Havana Club Añejo 7 Años (40%, OB, Cuba)

Well, here is something I don’t do all that often, starting a review not knowing really what it is. (I’ll know in due time, before finishing it). I was given this sample and although I have heard some clues as to what this is, I am at the time of writing not sure what it precisely is. Well I do know it is a Rum called Havana Club though, bought by it’s owner right at the distillery on Cuba. And with Havana Club, I mean the real Havana Club, made in Cuba, you know, the island that has Havana sitting on it. There is also Puerto Rican made, Bacardi owned Havana Club, sold in the USA, that is said to be much worse. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it, but people who’s taste I trust, tell me so. The real Havana Club puts out quite some expressions, half of which are really, really affordable. Even the Selección de Maestros won’t cost you an arm or a leg, yet the other half is quite expensive to say the least. There seems to be nothing in the middle. Maybe the 15yo sits in the middle, but it already costs three times as much as the Selección de Maestros.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Starts with a peculiar rotting fruit off-note. Over-over ripe yellow fruits. Hint of gravy even. I’m definitely picking up something meaty, something I didn’t pick up on the first time around. Passion fruit, papaya and some mango. Over time the rotting bits fade away, leaving room for a more recognizable light to medium, sweet smelling, Cuban spirit. Some dusty wood and vanilla powder. Cancel the fade away bit, after snorting it one more time, the rot is back, or has never left. Wonky balance at first, yet bad it is not. Yes, fruit is the pivot around which the smell of this Rum spins. Is it real Cobb? Wait a minute the rot is again gone. Am I dreaming? A bit nutty but foremost ripe yellow fruits. Dried banana skin and a hint of red fruit acidity. There seems to be nothing more to it. Well there is some soft wood, and faint whiff of very old leather. Let this breathe for a while. The Rum picks up balance that way.

Taste: Super thin, instant evaporation in the cavity of my mouth. Rum vapors must come out of my nose. with still a thin, even coat of medium sweetness in my mouth, quickly followed by a wee bit more astringent wood notes. Sweet entry, toffee and fruits, and gone it is. Another sip (with lots of air). More nutty and even woody notes. And gone it is again. Yes a light Rum indeed. 70 cl of this must weigh around 10 grams. Simple, straightforward, but also without flaws. Generates a nice warmth. Toffee and fruits. That’s it, with still this wee woody spiciness underneath. As must be clear to you by now, the finish is short. Gewurztraminer notes suddenly appear, as well as some red fruit acidity. There is hardly an aftertaste. However this does leave a sort of toffeed Cuban memory behind. I wonder now if the Cubans drink this neat?

If you are really a novice, than is may very well be your starting point. Very light and unoffensive and Cuban. Yet it still has some alcohol for you to see if the world of Rum is for you. If so, boy are you in for a treat exploring further, because there is a lot more to find after this. Simple, fruity and medium sweet, but also clean and problem free. If you are more experienced, it may be too light and a bit boring, but having said that, this does bring to mind the pictures of Cuba. Sure you can mix this in many wonderful Rum based cocktails, but being on the island, I would have no problem whatsoever with a glass of only this Rum. Yes, I would enjoy it. Being quite hot today, I do understand the need for the Cubans to distill this light Rum.

Points: 75

Even though the score seems low, there is nothing wrong with this Rum. It’s just very simple. Thanks again to Auke.

Abuelo Añejo Reserva Especial (40%, Panama)

When looking around on the internet you can see that Ron Abuelo from Panama is a very hip and foremost sexy brand of Rum. When Rum is presented by women in underwear and swimwear, I have no problem with that at all, non, nice, I like that. Thus no complaints for me. But underneath I’m also a sort of distillation geek, and that side of me is a bit worried. If Ron Abuelo is actually a good Rum, why then is so much effort put into distracting the public from the Rum itself?

Abuelo has four Rums in its portfolio. We’re about to try this Añejo, but there is also a 7yo, a 12yo and finally there is also a Centuria. The first three are all reasonably priced and make up the standard range. Centuria is a bit more expensive and something of a speciality. I’m telling you upfront, prices for the Centuria will be rising soon.

Abuelo AnejoColor: Gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Light, sweet and young. Sugar water. A slight hint of wood, leather and cinnamon, but also a coastal note. Very smooth smelling. Whiffs of fresh air. Light scent of fresh-cut flowers, immediately followed by a more meaty component. Gravy. Also notes of candy powder and red fruit gums.

Taste: Very light and sugary. Not a lot of character yet. Add to that a wee bit of oak and that is what you get. Sweetish, but not sweet. Warming with hints of licorice and a slight woody bitterness, to give it some back bone. Quite light and in the distance it sometimes reminds me of cane juice (Rum). Toffee. The entry into the mouth is light, and the body is not any heavier. Funny enough, after swallowing, the Rum starts to work. Its warming and shows some heat from young Rum. Peppery note from the wood.

The entry-level offering is really an entry-level Rum. Very light, young and pretty simple. No off notes, so that’s a plus. Yes you can sip this, and keep doing this for a long time f.i. when playing cards with your friends. This is a Rum that probably is made for cocktails and similar uses. Its alright, but not as exciting as the girls selling it. I hope the rest of the range is better. Actually it’s not bad, but it is what it is. A very affordable, very light young Rum.

Points: 78

Pampero Aniversario Reserva Exclusiva (40%, Circa 2009, Venezuela)

Nearly summer, but already quite a lot of sunny days. Add to that that I live besides a lake, makes for an almost carribean feel. Well, no white sandy beaches, no palm trees, and not really crystal clear water, but you can’t have it all can’t you? Not so long ago I reviewed a trio of Rums, which I haven’t done for a while then and I must admit, I had quite a lot of fun with them. So why not do it again? Lets start with a Rum most Rum aficionado’s know very well. Pampero Aniversario. If you don’t recognize the picture below, this Rum is sold in a leather pouch, which also comes in handy when wiping moisture off of your windscreen.

Pampero AniversarioColor: Dark brown.

Nose: When you see the (dark) color of this Rum, you expect a lot nosing this for the first time, but it actually smells sweet, but also very elegant and middle of the roadish. It sounds worse than I actually mean. Reminds me a bit of Abuelo 7yo (which is sharper) and the 18yo Panamanian Rum from Rum Nation (which is less sweet). Light, fresh and fragrant. Hints of cinnamon and thick brown sugar. Lightly acidic fruit and cola. New leather and butterscotch.

Taste: Quite thin and for a brief moment sugary sweet, acidic, cola again. (Slightly burnt) brown sugar, but alas a bit thin (as in watery) and a bit too simple. It is even drier than expected. Hints of bitterness from wood and slightly burnt caramel. Creamy toffee with hints of vanilla. All flavours are well integrated. Short finish, which leaves you only with the burnt aftertaste.

The color alone made for great expectations. Alas the Rum itself is rather light. I can’t help but feel this has a lot more potential than it is allowed to show, so that everybody will like it. Just smell the Rum deeply, let it breathe a lot, its very complex, well balanced and nice. Taste wise a lot simpler and lighter, with a short finish. This Rum has a profile with lots of competitors. I already mentioned Abuelo from Panama, but also Diplomatico from Venezuela itself or Zacapa 23 from Diageo themselves.

Points: 79