TRL: Who is Luis Gerardo Viera Landaluce?
I was born in Venezuela and moved to the UK as a teenager. Ever since I started considering my career path, I wanted to live in Europe and remain somehow linked to my home country, and so in 2004, I started my working relationship with Santa Teresa, selling bottle by bottle, cold calling in outlets throughout the City in London.
I have been truly fortunate to tour many countries side by side with the Maestro Ronero Nestor Ortega, who taught me everything I know about rum. I have had the opportunity of addressing thousands of people in hundreds of talks about rum in Spain where I currently live and have made representing Santa Teresa outside Venezuelan borders an integral part of my life.
TRL: What does the rum mean to you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
I remember visiting the Hacienda Santa Teresa for sports summer camp as a child and I can still remember the thick smell of molasses brewing in the environment; there was something magical about the place that stayed with me over the years and grew stronger as I moved abroad. Then, as I came of age, my father played an enormous influence in my development and taught me how to enjoy alcohol responsibly.
And lastly, I was struck by how enthusiastic people in Ron Santa Teresa were about the company, the products, and the positive effects the organization had in the community.
TRL: Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective.
Rum is a fun, versatile, and traditional spirit.
TRL: What is the most important contribution you have made to the rum industry?
I feel this would be better answered by my peers, but if pressed, I would say a bone-deep and (hopefully) contagious passion for the spirit, its craft, and its provenance.
TRL: Benefits that the rum industry has given you.
The people you meet in this trade are fantastic. People from all walks of life with a thirst for knowledge and fun in equal parts. Professionally, it has taught me a lot, not only about what is inside the bottle but also about human behavior, long-term thinking, and the importance of keeping a close eye on what is happening socially besides enjoying delicious drinks. On a more personal level, this line of work has ignited in me a wandering palate and a sense of curiosity to discover new places and try new flavors.
TRL: What’s another thing you are passionate about, in addition to rum? Why?
My family. I am happily married with two daughters with whom I spend nearly all of my time outside of work. My eldest (7) is currently undergoing in-house smell recognition training. Jokes aside, family is the cornerstone of society and I feel passionate about it.
TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?
I guess there is no one place I could label as my favorite. As I said before, we are talking about a very versatile spirit that fits very well in a vast array of settings, from music concerts to a nice after-dinner conversation at home. I really love having 50:50 rum and coconut water by the beach, but I must confess, I have grown fond of fine cocktail bars in the city.
TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe
So many choices, so little room! Rum Old Fashioned, Mai Tai… Well, this one never fails:
Daiquiri: 60ml Santa Teresa 1796, 30ml freshly squeezed lime juice, 20ml simple syrup, shaken with ice, and double strained into a coupette with no garnish.
TRL: Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?
The more one knows about a subject, the more one is likely to enjoy it. And fine rum remains grossly unknown to many consumers, although this is changing. Remember, although it has been around for hundreds of years, rum has not been considered a fine spirit until a few decades ago. So, there is plenty of room for education, which is a part of my job that I really enjoy.
TRL: Any tips to train the palate and taste a good premium rum?
Step one is to strip oneself of prejudice. We are often blinded by our preferred category in the sense that some would say “I only drink whisky” or “Nothing beats a good cognac”. I have found that it is not a matter of preferring one or the other, because what people really like and appreciate is quality, regardless of the raw material. Coming back to the question, to train the palate, I recommend trying various origins and starting narrowing down preferences: for example, have a taste of Martinique, Jamaica, and Venezuela side by side, and then dig deeper according to your liking.
TRL: How can the rum contribute to improving the crisis in some countries?
Rum production is a major source of value. Sugar cane is the raw material for many products, all of which contribute to the economy and generate jobs. From the plant, you can get sugar, fertilizer, alcohol for pharma and perfumes, and at the end of the chain, rum. Rum consumption in non-producing countries is immense, meaning that the spirit creates export value for sugarcane-growing countries.
If we focus on Santa Teresa, and further to the above, our rum business has fueled our investments in our community. We know that our Hacienda cannot be an island in the middle of a troubled sea: if we do not behave as a tool for the transformation of our surroundings, we will inevitably become a victim of them. And so, we have many community-driven initiatives aimed at improving the lives of our neighbors. One of the most important of these initiatives is Project Alcatraz, which has dismantled and reinserted violent criminal gangs into society for the past 20 years.
TRL: Who would like to meet in the rum industry? What would you say to him/her?
Astrophel “Troy” Arquiza, the Global Master Blender for Bacardi Rums. I would hope to learn from him about planning: aging spirits require a long-term view, and I would love to understand his take on foreseeing trends and filling the aging cellars accordingly.
As for past personalities, I would have loved to have met Gustav Julius Vollmer: He was fearless in leaving Germany and moving to Venezuela to explore business opportunities in the early 1800s. Together with his wife, Panchita Ribas, they formed the first of five generations of the Vollmer family who still own and run Ron Santa Teresa.
TRL: Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?
Bartenders are key to elevating the spirit. I love spending time with them, tasting their latest inventions. Their curiosity and skill bring taste to the next level, and they are the front line with consumers: they recommend and educate their clients and their support is vital to strip away the prejudices that some may have towards rum.
TRL: What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?
Stay humble and thirsty for knowledge. A powerful combo to grow and become better professionals.
TRL: How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?
Reach out and keep in touch via my IG profile, https://www.instagram.com/luisviera_ronsantateresa/
Published by The Rumlab ago
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