Havana Club is a brand that has a presence in nearly every bar in the world. Its versatility with its range can suit most tastes and palates, combined in a cocktail or drunk straight, and will never really be frowned upon if offered. So how do we, or I in particular, come to this conclusion? Lets find out –
Havana Club is produced in Santa Cruz del Norte in Cuba and has done so since José Arechabala created the brand in 1878. Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the Havana club brand and its distillery was nationalized by the government and Arechabala emigrated to Spain with his family, before finally moving to America. In 1994, the company was owned by a fifty-fifty partnership between the Cuban government and the drinks giant Pernod Ricard.
This is where it gets a bit confusing between Havana and Bacardi as Bacardi also produce a rum named Havana Club.
After the nationalisation by the Cuban government and the Arechabala family allowed the trademark of Havana Club to lapse in 1973. In 1994 Bacardi entered into an alliance with the Arechabalas, and in 1997 the Arechabalas sold their residual rights to Havana Club to Bacardi, which, among other things, included the recipe for the original Havana Club rum. During 1995 and 1996, Bacardi made a trial production of the rum in the Bahamas and was sold in the United States. However, the Havana Club trademark was in the hands of Havana Club International (the business entity formed by the Cuban Government owners, and Pernod Ricard) and owned the trademark in the United States through Inter-American Conventions.
After more than 10 years of legal struggles between the parties, on August 8, 2006, 5 days after the Cuban version of the trade mark was denied renewal (in the United States), Bacardi released their own version of Havana Club (produced in Puerto Rico). As of today, the trademark dispute has not been settled.
So with a rather rocky end to its back story, lets see how the range actually fare –
Havana Club Añejo Blanco – 37.5%
Aged for 18 months. Light vanilla scent on the nose leading to a well-rounded flavour of citrus and vanilla that develops a slight warmth near the long finish.
Havana Club Añejo Especial – 40%
Light aroma of vanilla on the nose, becoming more apparant on the palate. Sweet flavours of the vanilla mixed with slight citrus notes create a short yet snappy finish.
Havana Club Añejo 3yr – 40%
Deep ginger and marzipan blend on the nose with a slight sweetness on the palate. Citrus and oak mix to create a spicy finish that lingers.
Havana Club Añejo 7yr – 40%
A dry sweetness on the nose with soft fruit and notes of coffee. Very smooth on the palate with lots of rich wood flavours and dry spice on a long finish that mouth-waters.
Havana Club Añejo Reserva – 40%
Toasty aromas with plenty of caramel and vanilla mixing well on the nose. A slight sweetness too that carries over onto the palate. Fresh flavours of the caramel dominate, with a lingering yet bold finish.
Joining the range in 2016, Havana Club have released what they have termed as the ‘Havana Club Tributo Collection‘. As a tribute to the best that Cuban rum has to offer, Havana Club Maestro Ronero, Asbel Morales, has personally selected the finest aged bases from cellar reserves to create each release.
Havana Club Tributo Collection 2016 – 40%
Led by a base of rums aged in 80-year old casks.
Subtle banana notes upon the nose, rising to dried apricots and raisin. Intense banana leaf with bold tropical fruits are present on the palate. Dried kiwi and subtle tobacco notes also available, with a lingering, dry finish of cedar wood.
Havana Club also have what they call the Icónica Collection, containing some of the more prestige expressions available, including –
Havana Club Selección de Maestros – 45%
“In the first place, the Maestros Roneros select all together the finest aged rums that one by one had been put aside for their truly exceptional quality.
Afterwards, they blend these rums and put them in specially selected barrels for a further ageing phase. Each barrel is chosen for the powerful and aromatic potential of its wood, in which the rum will develop character and intensity.
Finally, the Maestros Roneros get together a second time to select the rums that have come to the perfect maturity to compose the final blend and bottle it straight from the barrel at 45% ABV.”
