe’s largest and oldest rum distillery, is still churning out the bottles – so purely to investigate the island’s culture and history further (nothing to do with the free tastings they offer, obviously), we planned a day trip to its home in Arucas, in the north of the island.
The short free tour of the distillery has tempted more famous names than me, from Tom Jones to Spanish royalty whose signatures decorate the 200 litre oak casks in the first of the six bodegas.
Founded in 1884, today half its sugar cane is grown across three of the Canary Islands, while the other half is planted in South Africa before the raw product is shipped over to the site just outside the picturesque town of Arucas.
Next door, the rum ages rather more peacefully than some of the celebrities, resting in 400 litre barrels for years to decades with the caramel scent of the alcohol leaving us feeling just as mellow.
Rather more frantic, glass rattles as bottles shuttle around a conveyor belt where up to 18,000 are filled per hour.
Then the finishing touch is getting to taste all the different flavours. Or as many as you feel like at 11am… There’s anything from banana and lemon to the best-known honey rum, and helpfully a little shop to enable you to buy a bit more to take home. It would have been rude not to.
In fine spirits (sorry), we headed into the centre of town to explore. Like Puerto de Mogan, it’s another pretty collection of twisty streets (although a lot hillier) with the impressive Gothic façade of the church of San Juan Bautista looming over the coloured 19th century buildings – its 60m spire is the highest on the island.
After looking round and exploring quickly, it was time for lunch – there’s plenty of cafes with tables outside, and if you love tapas you’ll be in luck (unfortunately, trying to find something toddler-friendly meant our choice ended up being a bit mixed).
As our last full day, we decided to keep it short and give the girls a fun afternoon – Minnie at the beach, my friends back at our villa, but if you’ve got longer to explore then the botanic gardens, Jardines de la Marquesa, just outside town sound lovely. Or a mile to the north, the Montana de Arucas has some great views across the island.
Need to know
Destilerías Arehucas is set just outside the town of Arucas – see the map here – and is open Monday till Friday, from 9am till 2pm. Free tours run regularly, so there’s no need to book, just turn up and you shouldn’t have to wait too long for a space on the next one.
The tours take place in Spanish although our guide gave us brief translations in English as well – how good the explanations are depend which guide you get, but it’s enough to give an idea of what’s what.
Images/video copyright MummyTravels/Cathy Winston