Santa Teresa is located 2 hours west of Caracas in Aragua, Venezuala
The Beginnings 1796 – 1810
The Hacienda Santa Teresa dates back to the 18th century when plantations of sugar, indigo, cocoa and wheat filled the fertile Valleys of Aragua. German Fleitas, official historian for the Town of La Victoria, Aragua State, has stated that ” a rich landowner named Martin Tovar y Blanco, who 15 months previously had received from King Carlos III of Spain the title of Count of Tovar, addressed a letter on the 11th of september 1772 to His Excellency Monsignor Mariano Marti, Bishop of Venezuela, requesting the creation of a new parish and the construction of a church next to the River Tuy” . Fleitas adds that among the data attached to that letter was a list of the inhabitants and plantations in the vicinity. Among these are ” Tovar’s lands” and in particular a portion given to his daughter Doña Thereza de Tovar, named after her patron saint, Santa Thereza.
After 1796, major changes took place: the Hacienda became a true center of agricultural activity. Sugar was planted to produce “papelon” or sugarloaf, and to distill the well-known “aguardientes” (a precursor of rum literally called fire-water). The reports sent in 1810 by the man in charge of the farm describe in minute detail the innovations and everyday activities that were still taking place at the time. The owner at the time was Martin Tovar Ponte, an innovator in all senses. He was not only one of the founding fathers of the nation, signed the Declaration of Independence on the 5th of July 1811, he also implemented many new ideas on his properties such as freeing slaves, more efficient farming and irrigation.
In the year 1810, the changes undergone in Santa Teresa are really astounding: in February the building of a new sugar mill began, to replace the existing one, adobe bricks for the construction were built on site, new fields were planted with sugar cane, a new bridge was made, irrigation canals were perfected, and a new cilindrical chimney was made. The sugar mill and its adjoining distillery were inaugurated in September 1810, and can still be seen today.
After more than a decade of war, finally peace returned and with it trade and more prosperous times. In 1826, a young German trader from Hamburg named Gustav Julius Vollmer arrived in the port of La Guaira, and then moved to Caracas. In 1830, he married a first cousin of Simon Bolivar and niece of General Jose Felix Ribas – hero of the Battle of La Victoria -, Panchita Ribas Palacios . From then on his efforts were concentrated on rescuing and rebuilding the properties she had inherited. Six generations of their descendants have continued this tradition, working the land, and forging a new nation amidst seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
The youngest son of this couple , Gustavo Vollmer Ribas, born in 1847, bought the Hacienda Santa Teresa in 1885, and proceeded to modernize it. He was a great organizer, very methodical and committed to modernization. Just before the First World War, he brought the first truck to Venezuela and used it to help collect sugar cane in the fields, along side carts pulled by oxen.
He introduced new and more productive varieties of sugar cane; his arable land was surveyed and maps were made by his sons, under the supervision of Alfredo Jahn, a leading engineer. Vollmer designed and adapted state of the art technology to the sugar milling process and imported the latest European copper still to produce rum. His records of production and sales reflect his methodical mind.
The 20th Century in Santa Teresa
In 1909, Gustavo Vollmer formally registered the trademark of his rum. Soon the first advertisements appeared.
Alfredo Vollmer Boulton , son of Gustavo, took on the task of consolidating administrative processes between 1903 and 1928. In 1927 he bought the first tractor for Santa Teresa. Rum was sold in 12 litre and 37 litre barrels. Competition was growing and others tried to pass their rums off as made by Santa Teresa, so out came the slogan “Santa Teresa Rum: good enough to copy, too good to equal”.
In 1947 a new generation of Vollmers joined the firm, Alberto and Gustavo Vollmer Herrera. Among the first decisions taken was the construction of a new sugar processing plant and the purchase of a highly advanced destillery made by E.B.Badger in the United States. The changes entailed producing alcohol from molasses extracted during the sugar refining process rather than from fermented cane juice. New offices were designed and built by prize winning Architect Tomas Sanabria. The product range offered by Santa Teresa was increased under the expert advice of the American Martin J. Ferguson.
In 1955 the company was incorporated, thereby legally and administratively creating two separate entities for the first time in 200 years: the Hacienda Santa Teresa and the Compañia Anonima Ron Santa Teresa. To this day the company has been headed by Alberto Vollmer Herrera: his vision and creativity have transformed Santa Teresa into a modern productive enterprise which stands out in the international liquor market among the top rum producers in the world. He has deepened the family commitment to philanthropic endeavors, and stands out for his respect for environmental concerns.
In 1978 the company invested in a new destillery, the largest in Latin America at the time, and the first to integrate continous fermentation into the process. According to the owners’ chief concerns, It was also the first Destillery in Venezuela to have its own effluvium treatment plant. A modern bottling plant was also built at this time.
In 1982, Selecto Rum, a premium aged rum came on the market, revolutionizing the Venezuelan rum market.
The 1990s changed the international spirits market completely, and in Venezuela all rum producers except Santa Teresa were acquired by multinational conglomerates. This forced a strategic turn around in the company. In 1993 a strategic alliance was made with Allied Domecq, followed in 1996 by the acquisition of Distribuidora Benedetti, the leading wine and spirit distributor in the country.
1996 also marked the bicentennial of the founding of the Hacienda Santa Teresa. A series of significant events were organized during the course of the year and two new products were launched: Solera 1796 and Rhum Orange. Both have been widely acclaimed for their taste and presentation.
The company also received the ISO-9000 certification, for its exceptional efforts, the quality of its products and of its processes.
Santa Teresa and the Year 2000
Generations of Venezuelans have forged a unique spot here in the Hacienda. For two hundred years it has been the back drop of the agricultural and industrial development that have taken place in Venezuela. Its image is reflected around the world through its products. With a vision set clearly towards the future, and towards the conquering of new markets, Ron Santa Teresa has intensified its sales efforts abroad with the help of distributors in the United States, Spain Marie Brizard-, Japan – Suntory, Ltd, and the Andean market.
The Rum Process