“Our brand is a story about perseverance and freedom at its core, strength and growth as its catalyst.”—Janet Diaz-Bonilla, novelist, screenwriter, rum producer
La Marielita Rum made its debut in November and became the first rum brand founded by a Cuban-American woman, Janet Diaz-Bonilla of Miami. Six-year-old Diaz-Bonilla and her parents crossed the Florida Straits in a small boat in May of 1980, fleeing their homeland as part of the Mariel Boatlift. During a few months in that year, as Cuba’s economy was in crisis and thousands of protestors sought asylum in the Havana embassies of South American nations, Fidel Castro dictated that Cubans could leave the island nation if a boat arrived in Mariel Port to take them away. When Castro closed the harbor five months later, more than 125,000 Cubans had sailed to the United States.
On the brand’s website, Diaz-Bonilla pays an emotional tribute to her grandfather and father. The former, Jose Manuel Diaz, was a merchant who saw his businesses seized by the Cuban government after Castro’s revolution ousted Fulgencio Batista on New Year’s Eve 1958. Her father at one point tried to leave the island and was caught and imprisoned by the communist regime.
The clear bottle is beautiful inside and out. The label carries a painting, “La Marielita,” by Cuban-American artist Humberto Benitez, showing a woman in a flowing gold dress sailing a small, wooden boat through rough seas beneath a full moon.
For the rum itself, Diaz-Bonilla worked in a distillery at Las Cabras de Pese, Panama, with master blender Francisco Jose “Don Pancho” Fernandez Perez to blend an 18- to 24-year-old rum and create what she describes as a “distinctly unique bouquet of aromatic flavors.” Don Pancho learned his craft beside his father in the sugarcane fields of Cuba and is known as the Godfather of Rum, with more than 60 years of experience in spirits. The rum is aged in bourbon-curated American white oak casks and proofed down by using filtered, local freshwater from rivers at the site. The handcrafted blend is a rich, warm golden color and has no additives or artificial flavorings.
– Pairing by: Erik Calviño
A bright, golden-colored rum with an inviting nose of rich toffee, toasted coconut, and subtle oak. On the palate La Marielita delivers tons of caramel and toffee sweetness without going overboard – the flavors are balanced by slight oak tannins and a hint of tart apple. This is not a mixing rum and at 40% you don’t even need an ice cube. But we wouldn’t judge you if you did.
Cigar Pairing: Rocky Patel Aged, Limited, & Rare 2nd Edition
Starting with a robust combination of dark chocolate, smooth pepper, and sweet earth notes complemented by roasted nuts, the Rocky Patel cigar sets the stage. The cigar imparts the rum with a pleasant earthy tone and a touch of dark chocolate, while the La Marielita adds a delectable toffee flavor to the mix. This pairing can get you in trouble, as the two are perfectly complementary to each other.