Panama's largest rum producer and bottler, Varela Hermanos, traces its history back to 1908. When Don José Varrela Blanco founded the Ingenio San Isidro, the first sugar factory in Panama.
Today, the company manages the Don José distillery where they produce spirits mixing cane sugarand syrup. The cane sugar essence is directly pressed from hand-cut cane in a field of more than 1,000 hectares, overlooking the city of Pesé, pressed at the distillery and bottled under different labels. Most of this cane sugar essence is bottled for local consumption or more global export. The syrup comes from another sugar factory in Panama, acquired for the line of old rums Abuelo. The modern distillery operates a four-column container to produce different cane sugars for SECO, CORTEZ, RUM JUMBIE and ABUELO rums. The company also produces gin and vodka. Recognizing that the burning of sugar cane is critical to the quality of cane sugar aroma, none of the plantations are burned before they are harvested. Varela Hermanos SA is one of the few companies in the Caribbean that harvests all its canes by hand, providing a lot of necessary work for the rural area of Pesé. The company also maintains a community vocational training centre as part of their community responsibility program.