Soft peanut and dry fudge notes on the nose, with clotted cream and a slightly dry oak lingering. Vanilla flavoured cream with a high kick of butter and oak hit the palate, creating a thin, slightly stewed apple flavour on the long finish, which incidentally becomes bold with tart treacle notes.
Havana Club Añejo 15 Años – 40%
Only 58 barrels a year produced through a process of blending and ageing selected rums and aguardientes several times in old oak barrels, eventually housing within a bottle rum that is aged for at least 15 years.
Rich, ripe red apple, pomegranate and grape notes on the nose. Turns to a slight honey, prunes, almonds and raisin mix on the ending. A slight tartness to begin with on the palate, then wet oak and dry tannins come through. Thick, bold finish with plenty of spice .
Havana Club Unión – 40%
A collaboration between Havana Club’s maestro ronero Asbel Morales and cigar sommelier Fernando Fernandez.
Mango and banana leaf aromas are present on the nose, with, dried prunes with apple and pear scents coming through. Plenty of honey, rich dry spice, chocolate and soft pineapple sit nicely upon the palate, with a long oaked finish of fudge and caramac.
Havana Club Máximo Extra Añejo – 40%
Handcrafted by blending the finest and oldest rum reserves that have been left to age in Havana Club cellars and is a very limited edition of only 1000 bottles a year.
Plenty of molasses and light treacle notes, followed by deep red fruits and dry pine aromas. Rich yet a thin texture, with plenty of heavy oak and whispers of fudge and smoak. Lots of dried fruits, apricot, and honey on the incredibly long finish.
In October 2018, Havana Club released their first-ever range of Cuban rums developed with bartenders, exclusively for bartenders. Named the Havana Club Professional Edition range, each edition is small bath, designed to push boundaries and engage and inspire bartenders. The first in the series is Havana Club Professional Edition A, born from a collaboration with the Cuban Bartender Association (or Asociación de Cantineros de Cuba) as part of the 200th anniversary of the legendary Havana bar, El Floridita.
Havana Club Professional Edition A – unknown abv
A blend of three aged rum bases and a pure aguardiente, this has been matured in large, ancient oak barrels up to 4 years. It’s also been filtered using an innovative approach that retains the character whilst lightening the colour and palate.
Fresh earth notes on the nose, with a slight lemongrass and thin honey note coming through. Smooth, with a slight oily texture that brings out a bold, full-bodied twist of honeycomb, leather, milk chocolate and cream. A lingering finish too.
Havana Club Professional Edition B is the result of curiosity, arising from a delivery of heavily-peated Islay whisky barrels to Cuba by mistake. Not deterred, Havana Club partnered with bartender Nick Stangeway, resulting in the next edition in the range.
Havana Club Professional Edition B – unknown abv
A blend of Islay finished rum with three other Havana Club 7yr rum bases.
Soft and subtle sea breeze, with hints of 90% cocoa, heather and sea salt on the nose. Incredibly smooth, with wisps of soft smoke, butter, salted caramel and lemon peel to offer up a long finish.
A superbly balanced Iconica Collection, with them all grabbing attention through in certain ways. The Professional Editions are an interesting take on innovation, whilst the core range impresses, with the 7 year and Añejo Reserva the best for a sip, whilst the Blanco and 3yr are the best for mixing with cocktails like these –
Vanilla Cassis Mojito
20 ml Havana Club Añejo Blanco
10 ml Vanilla liqueur
10 ml Blackcurrant liqueur
20 ml Fresh lime juice
12 Fresh mint leaves
1tsp White sugar
Lightly muddle the mint leaves, lime juice and sugar. Add crushed ice. Pour the Havana Club Añejo Blanco, the vanilla liqueur and the cassis liqueur into a glass. Stir with a barspoon. Top with soda water.
If you ever get the chance to try the range, you will see why Havana Club is enjoyed in many a bar around the world. The 7yr is my personal favourite, one to stock up on for your own personal collection.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.