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Candela Mamajuana: A Dominican Spiced Rum Made Sustainably

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The Dominican Republic is known for its pristine beaches and resorts. Did you know it also produces signature spiced rum? The liquor, known as mamajuana, is a blend of spices and botanicals distilled in a sugarcane-based solution. It’s the unofficial alcohol of the Dominican Republic

The only place you could get mamajuana is to take a trip to the island nation and sample the local concoction. That’s all changing, thanks to Candela Mamajuana, the first mamajuana rum to be sold in the U.S. The company makes a concerted effort to produce its product with renewable energy and distribute it with as little packaging as possible.

Alejandro Russo, founder and owner of Candela, started the Miami-based business with his mother, Lillian Arinoviche, in 2016. Russo told The Business Download that he wanted to create a beverage to “share with the rest of the world.” That drive led him to pursue this venture using eco-friendly practices, using all-natural ingredients like fresh-pressed sugarcane juice, then aging them in American oak barrels. 

Early on, Russo knew he wanted Candela to be made with as little environmental impact as possible. His production facility is in the Dominican Republic, ensuring all ingredients come from local sources. All workers are from the immediate area. 

“We try to be sustainable in every single part of the chain, from the first seeds planted to the last drop that’s consumed and everything in between,” Russo explained. While most rums sold in the U.S. are molasses-based, Candela’s sugarcane formula has a unique benefit: the byproducts can be made into eco-friendly biofuel. 

A lifelong philosophy inspired Russo to use renewables: leave the house cleaner than you found it. Rather than sending the sugarcane bagasse out to compost or a landfill, it’s transformed into fuel to power Candela’s distilling facility. Once the sugarcane is harvested and pressed, the byproduct is sent to a local waste-to-energy plant in the Dominican Republic. 

According to Russo, everything from the harvesting and production plant is within an hour’s drive radius. “That guarantees whatever we use to source and make our rum is at its freshest and highest quality possible,” he said. Nothing goes to waste in production.

Photo Courtesy Candela Mamajuana via Sloane O’Cone

Going even further with energy conservation, the aging warehouse has natural sunlight maps and building materials that naturally cool it without air conditioning. Even in a country as hot and humid as the island nation, Russo explains no extra energy is consumed to age the products.

“That’s where intelligent construction and design come in. Everything’s made with a material that keeps it cool,” Russo said. “This is the Caribbean, but they don’t even have air conditioning inside. And it automatically keeps it cool because of the material that it’s built with — because of the natural airflow.”  

In addition, Candela reuses captured purified rainwater during distillation. A rainwater collection system is set up near the production plant, then sent to a water purifier.

This setup ensures less water is sourced from freshwater sources around the Dominican Republic. 

In January 2023, Candela and zero-waste distributor ecoSPIRITS teamed up to ship the mamajuana in eco-friendly packaging. It’s the first spirit sold in the ecoTOTE™ format on the island.

“I wanted to make my own reusable glass, kind of like Coca-Cola, where you have certain bottles that can be returned for credits,” Russo said. “Then I came across ecoSPIRITS, and I realized they were the leading solution to closed-loop, zero-waste, reusable technology for wine and spirits.”

Photo Courtesy Candela Mamajuana via Sloane O’Cone

After pushing them a bit, Russo got his wish. Candela became the first spirit brand to be part of the ecoSPIRITS system in the U.S. It joins a list of massive spirit companies that can’t be named publicly now; however, the effort is exciting nonetheless.

The company even purchased the full ecoSPIRITS system for the Dominican Republic, meaning it can distribute its product in a zero-waste loop and sell other brands. 

Russo was also excited to share he is forming a foundation in the Dominican Republic that will focus on river cleanups and social empowerment for local communities. He plans to partner with some of the biggest hotels in the country — none that could be shared publicly at this time. Nevertheless, Candela is making an impact, all while producing a delicious product. 

Currently, the alcohol is only available for purchase at retail stores in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California or online

So, what’s the best way to enjoy the liquor? Well, neat is one way to go. Others include over the rocks or mixed like a pina colada or daiquiri. According to Russo, a rum old-fashioned is a good choice. “I recommend however you like to enjoy a drink, you’ll find it very easy to enjoy Candela,” he said. 


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