Spirit Of The Week: Brugal Colección Visionaria Cacao Rum

By toasting barrels with cacao beans, one of the Caribbean’s finest rums gets a subtle chocolate upgrade.


One night while on assignment in Dominican Republic we snuck out of the sprawling all-inclusive resort to see what the island was all about.

With a taxi driver as our trusty guide we went high/low, hitting a raucous open air nightclub set on cracked concrete—its tables rattling to reggaetón bass kicks, the street outside flooded with tank-topped locals getting their swerve on (figuratively and literally; never witnessed so many near-scooter accidents in my life). 

After a couple hours dripping from the humidity and midnight heat, we slipped to another spot to cool off. So our guide drove us to a decidedly classier establishment set deep in a decently upkept colonial building, its shelves stacked with rum. 


It was here the barkeep introduced us to Brugal 1888, boasting it was not only the finest rum in Dominican Republic but also one of the best in all the Caribbean. Founded in 1888 by a Spaniard, Don Andrés Brugal had pitstopped in Cuba en route before settling in nearby Puerto Plata. 

Five generations and 135 years later and Brugal continually improved its craft, specializing in cask expertise and the effect the torrid island sun has on these barrels (a climate most rums are adept in). So it’s little surprise the newest line from Brugal, Colección Visionaria, focuses on wood. 

The inaugural expression, Colección Visionaria ‘01 Cacao,’ was the brainchild of Jassil Villanueva Quintana, the fifth-generation descendent of Don Andrés who was named Brugal’s Maestra Ronera in 2010—making her Brugal’s first female Maestra Ronera, and the youngest in the industry.

“Each generation of Maestros Roneros has left a piece of their legacy with the brand through innovation and honoring our family history,” Quintana tells Maxim. “Our generation, the fifth, decided to honor our cherished childhood memories of the cacao trees at our family home and throughout the Dominican Republic with Brugal Coleccíon Visionaria Edición 01. 

“Utilizing cacao for the first edition of this collection is very personal to me as it captures the essence of my upbringing. It is also a gift to the rest of the world showcasing how we can break barriers for innovation in rum-making.”


But how to impart this authentic, unique influence of cacao on the rum without additives, without ever adding anything to the spirit? Simple: by toasting Dominican cacao beans in hand-picked virgin European oak casks, and infusing the wood with the beans’ “nutty, velvety and fruity aromas.”

The rum then ages in the Dominican heat, adding deeper layers of complexity without a drop of additives or additional sugars. 

“Coleccíon Visionaria is a love letter to my roots—over 135 years of rum mastery culminates into marrying tradition with our first-in-class toasting innovation,” Quintana adds. “Our rum takes the best of each generation and puts it on display for consumers to journey through the history of the Brugal family. We hope this message comes across with each sip of this exceptional liquid.”


As just the first edition in the Coleccíon Visionaria series, one wonders what fans of innovative Caribbean rum can expect for upcoming installments after 01 Cacao.

“Future editions of this collection will be crafted using our proprietary toasting technique and [other] indigenous Dominican ingredients that are special to the fifth generation of the Brugal family,” Quintana teases. 

“We look forward to continuing to evolve future bottles of Coleccíon Visionaria with this same approach.” $100 

Follow Contributing Spirits Editor Nicolas Stecher at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.