Thursday, 4 June 2015

Havana Club Iconica Collection

Last Monday evening Dave took part in the Havana Club Rum Tweet Tasting and enjoyed four premium rums from their Icónica Collection. The rum is 100% Cuban, made from all natural Cuban ingredients, and overseen by six Masters blenders, or Maestro Roneros as they are called Cuban.

Cuban Rum
Cuba has become known as the "Isle of Rum", due to a combination of world-famous sugar cane (first introduced by Christopher Columbus in 1493), a favourable Caribbean climate, fertile soil, and the unique know-how of Cuban "Maestro Roneros" (master rum-makers). Sailors, swashbucklers and locals liked to use this exceptional sugarcane to make fermented nectar and "tafia" (an early type of rum).

Quality improved drastically in the 1800s with the introduction of copper stills and the first attempts at ageing. Pedro Diago, known now as the father of Cuban rum, can be thanked for this. He had the idea of storing the "aguardientes", or eaux-de-vie, in pots and burying them in the ground. The second half of the 19th century saw the production of a lighter and more refined rum, known as "Ron Superior".

This was developed on the instructions of the Spanish Crown, which wanted a more delicate rum that could "satisfy the court and the elite of the Empire". El Ron Superior is the father of today’s Cuban rum: light, smooth, delicate, crisp and exceptional straight or in cocktails. Its popularity was such that by 1860 there were more than 1,000 distilleries in Cuba.
Havana Club
The distillery was founded by José Arechabala in Santa Cruz del Norte in Cuba in 1878, however the Havana Club brand was first introduced in 1934, and was sold worldwide. Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the brand was nationalised by the government. Sales to the US ceased and the Arechabala family emigrated to Spain before finally moving to America, after his company was nationalised, In 1994, the company was owned by a fifty-fifty partnership between the Cuban government and the drinks giant Pernod Ricard.

Havana Club has become synonymous with Cuba. It’s the leading Cuban rum in Cuba, and fifth-largest rum brand in the world. Havana Club has kept alive the art of añejamiento: the art of distilling, ageing and blending premium rums. Its strongest markets include France, and Germany, and it is also bottled in India, the world's second-largest rum market.

Havana Club’s rums have and the range is made up of a few standard bottlings which are essentially mixing rums, as well as the seven year-old, which is intended for sipping. In November 2006 the ‘ultra-premium’ Máximo Extra Añejo was first released. 

At the launch, Havana Club’s Maestro Ronero said “There will never be a rum that better expresses the Cuban rum culture”

It's been a while since I was last sipping rum, so was really looking forward to tasting these premium expressions. The evening started with:

Rum Discovery #4

Havana Club Selección de Maestros (45% abv)
Cuban Rum
circa £50.00 70cl
The new edition of Havana Club's very popular Cuban Barrel Proof, Selección de Maestros is bottled at the higher strength of 45% abv.

So What Did I Think?
Nose: Woody, oiled cedar? Resin, liquorice toffees and burnt sugar initially. Fruity, with a dark citrus note, BBQ'd lemons? There's a slight mustiness too, earthy, damp with woody spices. Nutmeg and Cassia are the spices I'm picking up, along with the nutty notes of Brazil nuts and Pecans - very nutty

Taste: An initial sweet burst of Chocolate Orange, rich and dark, followed by coffee beans, hints of cigar tobacco too. Spices follow and then a hint of smoke, finishing sweet again with citrus twist before turning dry. Love it!

Rum Discovery #5

Havana Club Añejo 15 Años (40% abv)
Cuban Rum
circa £125.00 70cl
This 15 year old is created by 'repeatedly' blending the rums and aguardientes and maturing them in old oak barrels. Havana Club's Primer Maestro Ronero, Don José Navarro, describes this as "Cuban rum's great classic".

Legally for Cuban rum the age of the youngest rum in the blend is displayed (as with Scotch) Although the minimum age is 15 years old, I was told that it's a blend of rums from 15 to 35 years old

So What Did I Think?
Nose: Richer, yet lighter toffee notes. Again spices of nutmeg and cassia. Brazil nuts too. Chocolate comes later along with the dried fruits. Another lovely nose. 

Very easy to sip: Chocolate, rich and dad, coffee beans and treacle. Not as earthy as the first one. Spices follow. This is gentle, smooth and creamy and so sippable! There's dried fruits, figs and raisins. Tobacco later and a hint of vanilla essence too

Rum Discovery #6

Havana Club Unión (40% abv)
Cuban Rum
circa £250.00 70cl
Next up we tasted the newest rum in the Icónica Collection, Havana Club Unión is available in specific liquor stores in Cuba and 20 other countries. I think we were among the very few to have tried this in the UK

So What Did I Think?
Nose: Antique wood notes alongside a sweet cough syrup note, cherry perhaps? Also finding some lemon

Taste: High cocoa content chocolate, 'trade mark' Brazil nuts, although woodier, Brazil nut shells? There's a dusting of pepper too and finishes with a musty wood note with cigar tobacco.

Rum Discovery #7

Havana Club Máximo Extra Añejo (40% abv)
Cuban Rum
circa £1,200.00 50cl
The Havana Club Máximo is an Extra Añejo rum made from a decidedly illustrious blend of rare, old rums taken from their extensive reserves, crafted by the skilled hands of Maestro Ronero, Don José Navarro. An extraordinary Cuban rum for the cognoscenti and connoisseurs. Of course, a rum of this stature comes presented impeccably, in a handmade crystal decanter alongside crystal stopper with the Giraldilla etched upon it.

Havana Club Máximo Extra Añejo isn’t widely available, but can be purchased via specialist spirits retailers and online

So What Did I Think?
Nose: There's a slight smokiness to this, charred wood too, while coconut tries to sneak through rich toffee.

It's surprisingly fruity on the palate, lots of dried fruits, figs dates and raisins. It's sweeter than the nose suggested too. This really is something special - I could sit and sip this all evening if only my disposable income levels would allow!

OK, so these are not your ordinary 'everyday' rums, they are all a little special with the starting price at around £50 a bottle. The Havana Club Máximo Extra Añejo works out around £60/shot based on the bottle price - expect to pay an awful lot more than that at a bar! The Havana Club Selección de Maestros is certainly within my budget and it's something I'd like to revisit again soon, and although I would love to spend more time with them all, it's highly unlikely due to current UK prices.

I'm looking forward to hearing what Kat has to say about these, as I saved half of each of the samples received for her.

Salud! Dave

No comments: