Interview with José Rafael Ballesteros Meléndez – Ron Diplomático – Chief Executive Officer

José Rafael Ballesteros Meléndez

Ron Diplomático – Chief Executive Officer 

1) Who is José Rafael Ballesteros Meléndez?

I am a 58 year old Venezuelan man, Economist, graduated from UCLA, in Merida – Venezuela -, and with a Master in Operational Research at Lancaster University in England. I was born in a family involved in the spirits business, and also in cattle raising activities. I started working with my family in the spirits industry in 1985. Sports and Classic music (Guitar) have always been my big passions ( Weight lifting, Canoa-Kayac, Tenis, Running Marathons and Golf).

I have been married to my wife since I was 19 years old, and we have 3 children, who are involved in the family business. My wife has also been working with the company since we first had the idea to enter the Rum business, and ever since has been involved in all our projects.

2) Biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplish for the rum industry.


Without any doubt, to start a project that was a dream: to develop a Venezuelan premium rum brand (that already existed), highlight its quality and premiumness by launching new rums like Reserva Exclusiva and Ambassador, and make the brand international and available worldwide. 12 years later I can say that our dream is about to come true.

3) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

I have been in contact with the rum industry since I was a little boy, because my father was for many years the General Manager of one of the biggest and best rum distilleries in Venezuela, Ron Santa Teresa. I remember those days like if it was yesterday, great souvenirs. And that’s how my love story with rum began.

4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?

I would say is the pride that I feel for Diplomático Rum. To see that our brand is growing year after year, since we started exporting it in 2004. The rum category is not in its best shape, but the premium dark segment is growing and in a way our brand contributes a little to that growth.

5) Favorite Rum Drink + Recipe?

Two drinks:
Daiquiri Hemingway and a Diplomático Sazerac

Hemingway Daiquiri:
45 ml (1 1/2 fl oz)  of Diplomático Blanco
5 ml ( 1 tea spoon) of Marrasquino Liquor
15 ml (1/2 fl oz) of pink grapefruit juice
15 ml (1/2 fl oz) of lemon juice
15 ml (1/2 fl oz) of sugar syrup.

Ice filled shaker. Strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with lime peel.

Diplomático Sazerac:
2 dashes of Peychaud Bitter
1 small spoon of sugar
60 ml ( 2 fl oz) of Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
Soaked an old fashion glass, pre-cooled with ice or 30 minutes in the freezer,  of absinthe (1 teaspoon )

Ice filled shaker, easy shake and pour in the glass,
Garnish with an orange peel

6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?

Today, the rum industry is being challenged. However, the premium dark rum segment, where Diplomático rums are positioned, is growing.
And regarding on how I see it in the next 5 years, I strongly believe that if WE (rum producers) keep working hard on improving the quality of our products, and focusing on the premium segment, the rum category will follow the path of the whisky category, and it will continue to grow.
Consumers are becoming more and more educated about premium rum, and are looking for quality brands with authenticity, like Diplomático.

7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have help you. 

My father: He was a passionate man with a strong concept of equality and justice

Rolando Diaz, one of my partners: I admire his  knowledge and his taste for challenge

Humberto Arispe, another one of my partners: I admire his integrity, formality and loyalty

These 3 people have been involved in our business for may years and have been key in the development of Diplomático internationally.

8) What 3-5 things do you have in your bucket list for the next 12 months?

  1. Be more spiritual
  2. Remain close to my family and friends, and share more moments together
  3. Have more time for my hobbies: Sports and Playing guitar.

9) Any last words?


To me the secret of happiness is not really about doing what you like, but about loving what you do.

10) How can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page?

I am not a public figure so I don’t have a dedicated website to myself, only a Facebook account and a Linked In profile. However, if people would like to know more about our brand Diplomático Rum, they can visit our website: or follow us on social networks:

Author: Fede

Share This Post On
... ...