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Understanding DOC of Charanda

By Camilo Cesarino – 6/5/23 – TheRumLab

Understanding DOC of Charanda

June 5, 2023

Miriam Pacheco is a proud mother of two university students and holds a degree in accounting. She serves as the general manager of the distillery and is involved in a meaningful project with her brother, running an Arts Center that offers various classes for children and adults. They receive donations from international clients and friends to support the center, which has a positive impact on the community affected by organized crime. Additionally, they collaborate with the local prison to improve conditions and help sell crafts made by inmates. Despite her desire to do more, she also travels to promote the product and raise awareness to support the jobs of nearly 100 employees at the distillery.

Could you briefly explain what a “ Denominacion de Origen” is and its importance for Charanda?

A Denominación de Origen (Also known as Denomination of Origin, Denomination of Control Origin, Geographical Indication, Appellation D’Origine Controlee, etc) is a protection granted to products that demonstrate unique and traditional characteristics of a specific geographical area, passed down from generation to generation, and influenced by certain natural factors. It is a recognition obtained through evidence and documentation that validate its authenticity and the impossibility of replicating it elsewhere in the world.

In Mexico, we have several designations of origin, such as tequila, sotol, bacanora, certain types of coffee, Talavera pottery, amber, and Morelos rice, among others. The designation of origin for Charanda, located in Michoacán, is one of the smaller ones, encompassing only 16 municipalities out of the 113 that make up the state.

Charanda is a sugarcane distillate that carries the meaning of “red land” in the local language. Its production is characterized by the use of spring water from the high mountains of the region, ranging from 1200 to 3000 meters above sea level. It is noteworthy that the world’s youngest volcano is found in this area, with testimonies from people who witnessed its eruption in the 1940s. It is worth mentioning that although rum is produced in Mexico, historically it has been known by other names such as aguardiente or chinguirito during periods of prohibition.

The importance of the designation of origin for Charanda lies in its protection and preservation as a culturally rooted product with centuries-old traditions. The designation of origin ensures that this sugarcane distillate, which has been cultivated in the region for centuries, is recognized and respected as a cultural and traditional element.

Municipalities in Michoacán that have the appellation of origin (Source: Google Images)
01 Ario 07 Los Reyes 13 Tocumbo
02 Cotija 08 S. Escalante 14 Turicato
03 Gabriel Zamora 09 Tacámbaro 15 Uruapan
04 N. Parangaricutiro 10 Tancitaro 16 Ziracuaretiro
05 Nuevo Urecho 11 Tangancicuaro
06 Periban 12 Taretan

When and how did the Charanda start?

The history of Charanda dates back to the arrival of the Spanish and the Augustinian friars, who controlled the production of piloncillo, a sugarcane juice that is boiled and solidified, also known as panela or papelón. This technique became widespread in the area, and over time, different distillation techniques have been developed, enriching the culture and tradition of Charanda. In summary, the designation of origin provides protection and highlights the cultural and traditional importance of Charanda as an integral part of the region’s heritage.

The history of Charanda dates back approximately 100 years. Sugarcane arrived in America in 1493 and spread throughout the continent. In Mexico, however, it was not common to call it rum, but rather aguardiente or chiringuito, which was sugarcane brandy. For a long time, sugarcane brandy was prohibited by Spain to protect its imports, but it was still produced clandestinely. This clandestine production adopted different influences, including Spanish techniques with copper stills and Filipino techniques with clay pots and hollow logs used to distill a nectar extracted from palm trees called tuba. This technique was commonly carried out by women in the secrecy of their kitchens.

Before Mexico’s independence, around 1790, Spain needed money to finance its battles in Europe, so it allowed the collection of taxes on aguardiente. It was at this time that production became more common and it was called aguardiente, although barrels were not yet used for aging.

In Uruapan, Michoacán, where the production area of Charanda is located, numerous distilleries were established in the foothills of a red soil hill, taking advantage of the Cupatitzio River and its streams to condense and refine the distillation process. The name “Charanda” became popular in the region to refer to the aguardiente, due to the presence of a factory with that brand, even before official records were established. Around 100 years ago, there were around 100 distilleries in the area, but today only three remain.

That is how the history of Charanda began in the Uruapan region, with clandestine production that evolved and consolidated over time, adapting to different influences and local traditions.

What are the requirements and criteria that must be met for a rum to be considered as Charanda under the denomination of origin?

In order for a rum to be considered as Charanda under the denomination of origin, it must meet a series of requirements and criteria:

  1. Raw Materials: Charanda can be made from sugarcane, sugarcane juice, piloncillo (solidified sugarcane juice), or molasses. Regardless of the raw material used, it must come from the designated area of origin, which consists of the small municipalities in Michoacán that fall under the denomination.
  2. Origin: Both the sugarcane and piloncillo or molasses must come from the designated area of origin. It is important to note that sugarcane production in the region has decreased due to the high demand for avocados, as Michoacán is the world’s leading avocado producer. However, some distilleries, like ours, have their own sugarcane cultivation to ensure its availability.
  3. Alcohol Content: The volume of alcohol at the time of bottling must be at least 35 degrees and maximum 55 degrees.
  4. Distillation Methods: Charanda can be distilled using column stills or copper or Filipino alembic stills, depending on the style of Charanda being produced.
  5. Aging: Charanda can be aged in barrels. There are some specifications regarding the size of the barrels used for aging.

