Published by The Rumlab ago
A Swiss entrepreneur, passionate about hospitality, was led to the fascinating world of rum in Cartagena, where he offers an experience based on flavors and the history of rum in a fun and interactive way.
Meet Renato Molo, the Rummelier at Lunatico Experience.
TRL: Who is Renato Molo?
I was born on the 24th of March 1980 in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland (south) in a multilingual environment: my mother is Swiss German and I only learned Italian at the age of four when I first got to kindergarten. At the age of 20 I moved to Lausanne for studies: I first went to the university but after a couple of years I realized that my vocation was other than (to me) boring studies which would have led me to an academic career. During my summer holidays when I used to go back to Ticino I always worked in bars and restaurants mainly as a bartender or waiter: thanks to these experiences I realized that I wanted to study and grow my knowledge in the hospitality industry. In 2006 I got my Diploma of Management of Hotel Operation at the Lausanne Hotel School. After having turned in different Luxury hotel and non-hospitality related companies I decided that I needed a sabbatical break. In November 2020 after having quit my job I left Switzerland and started my adventure in Mexico and Colombia: this changed my life completely. I met Maria Delgado (a Colombian Chef and actual wife) and I decided to stay in this magnificent country.
TRL: What does the rum mean to you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
I always loved wine, beers, spirits, distillates, etc. Rum has always been one of my favorites: the different types of rums, the aging and the history fascinated me since my early experiences with alcoholic beverages. But to be honest, I really fell in love with rum when I decided (and had the opportunity) to offer Rum and chocolate tasting at Caffé Lunático in Cartagena de Indias. When I moved to Colombia it was not clear what I would do and it is when Maria had this brilliant idea: why not offer a rum and chocolate tasting? I decided to make a try and started offering this experience at the Cooking Studio located at Caffé Lunático. I really didn’t expect it and was so surprised how people positively reacted to this experience. We’re offering an experience based on flavors and history of rum in a fun and interactive way: I can really see how people, who normally have little or no experience with rum, get involved and appreciate the product. This is fantastic and it motivates me continuously.
I think that Colombian rum is a perfect product for introducing people with little experience into the world of rum.
TRL: Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective.
What I like about rum (and of course other spirits) is a depiction of the terroir and the people producing it: what fascinates me is how mankind can take advantage of what is offered by nature and finds a way to produce delicious products. Rum to me is knowledge, passion and pride.
TRL: What is the most important contribution you have made in the rum industry?
I have to be honest, I started “talking” rum recently (February 2022) but I can say that I opened the perspective of rum as a product and as an industry to many people. We all know that rum is such a misunderstood product and it’s not easy to understand the huge available varieties, the production process and also the different types of rums and names they’ve got. Look for example Mexico, Haiti and Brazil: these countries are all producing rum Agricole but they name it all in different ways (Charanda, Clairin and Cachaça). It may be so confusing for people who are approaching this world for the first time. But it is so exciting to explain and share my knowledge.
TRL: Benefits that the rum industry has given you.
As mentioned previously when I moved to Colombia the big question was what could I do to earn money. The city has a huge touristic vocation and thanks to my background and languages I speak, I knew that I could offer something special: the rum and chocolate tasting allowed me to start my business here in Cartagena, I owe a lot to the Colombian rum industry.
TRL: What’s another thing you are passionate about, in addition to rum? Why?
Viche, a 100% Colombian sugar cane distillate made in the Pacific region by the African descendants.
Due to the strict Colombian laws regarding the distillation process, Viche was considered illegal for a long time but was recently (Ley del Viche of 2021) recognized by the Colombian Government as part of the country’s cultural and ancestral heritage. This means that Viche can be now produced legally and I personally see a huge potential in this product (could be the new mezcal of Colombia).
I love this product because to me it represents the resistance, the pride and the right to exist of the people who have suffered for too long the arrogance and supremacy of the conquerors. Buying this distillate you’re not only supporting their cause but also supporting financially local families and small businesses popping up everywhere in this region of the Country.
