Review – Havana Club Rum
With sugar cane first introduced by Christopher Columbus way back in 1493, Cuba has a long history of rum production. It wasn’t however until the 19th Century and the introduction of copper stills that things started to get interesting, particularly as a chap named Pedro Diago started ageing his rums in pots buried in the ground. The production of Havana Club starts with a blend of sugar cane molasses, water and yeast which is left to ferment for several days, producing the baticon which is then distilled in column stills, producing the aguardientes. These are further distilled before being aged and blended to become madre (mother). The madre is then blended with fresh sugar cane distillate to create ‘ron fresco’. The ron fresco is then successively aged and blended until it is deemed fit for bottling as each class of rum.
Havana Club Anejo 3 Años
Neat: Smoother than the nose suggests, and altogether more rounded. White fruits (more of that pear from the nose) and vanilla mingle with a hay-like grassiness. Peculiarly, this rum is relatively dry on the entrance, and sweetens towards the mid-palate before fading off again in the finish which becomes much drier and gingerbread spiced with a whisper of lime. Savoury notes reminiscent of rhum agricole help to differentiate this rum from the many more tropical-fruit tasting on the market and define the brand style. Although there is plenty going on, this remains a light style of rum, without the intense molasses base characteristic of other styles.
Mixing: There isn’t much that this rum doesn’t do well that would be expected of a white rum, which it is best considered as despite the three years of barrel ageing. It is a solid performer in all the classics such as the Daiquiri, Mojito and El Presidente #1. Some might find the fact that it likes to shine through the other ingredients in simpler drinks off-putting, for this is a characterful rum that makes a mockery of the neutrality offered by a certain big name brand and corporate rival. This is no negative however, but in fact encourages exploration of bolder white rum cocktails such as the Bajito in which the basil wonderfully complements the savoury notes, or the Santiago Daiquiri which through the use of lemon and grenadine creates a more balanced and delicious twist on it’s classic counterpart. The dryness and spice contributed from the time in oak means that some drinks will benefit from a little extra sugar for balance; however in particularly fruit concoctions such as the Mary Pickford, this characteristic offers improved balance over more tropical-flavoured rums. By contrast, drier cocktails such as the El Presidente #4 with its use of dry vermouth, do not play to this rums strengths.
Havana Club Anejo 7 Años
Nose: A little raw-smelling with nail varnish greeting the nose and oaky yet still grassy aromas of cane sugar spirit following on behind. A little patience reveals some more enticing smoky notes and Christmas cake notes, maybe even a whisper of tobacco.
Neat: Much improved over the nose, the moderately sweet entrance of molasses and prunes gives way to a more spicy, leathery and tobacco driven mid-palate, albeit one that retains plenty of dark fruit character and a wonderful raw cacao character. Christmas cake batter, smoking wood and surprisingly a clean, almost vegetal note linger on the finish. This offers lots of promise for mixing.
Mixing: This rum really comes alive when mixed and demonstrates how a few years of barrel-ageing can dramatically transform not only the taste profile but also the versatility of a spirit. The less than perfectly smooth edges to this rum works in its favour and whilst it is plenty capable of delivering a very respectable Old Fashioned or Palmetto, it is in cocktails typically associated with younger rums that it brings its A-game. A Daiquiri for example is packed full of deep cocoa notes as the spice elements bring alive the sour citrus to create a fresh but complex cocktail. These lighter notes can be picked up on even more by combining with its younger sibling the 3yr in drinks such as the 7 Sinful Years where the addition of ginger and orange curaçao in this sour-style drink showcases the best of these two rums. The deeper, more leathery and tobacco-tinged notes of this rum mean that it can be a more challenging choice in fruit-driven rum cocktails, where lengthening with the addition of juice such as in the Northern Sun with its mix of pear, cranberry, lime and ginger is all but essential.
Havana Club produce some fantastic rums that deliver excellent quality for an affordable price. The 3yr is an excellent young rum that makes for a versatile and delicious mixer in place of unaged rum, whilst the 7yr delivers one of the best ratios of flavour to years aged available.Rating: ★★★★
Havana Club 3 is available from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.