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Pepe Margo: Made local, but tastes like the Caribbean

When you think of a Caribbean vacation, at one point, your mind has thought about drinking.

Not saying you have a problem or anything; it’s just part of a healthy, balanced vacation, no? When you think Caribbean, you think piña colada, mojito, or other colourful cold (alcoholic) beverages. What do the first two and most popular drinks have in common? RUM! Even the signature Aruban drink, the Aruba Ariba, includes rum. Well, I had the chance to witness rum being made locally, and the smell alone was amazing. Not surprising since alcohol production includes sugar.

The Pepe Margo Distillery, located in Wilhelminastraat, used to be the home to Catarina Margarita (Margo) Arends. It is one of the oldest buildings in Oranjestad. After two years of restoration, it is now home to state-of-the-art equipment used to produce local alcohol and spirits. The building still has the original tiles, walls, and wood fixtures. It is an homage to the late Catarina. Inside, it’s nice and cool because of the thick walls, and the Aruban breeze can be felt throughout.

Every part of the experience feels well thought out, from the beautiful rounded bar, the chairs made from old barrels, and the indoor windows with a distillery view. It’s truly a unique treat for the eyes and, later, your taste buds. Growing up in the spirits industry, Romar Trading in Aruba, starting his own line of locally produced products was a natural next step for Jonathan. He and business partner Claus are also the creators of San Pablo rum, produced in Curaçao, and Calypso, the first hard seltzer made in Aruba.

Jonathan, a biologist, studied the art of distilling at the Feller Distillery in Germany and wanted to use the best equipment to start the distillery on the island. He says the equipment and raw materials must be the best to produce a great product. While the molasses, yeast, and packaging are imported, the rum itself is made in Aruba. As for the gin, botanicals are grown in the Pepe Margo Distillery garden, and juniper berries are imported. The products are then stored in American Oak Bourbon barrels.

Right now, the distillery is only producing rum and gin under the name Pepe Margo but aims to make other types of alcohol and spirits as well in the near future. You can also taste and purchase other rum brands on location, which are San Pablo and Feller Brennerei. Soon, signature cocktails will be available for tasting. To book a visit to the Pepe Margo Distillery visit the Pepe Margo website. The distillery also hosts private events. Wedding reception idea? *wink wink*

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