The Don José distillery is the largest producer of rum in Panama. Its origins date back to 1908 when Don José Varela Blanco founded the Ingenio San Isidro sugar mill, the first in the country. At the request of his sons, Don José built his first distillery there in 1936. The modern facility was opened in 1976, named Distilleria Don José after the company's founder, and is run by his descendants as part of Varela Hermanos SA. It operates a four-column continuous still to produce a number of rum brands, such as the popular Ron Abuelo products. All of the sugarcane and yeast used is grown and developed on the Verla Hermanos estate, and the distillery uses a wash of sugarcane "honey." This is the product of the first stage in molasses production, which produces a syrup by boiling off the water from freshly pressed cane juice. It provides a lighter distillate than traditional molasses.

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