These are some of the requirements and criteria that must be met for a rum to be considered as Charanda under the denomination of origin. These specifications ensure the quality and authenticity of Charanda as a unique and traditional product of the Michoacán region.

Currently, a modification to the regulation of the Charanda denomination of origin is being carried out. As there are very few producers, we have noticed certain minor errors in the regulation that were based on criteria used to protect tequila, the first denomination of origin in Mexico. Learning from the modifications made to the Mezcal regulation, we are working to correct and improve these aspects.

These fundamental aspects remain unchanged in the Charanda denomination of origin, while work is being done on the necessary modifications to enhance and adapt the regulation to the particularities of this artisanal distillate.

How does the terrain, climate, and other geographical factors influence the production of high-quality Charanda under the denomination of origin?

Charanda can be aged in barrels (Source: Government of Mexico)

The terrain, climate, and other geographical factors have a significant influence on the production of high-quality Charanda under the denomination of origin. These elements make each product unique and distinctive.

The terrain and soil mineral content contribute to the particular characteristics of the product. Additionally, water plays a fundamental role as the region has an abundant water supply from local springs and rivers. This unique water imparts special flavors and characteristics to Charanda.

Climate is also a determining factor. The region where Charanda is produced has a temperate or cool-temperate climate, contrasting with other rum-producing areas. This moderate climate, with average temperatures ranging from 12 to 25 degrees Celsius, influences the flavor profile of the distillate.

The amount of rainfall is another relevant aspect. The rainy season can vary and affect the batches of sugarcane used in production. During periods of heavy rain, sugar levels in the cane may decrease, while dry seasons can result in higher sugar concentration levels.

Lastly, altitude also plays a significant role. The Charanda production zone is situated at a higher elevation compared to other producing regions. Even the location where aging takes place can be at around 1600 to 1700 meters above sea level. This unique altitude contributes to the special and distinctive characteristics of Charanda.

In summary, the terrain, climate, rainfall, and altitude are geographical factors that influence the production of high-quality Charanda under the denomination of origin, providing unique flavors, characteristics, and profiles to the distillate.

What production processes and traditional techniques are used to make Charanda that meets the standards of the denomination of origin?

The production process of Charanda that meets the standards of the denomination of origin involves several stages and traditional techniques. The main processes used are as follows:

  1. Raw material acquisition: Sugarcane is cultivated in the Charanda denomination of origin region. Producers may use different varieties of sugarcane, such as cristalina, criolla, mexicana, nayarit, and morada. Melaza and piloncillo obtained locally can also be used.
  2. Crushing of the sugarcane: The sugarcane is processed in a water mill or other traditional methods to extract the sugarcane juice. This juice is used as the raw material for fermentation and distillation.
  3. Fermentation: The sugarcane juice and/or molasses are fermented in wooden or stainless-steel vats. The fermentation time can vary depending on the climate and sugar levels present in the juice.
  4. Distillation: Copper stills or Filipino stills are used for distillation. In the case of copper stills, two distillations are typically carried out, while in column stills, multiple distillations can be performed using plates. These processes yield the distilled alcohol that will be used to produce Charanda.
  5. Aging: Charanda can be aged in oak barrels of different sizes, such as 200-liter barrels or larger sherry casks. Barrels of different origins, such as American oak, Spanish sherry, Hungarian Tocai, and French oak, are used. The aging time can vary depending on the desired final product.

In summary, traditional techniques such as sugarcane crushing, fermentation in wooden vats, distillation in copper or Filipino stills, and aging in oak barrels are used. These processes contribute to the quality and distinctive characteristics of Charanda under the denomination of origin.

What varieties of sugarcane are used to produce Charanda and how do they influence the characteristics and flavors of the final rum?

Various varieties of sugarcane are used, each contributing unique characteristics and flavors to the final rum. Here is a summary of the influence of some of these varieties on the product’s characteristics:

  1. Criolla: This variety of sugarcane can contribute with more intense flavors, with notes that can be described as herbal or spicy. It is one of the oldest in the region. These distinctive flavors can be associated with local products and add a special touch to Charanda.
  2. Cristalina: Cristalina sugarcane can bring different characteristics, possibly smoother and sweeter compared to other varieties. This can influence a more balanced flavor profile and a smooth sensation on the palate.
  3. Mexicana: Mexicana sugarcane can have its own complexity and contribute with unique flavors. These flavors may vary and could be influenced by the growing conditions and specific production practices used in the denomination of origin area. This is the variety that is most endemic to the region.
  4. Morada: The morada sugarcane, mentioned earlier as a variety that has been rescued from near extinction due to its hardness, can offer a distinctive and unique flavor. Although it is mentioned to produce less juice, its presence in the blend can add special and different characteristics to the final rum.
  5. Mayarí: Mayarí sugarcane is characterized by a sweet and distinctive flavor, with notes that can be fruity, herbal, or citrusy. These Cuban-origin notes are transmitted to Charanda rum during the fermentation and distillation process, contributing to its unique flavor profile.

