In 1875, at the age of 25, Alfredo Francisco Pellas Canessa left Genoa, Italy, to travel to Nicaragua, leaving behind the comforts of the Old World for the opportunities in the New World—and in an untested new economy. Much like the entrepreneurs of today, he took risks on fresh ideas. During the height of the California Gold Rush, he invested in a shorter and safer steamboat route through Nicaragua that would facilitate transporting goods and passengers from the East Coast to the West Coast of the U.S., cutting the trip down to a mere 36 days instead of 6 months.
The route was a massive success, but when headlines broke that construction would begin on the Panama Canal, he was quick to adapt and realize the need for a new vision, especially with the coast-to-coast railroad in the U.S. also nearing completion. It was then that he took an unlikely change in direction and turned his focus to rum production. In 1890, he was captivated by the landscape at the base of San Cristóbal, a cloud-grazing active volcano in the northwest region of Nicaragua. Since the 16th century, the volcano has erupted some 30 times and regularly releases a heady mixture of gas, ashes, and smoke into the surrounding area.