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‘Don Pancho’ - The Godfather of Rum

John Anderson is International Sales Director for Crooked Eye Rums, an award-winning collection of craft, 3-year old cask aged rums, authentically bottled and produced in the Caribbean.

With 2020 seeing the popularity of premium rums grow with consumers, John reflects on the heritage of the rums being produced by Francisco ‘Don Pancho’ Fernandez, the greatest Ronero, and man behind Crooked Eye rums.

Regarded as one of the most prestigious Roneros, or master rum makers, on the planet, John explains, “Francisco ‘Don Pancho’ Fernandez has been called the Godfather of rum and is an icon at the centre of the rum universe.”

With a career spanning five decades, Don Pancho started out in Cuba harvesting sugar cane with his father. In his early 20s, working with the Cuban master Don Ramon, he learned the art of the Carta Blanca, a method of creating aged rums still used throughout the world to this day. Later, John explains, “Relying on the unique know-how of the Maestros Roneros, he would learn and preserve the art of añejamiento, the craft of distilling, aging, and blending premium rums.”

The 1970s saw Don Pancho’s role in the Cuban drinks industry evolve. “He progressed from trainee to Master Blender and, finally, to Director of the Cuban beverage industry”, explains John, “later becoming known in Cuba as ‘The Minister of Rum’.”

After leaving Cuba for Panama in the early 1990s, Don Pancho went on to become Master Blender at Varela Hermanos and then, working with an old friend Carlos Esquivel, he restored the then neglected Las Cabras Distillery, developing it into one of the more renowned distilleries in the world.

Now, at the pinnacle of an incredibly successful career, Don Pancho‘s experience and reputation have afforded him the opportunity to travel, gaining experience with some of the very best drinks producers around the world. John notes, “It is with this unique and rewarding journey of heritage, experience, passion, perfection, and love that has brought Don Pancho to craft his finest rums yet.” His latest offering, Crooked Eye rum, is described by Don Pancho himself as “the standard that all rums should be held to.”

Don Pancho with Bruce Alexander

Don Pancho with Bruce Alexander, Managing Director of SRI Brands, brand owners of Crooked Eye Rums

Adhering to the classical methods and being true to the ethos of old-school rum production, Crooked Eye is a superior collection of rums developed in the Cuban and Latin American traditions exemplified by Don Pancho. John explains, “The skill and craftsmanship required for producing premium aged rums is akin to the process of making an incredible wine. We start with high-quality sugar-cane, and move onto fermentation and distillation, which comes together by a practised hand to create a perfectly balanced rum.”

In 2020, rum continues to gain popularity, with younger consumers turning to classic rum cocktails, or looking beyond the traditional whiskeys for premium, aged darker spirits to be sipped neat or with a splash of water. John explains, “The authentic flavours and the 40% ABV, even on the spiced rums, allows us to bring out the best flavour and taste profile. The blending of the rums is what really makes Crooked Eye so special and so desirable to bartenders and connoisseurs alike, and this is down to Don Pancho.”

John Anderson

John Anderson has been a supplier, influencer, and friend of the Decker’s hospitality group businesses for many years. As International Sales Director for SRI Brands, he has worked with many successful drinks brands which have been featured in the Drinks Aisle portfolio. His input, skills, and determination are a welcome addition to the Deckers team as we strive to bring the best new and innovative drinks brands to our customers.