It is important to note that the influence of sugarcane varieties on the characteristics and flavors of rum can vary depending on various factors such as the fermentation and distillation processes used, aging time, and other environmental and production factors. Each producer may have their own techniques and blends of sugarcane varieties, contributing to the diversity and uniqueness of Charanda produced under the denomination of origin.

What is the role of fermentation, distillation, and aging in the production of Charanda under the denomination of origin?

In the production of Charanda under the denomination of origin, fermentation, distillation, and aging play a crucial role in the final outcome of the product. Here are their main roles:

  1. Fermentation: Fermentation is a key process in the production of Charanda, whether from molasses or sugarcane juice. During fermentation, the sugars present in the liquid are converted into alcohol through the action of yeast. The duration of fermentation can vary depending on the climate, sugar levels, and other environmental conditions. Fermentation in wooden or stainless steel vats can contribute to the final characteristics and flavors of the product.
  2. Distillation: Distillation is the process in which the components of the fermented liquid are separated to obtain the desired alcohol. In the case of Charanda, both copper stills and Filipino stills, as well as column stills, are used. Each method can provide distinct flavor profiles and characteristics to the final product. Distillation is carried out in two stages in copper stills, while in column stills, it can be done in one or more stages, depending on the desired final product. Our distinctive feature is making different blends or mixtures.
  3. Aging: Aging is the process in which the rum is stored and matures in oak barrels. During this period, the rum acquires additional flavor, aroma, and color characteristics from the interaction with the wood and its compounds. The aging time can vary depending on the style of Charanda being sought, with the white variant not undergoing this process. The type of barrel used, such as bourbon or sherry barrels, also influences the final flavors.

It is important to note that each producer may have their own approach and specific techniques in fermentation, distillation, and aging, which contributes to the diversity of flavors and profiles of Charanda produced under the denomination of origin. Additionally, adjustments in blends and alcohol content are aspects that can be determined by the producer to achieve the desired quality and characteristics in the final product.

Don’t miss this virtual tour of the Charanda distillery in Uruapan, Mexico, with Miriam Pacheco.

How is the denomination of origin of Charanda promoted and protected in Mexico?

Unfortunately, the promotion and protection of the denomination of origin of Charanda in Mexico have been limited due to various factors. Unlike beverages like tequila and mezcal, which have regulatory councils and receive more support and protection, smaller denominations like Charanda face greater challenges.

In a developing country like Mexico, resources and focus are often directed towards other priorities, leaving smaller denominations with limited resources to promote and protect their product. With few Charanda producers, the challenge becomes even greater.

Although there are efforts by the producers themselves and local events to promote the denomination of origin, the resources and reach are very limited. The dissemination and promotion largely depend on the initiative of the producers and the attention that can be generated through media and other platforms, including this great platform.

However, it is important to note that the awareness and recognition of Charanda as a quality beverage can be enhanced through the involvement of individuals interested in the industry. Every individual effort contributes to increasing awareness and appreciation of this unique beverage. Recognizing and being open to other flavors and styles, just as we enjoy different personalities and cultures in people.

What is the relationship between the denomination of origin and the quality of Charanda rum compared to other rums that do not have this designation?

The relationship between the denomination of origin and the quality of Charanda rum does not necessarily imply that it is better or worse than other rums that do not carry this designation. The denomination of origin simply indicates that Charanda rum is produced in a specific geographical region and meets certain established characteristics and processes. Each distilled spirit offers what is important to the company that produces it, representing their values. With our family experience of over a century, we want to share the taste of our land, our culture, give the best of ourselves, and create something delicious that brings joy when people purchase it and enjoy it responsibly amidst laughter and pleasant conversations around a good table. That’s why we say: Charanda, Mexicana Sabrosura Para Beberla Con Mesura (Charanda, Mexican Flavor to Be Drunk in Moderation).

The protected designation of origin ensures that Charanda rum is produced following certain standards and specific traditions of the Michoacán region, which contributes to its unique identity. International treaties and agreements support this designation of origin and protect its exclusive use for products that meet the established requirements.

However, in terms of quality, it is more about distinctive characteristics and individual preferences. Each rum has its own qualities, influenced by its geographical origin, production methods, aging, among other factors. There is a wide variety of rums in the world, and each one can offer different experiences and flavors.

It is important to value and appreciate the diversity of rums available, both those with a denomination of origin and those without. The quality of a rum is evaluated based on its taste, balance, complexity, and other attributes, and can vary regardless of whether it carries a denomination of origin or not.

In summary, the denomination of origin of Charanda distinguishes its geographical origin and specific characteristics, but the quality of Charanda rum compared to other rums depends on individual tastes and preferences. It is always important to consume responsibly and enjoyably. That’s why we also tell the young boys and girls from the region that to drink Charanda, they must have lived enough to deserve it and be at least 18 years old to earn a few sips.

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Renato Molo
Royal Rum Society Rummelier®

Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne graduated

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