Arucas is a picturesque town about 12 kilometres from Las Palmas city, the capital of Gran Canaria of the Canary Islands. The town extends from the coast to the Medianias, the middle of the island, and offers many attractions for visitors. From the charming town centre, a site of historical and artistic interest, to Arucas Mountain, a nature haven boasting incredible views of the north of the island, to its beautiful pebbled and sandy beaches, and variety of bars and restaurants offering delicious local gastronomy. The options are plentiful, however there is another attraction which brings tourists to the town and is equally worth a visit, and that is the Ron de Arehucas Rum Factory and Museum.
1. Sugar and rum in the Canary Islands
The Arehucas factory is considered one of the emblematic buildings of the town and offers tours (and tastings) of the premises, giving a great insight into the history, traditions and practices behind the production of Arehucas rum and its importance in the local area. I visited the factory in 2019, and as much as I liked rum before my visit, I learnt a lot more than I expected. The combination of the grand factory set against the seemingly tropical and mountainous backdrop was impressive, and a tour round the factory was almost like a step back in time, making it possible to imagine the now tranquil landscape as a bustling centre of production, with miles of sugar plantations and the factory at the centre of it all, constantly working.
Because although many aren’t aware, sugar is a huge part of the islands’ history. Gran Canaria had vast sugar plantations more than 50 years before the first commercial plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean, with the plantation system of sugar cane having been taken from the Canaries and Madeira to the Americas. The process of distillation was well known back then, and the molasses by-product of sugar production is the perfect raw material for making rum, so it is likely that Canarians have been making rum for many, many years.
2. The history of Arehucas Distilleries
The forerunner of the modern-day Arehucas Distilleries, La Fábrica de San Pedro, was officially opened on 9th August 1884, with sugar as the main product, although sugar cane distillates and rum were also produced. The artisanal process of turning sugar cane into rum and the use of modern stills led to the early success of the distillery, popularly known as La Fábrica. By 1892, just eight years later, the rum produced in Arucas had gained recognition and admiration from the other Canary islands, and following the purchase of a new Guillaume still system in 1909 to improve the quality of the rum, Arehucas continued to grow during the years of crisis and war in the early 20th century, thanks to the product quality and dedication of its workers.
The 1940s was also a thriving decade for the distillery, with the creation of the Ron Arehucas denomination, and in 1965 La Fábrica became Destilerías Arehucas and enjoyed a period of expansion backed by the social and cultural community of the Canary Islands. In 2006 Destilerías Arehucas acquired La Fábrica de Licores Artemi, becoming the largest group of liqueurs and spirituous beverages in the Canary Islands and safeguarding the history of Canary Islands rum and its link to the region. Today, more than a century later, Destilerías Arehucas welcomes more than 95,000 visitors each year and exports to more than ten countries.
3. A visit to the factory
For €4.20 (children go free), the 45 minute factory tour takes you through the history of rum in the Canary Islands over five stages. Firstly you discover the origin of Arehucas, before visiting the rum ageing cellar, one of the oldest rum cellars in Europe and containing 4,308 American oak casks. Be sure to take a look at the many signatures scrawled on the barrels, from various celebrities and important people who have visited over the years. Next you learn about the rum production process and visit the mill, fermentation and distillation rooms, before taking a look at the bottling plant to see how the final products are created. Lastly, (and importantly!) is the tasting. At this point it is essentially a serve yourself open bar, with a wide range of delicious rums and liqueurs, from the usual flavours to the obscure, with staff on hand to answer any questions you may have. After this you can of course purchase any of their products from the shop, for a lower price than elsewhere on the island.
The visit is entirely worth the entry price, making for an educational trip with some enjoyable tasting to round it off. And of course this works for them, as you are undoubtedly tempted into buying a few ‘souvenirs’, to be enjoyed at home as a reminder of your travels, or as I did, with friends on the roof terrace of our Hostel, poured (rather enthusiastically) by a Columbian guest and fellow lover of rum. Either way, a lovely reminder of the history and culture of the beautiful Canarian town of Arucas. ¡Salud!