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We’ll Drink to That! Mother and Son Duo, Lillian Arinoviche and Alejandro Russo of Candela Mamajuana Rum

Rachel Sokol

In 2016, Alejandro Russo fell in love in the Dominican Republic – with a smooth rum he was served at a hotel. 

Unfortunately, he learned he couldn’t purchase a bottle of this Dominican rum anywhere and bring it back to the States with him. So, he decided to make his own.

“The first time I enjoyed mamajuana in the Dominican Republic, I was blown away by its delicious taste,” recalls Russo, explaining that Candela Mamajuana represents more than a drink, “it represents an entire culture and centuries worth of history. It’s meant to be enjoyed together in celebrating life.”

Candela Mamajuana rum has a smooth, sweet taste, thanks to rosewood and honey aromas and warming spices. Handcrafted in the Dominican Republic with all-natural ingredients, Russo launched the rum with his mami, Lilian Arinoviche.

Alejandro and Lilian share their advice on how to launch a niche business—and what makes Candela Mamajuana rum so special.

There are so many rums out there, especially in the Caribbean. What makes yours so special?

Alejandro y Lilian: Even though there are many rums out there, there’s no other rum like Candela. For starters, we’re the only ones making a premium rum infused with mamajuana, the legendary herbal blend of the Dominican Republic. Second, the quality of our processes and ingredients is a level above the rest. Our rum is made from fresh sugarcane juice from the Dominican Republic and not molasses, like most rums. This is what truly sets us apart. It’s like comparing an orange juice from concentrate to a fresh-squeezed orange juice. Candela is as pure and fresh as can be. Our production process is powered by renewable energy, reusing the byproduct generated from the cane juice extraction process. The result is a smooth, approachable rum anybody can enjoy by simply serving it on the rocks. 

Candela is also different from other rums as we don’t have anything to do with pirates, sailors or sea monsters. Candela is about celebrating Latin culture, social moments, and celebrating with friends. We’re the brand for people who are young at heart and like to enjoy life to the fullest.

What do you (both) personally like mixing Candela Mamajuana with? 

Alejandro: Candela Mamajuana on the rocks. It’s my go-to. 
Lilian: Candela Sour. Candela, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and a little simple syrup.

What’s it like being a son y mami duo?

Alejandro: My mami is one of the smartest, most badass women I know. There’s obviously a lot of trust given we’re family, but most importantly there’s a high degree of mutual respect and admiration for each other. We each bring different ingredients to the table. And while Lilian isn’t as involved in the day-to-day operations as I am, she’s always helping guide our high-level strategy.

Alejandro, what was your childhood like? Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

Alejandro: From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a businessman. At 6 years old, I was motivated by the inability to buy my favorite chocolate bar, Super8, when we moved from Chile to Miami. So, the next time I went to Chile, I brought back a few cases and started selling them outside Publix. After being in the hot Miami sun for a while, I asked my mom “So mom, how many chocolate bars do I need to sell to buy a Rolls-Royce?”. I founded my first company at 19 and haven’t stopped since. 

Growing up, I would always work on my mom’s deals and businesses. Many of the lessons I apply these days I learned from her! Her philosophy is so unique (and notorious) that we actually have a name for it: “Lilianism”. A Lilianism is a nugget of wisdom that helps you solve a problem through unorthodox methods, guided primarily by common sense. I won’t go into it now – I could write a book about it – but it’s definitely been a big influence on me.

Where is Candela Mamajuana manufactured? Can you tour the factory?

Alejandro: Candela is made in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. It’s an incredible place. As you drive there you’re just surrounded by sugarcane fields for hours. The master blender, Willy, is a true artist – one of those guys you just know was born to do this. As you walk through the dark, quiet aging warehouse, surrounded by endless rows of casks, and the smell of oak in the humid air, you realize that something magical is happening inside those barrels. At the end of the day, we’re not just making rum, we’re undusting the book of mamajuana and Dominican history.

What is next for the company/brand?

Alejandro: Candela will be a force of progress for the Dominican Republic and its amazing people. We’re working on programs around social empowerment, as well as environmental initiatives. We are on a relentless quest to make Candela a household name across the United States. Deep in our bones, we know that what we’ve got going on is too good for ya’ll to miss! So stay tuned, the best is yet to come! Salud!

Candela Mamajuana can be found online and at select retailers throughout Florida, California, and New York including Total Wine & More, Costco and Erewhon. www.drinkcandela.com 

Rachel Sokol
Rachel Sokol

Rachel Sokol is a professional writer and editor with over 20 years of editorial experience in a variety of genres from higher education to holistic health to celebrity. She’s been published in Piccolo Universe (formerly Ricky Martin’s blog), Univision, Reader’s Digest, SHAPE, Hispanic Career World, Health.com, Parenting.com, REDBOOK, Real Simple, and more, and was an entertainment columnist for amNew York. A half-Boricua who has been to Puerto Rico numerous times, she lives on the East Coast with her family and is a mother of two.

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