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.

Havana Club “Selección De Maestros” (45%, Cuba)

Havana Club is the story of José Arechabala y Aldama (Don José). In 1862 the 15yo José moved from Spain to Cuba, and in 1878 he founded the La Vizcaya Rum company in Cárdenas. He changed the name of the company to his own in 1921 and left his son-in-law José Arechabala y Sainz to run the company. In 1923 José passed away and the second José was killed just a year later by kidnappers. Gabriel Malet y Rodriguez took over, but he died already in 1926 to be succeded by Don José’s nephew José Fermín Iturrioz y Llaguno (Josechu). Under Josechu, the Havana Club brand came to be in 1934. Like so many businesses the company was nationalized on the first of january 1960, and the family moved back to Spain and the US. After nationalization, the government changed the name of the distillery into Havana Club. The Cuban government started selling Havana Club Rum in 1972 in Eastern Europe. In 1977 a new factory went into production in Santa Cruz del Norte and a second factory was opened in 2007 in San José. In 1993 the Cuban government signed a deal with Pernod Ricard, where the latter would take upon itself to “sell” Havana Club to the consumer all over the world except for the US, because Bacardi already sells a brand of Rum called Havana Club (made in Puerto Rico) in the US since 1994, after buying the name and recipe from the Arechabala family. Pernod Ricard and Bacardi, both Giants in the drinks business, are fighting over the brand and its use in the US in court ever since…

Havana Club Selección De Maestros (45%, OB, Cuba)Color: Full gold, toffee.

Nose: Just like the Cubay 10yo, this is full on aroma. Again a Rum that jumps at you from the glass, so don’t pour yourself too much at once. Somewhat less creamy and soft, but sharper and seems to have a more pronounced wood nose. A treat to nose, well-balanced but again not the most complex stuff in the world. It’s probably just the Cuban style I guess. Hints of mocha, milk chocolate and hazelnuts. Wood becomes more and more dominant. Pencil shavings and fresh succulent oak, but also a sharp dry oaky smell which transgressed into a more paper and dry leafy note. So lots of oak in the nose. Raw in a good way.

Taste: Yup oak again, but only for a short while. The sweet constituents are quick to take over. Sugar water, and creamy toffee. Quite warming and good length. This has some serious staying power for a Cuban Rum, which is supposed to be light. Quite creamy and some caramel, in a way I like my Havana Cigars. Compared tot the Cubay 10yo, this has 5% more ABV and it shows. Good length and good delivery. Fruity black tea. Overall this isn’t a very complex Rum, but it does have something of a bite and again is very drinkable and loveable. Wood. The pencil shavings from the nose stays behind for the aftertaste.

Definitely in the same style as the Cubay 10yo, but for me it even has more simplicity, which in this case is not necessarily a bad thing. Remember the Cubay has something I liked and couldn’t put my finger on? Well I still haven’t found out what it is, but this Havana Club I like as well. Overall quite nice and drinkable. I love the slightly higher ABV. On the other hand, it’s also a bit raw, good raw, and lacks a bit of complexity and development, which in this case I don’t mind. A bit young, and definitely a lot of fresh oak, but for me this one surpasses the Cubay 10yo in balance. Nice and tasty stuff but maybe a wee bit too expensive.

Points: 83