(SPOT.ph) You're likely familiar with rum as the stuff you guzzle down come Friday nights when you're looking to forget all your problems and take a breather from work (you deserve it, go you!). But behind the finished product is also the art of choosing a mix of the right raw materials and spirits to make sure the resuting drink is at the quality you'd expect—and this is where folks known as master blenders come in. In November of 2021, renowned rum brand Bacardi crowned Filipino Troy Arquiza as their newest Global Master Blender—joining the league of highly regarded master blenders around the world and making a name for Filipino talent in a global light. Arquiza recently visited the Philippines for a quick homecoming—and shared more about his story during an insightful (and as you'd expect, alcohol-filled) event held at The Spirits Library in Poblacion, Makati.
Bacardi Master Rum Blender Troy Arquiza went from industrial engineering to rum blending:
Born in Batangas and raised in Manila, Arquiza hails from a seemingly distant background, having an Industrial Engineering degree from Mapua University. Around the time he was graduating an ad came out looking for a trainee engineer for Bacardi—and though he didn't know what to expect, Arquiza decided to take the plunge and apply.
Arquiza was accepted and soon got flown to the Bahamas in 1997, where Bacardi holds operations—and over the years he came to learn much of the rum-making and blending knowledge of the brand. Fast-forward to 2021, having trained many years with the brand (in particular, industry bigwig José “Joe” A. Gómez), and Arquiza would be officially hailed Bacardi's Global Master Rum Blender—joining the ranks of other Global Master Rum Blenders around the world.
Asked whether his Filipino background lends him any distinct perspectives in dealing with folks around the world in his line of work, Arquiza brings up the idea of hospitality. "Globally, Filipinos are known for their hospitality and genuine concern for the next person be it a visitor [or] be it your neighbor... As a Filipino I like to find the commonality in other people out there."
As a master blender, Arquiza works to ensure Bacardi rum consistently tastes the way it's known to taste—i.e. by looking at factors like the types of molasses and yeast used, fermentation times, and the like. And excellent, the rum indeed turns out to be—whether sipped straight or mixed into libations, as The Spirits Library had us try.
The Poblacion bar-slash-library mixed up three classic cocktails from the 1939 book Gentleman's Companion by Charles Baker—two of which we got to try. The World Famous Quarantine Cocktail—with Bacardi Carta Blanca, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Noilly Pray Dry Vermouth, orange, egg white, and an Absinthe mist—was a deceptively light number that started bright and fizzy with a sweet hint of anise, before the booze kicked in (and we mean kicked in). On the fruitier end of the spectrum was The Bacardi "Leave It to Me", where Bacardi Carta Oro, Luxardo Marschino, a raspberry liqueur, and soda come together for berry-esque, cherry-esque sips lent depth by the rum.
Unrelated to rum blending as the Industrial Engineering discipline might appear, Arquiza shares that it taught him the value of efficiency—a characteristic that helps excel at what he does today.
"With my industrial engineering background, our training is really how to be able to do things as efficiently as possible. With that background and this new position, I am able to streamline processes and timelines to maximize output efficiently while never sacrificing or changing the quality of our rum," says Arquiza in an exchange with SPOT.ph. "For example I am able to maximize a barrel’s maximum capacity so we won’t need to use multiple ones taking up a lot more space. So now we can work as efficiently as possible."