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Better known by its DUSA abbreviation, Destilerias Unidas S.A. has gained notoriety for its respected Diplomatico-branded rums, its success fuelled by the warmth and personality of its globetrotting proprietors, the Ballesteros family, who I'm sure are often mistaken for passionate brand ambassadors rather than brand owners.
Venezuela is a large country with a very diverse landscape including beaches, plains, mountains, jungles and desert. It's possible to set off to a perfect beach in the morning and then ski down a mountain in the afternoon without leaving the country. So where to site a distillery?
A number of factors influenced Seagram's choice of a site just outside the town of La Miel in Lara state, besides the town itself providing a local workforce. The first influencing factor was the five sugar processing plants nearby three lying within an 80km area: the neighbouring Lara sugar refinery; the second lying in Yaracuy state to the east; the third in Portuguesa state to the south. These three refineries supply some 80% of DUSA's molasses.
The area is surrounded by forestry reserves so Terepaima National Park provides a plentiful supply of very pure water carried in aquifers which supply the distillery's five 100 metre wells. This water has a low 200ppm mineral content so no treatment is necessary for use in fermentation or distillation.
Average temperatures during the day of 30-31˚C drop by 6-7˚C at night and this temperature differential, coupled with high humidity, helps sugar cane growth: it concentrates the sugars in the cane and favours the ageing process. Incidentally, it also makes for one of the hottest and most sauna-like still rooms I have ever been in. Escaping to the air-conditioned control room which houses the computers that control the column stills was an indescribable relief.