Viche is not only a simple distillate, it’s also medicine and beliefs: the majority of Viche producers offer Viche Curado which is basically an infusion of local medicinal herbs and roots that have medical purposes. It’s also about sexuality and many types of Viche are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Another product I really like and i’m passionate about is Mezcal. It is produced in some regions of Mexico and also has a long and ancestral history. What I also like is that this distillate is still produced with ancient and traditional equipment (except for the biggest and more industrial ones): I had the chance to visit a Palenque (where the Mezcal is produced) during my travel in Mexico and I got completely enchanted.
TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?
It is really difficult to find a wide range of premium rums in Colombia: sure, you can get the “mainstream” such as Bacardi, Zacapa, Havana Club and (of course) the national ones but there is no big importation of other brands. I think this is because of the high importation taxes the government is charging and maybe also a lack of interest in rum for (general speaking) Colombian consumers.
If I want to sip a Colombian rum I’d go to the ”Rum Box” in Cartagena (large selection of Colombian rums) and when in Bogotà I’d go to Pedro Mandinga Rum Bar (international and Colombian rums).
It’s worth mentioning that Cartagena offers an interesting restaurant and night life variety and that the city hosts three of the 50best of the world restaurants (https://www.theworlds50best.com/) which are not only offering delicious food but also a wide range of premium cocktails. And these restaurants / bars also offer Viche based cocktails and are actively promoting this distillate. If you’re in Cartagena don’t miss these places.
TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe
To be honest I’m not really into cocktails. I’m terribly complicated, I don’t like sweet drinks and I don’t like mixing too many flavors in my glass. So as you can guess, I’m not an easy customer when it comes to suggesting a drink in a bar. I prefer to keep my drinks simple and as original as possible. I’d rather go for a neat rum, a glass of wine or a craft beer. But if I have to pick a drink, my favorite one would be a classic one: the Negroni. I love the bitterness and the balance of the flavors that this drink offers.
TRL: Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?
Because rum has an enormous potential: as mentioned previously, the rum industry suffers from a huge misunderstanding because of the different types of rums available. And too many people associate it with spiced and flavored rum: I can see it during my classes, a lot of guests have literally no or small idea about rum. After the class they’re so happy that they learned something about this “mysterious” distillate. There is a big potential and this could be exploited through education and “democratization” of the category.
TRL: Any tips to train the palate and taste a good premium rum?
We are humans and we are easily influenceable by what we see: a nice bottle, a fancy label and more information about the origin of the rum will inevitably influence our perception. It’s not easy to do it alone but my tip would be to go for blind tastings: this will isolate our mind from external influences and that will help to feel all the flavors and the different nuances. I tried so many times and the results are incredible.
TRL: How can the rum contribute to improve the crisis in some countries?
Rum (or sugar cane distillates) can for sure help smaller and less known communities to increase their standard of living. Look at the Colombian Viche: this product was illegal for a long time and now, thanks to the “approval” of the government, the product can be produced and sold legally in the country. This will have a huge impact on all the small (mainly family owned producers) communities involved with this distillate. There are already smaller companies based in Medellin and Bogotá that started bottling and selling Viche: what is also important to say is that the Viche law will protect the product with a geographical indication which will not only preserve the product but also the producers from exploitation and irregular appropriation of the Viche label.
TRL: Who would like to meet in the rum industry? What would you say to him/her?
I would like to visit so many distilleries and people behind the production of rum in the world (specially Jamaica and Barbados) but to be honest I’d rather stay local and I’d set my priority going to the pacific region of Colombia and meet the Vicheros (the Viche makers), the people behind the Colombian Agricole rum. I wish I could see with my eyes how they produce it understanding the culture, the beliefs related to this distillate and the problems they’re facing.
TRL: What are your next goals in the rum industry?
For my classes I wish I could increase the Colombian rums offer: there are new producers which are approaching the market but the Colombian law is really tricky and I’m curious to see what will happen in the next few years.
And another goal would be to actively participate in a Viche production and distribution process: but this requires a lot of time and energy and, for now, I’m mainly focused on our Experiences at Caffé Lunático.
TRL: Plans you have when you leave the rum industry.
I hope I won’t quit the rum industry that soon. But as you know, I’m from Switzerland and my wife and I would like to move to Europe one day. But honestly I really don’t know what we will do there. We have a lot of ideas but nothing is really concrete for now.
TRL: Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?
It is the showcase and “ambassador” of the different spirits available on the market. The bartender is an influencer and has the important role of promoting and educating people.
TRL: How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?
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