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Everyday Rum – Review 3: Havana Club Rum 7 year – £20 (700ml)

Havana Club has a high pedigree in the rum community and outside. There has been rum in Cuba since the introduction of the sugarcane crop to the Caribbean. Havana Club is currently the leading rum in Cuba and uses a number of Maestros Roneros (Master Rum Maker). It takes 15 years of dedication to become a Maestro Ronero, during which the elder masters impart their knowledge to the newer trainees. Havana Club’s Primer Maestro Ronero, Don Jose Navarro explains “It’s is a cultural legacy, passed on from Maestro Ronero to Maestro Ronero, from heart to heart, from Cuban to Cuban.”

You could be easily mistaken in thinking that this Havana Club 7 year is an entry level offering from Havana due to the price point. Although it maybe entry level in terms of a potential sipping rum, there are a few younger siblings that Havana produce which would be regarded as the entry level. Those are very much regarded as mixing rums, but this rum in their range takes things up a level.

The number written on bottles can be misleading when it comes to aging. However, in this instance Havana confirm that the minimum amount any part of this rum is aged is for 7 years. Thereby sticking to the ‘youngest drop’ policy. This is done by blending individual barrels of rum.

The rise to popularity of Havana Club 7 has been rapid in the UK market and is part of the reason it appears in the ‘Everyday Rum’ segment here. This can be found in supermarkets and most bars and it is becoming popular is restaurants as well. This rum has won awards at spirits championships in the 1990s which helps to display the Havana pedigree.

The bottle is an unusual dark brown colour and has a black label with the familiar red Havana club motif. The bottle has a screw cap rather than a cork which most premium rum manufacturers add when creating the packaging for a premium sipping rum. Definitely a stand out rum packaging when sat on a bartender’s shelf.

On the nose there is an immediate whiff of sweet caramel and a slight oak-ness. There are hints of coconut and passion fruit alongside which meld well together to help give an inviting aroma to this blend. The ethanol smell is still present though and needs to be understood and navigated past.

On my first sip the taste is more pleasant than the immediate ethanol hit from the nose. Alongside some leather and tobacco notes, I taste dark chocolate, burnt sugar and an oak-ness. The finish is creamy, with a hint of burn which does detract from the rum. Having sat for a few minutes I now taste prunes and raisins countering the sweetness found from the molasses. An interesting balance. The finish now is smoke and tobacco like. It doesn’t burn as much now, but the after taste isn’t what I prefer in my rum. Although if you enjoy those smoke and tobacco flavours, or fancy something to go alongside a cigar I can see how this rum would suit your needs.

Due to the wide availability of this rum throughout the UK market it is natural for this rum to have been used as a higher end mixer in cocktails. This is also where I feel this particular rum excels and where I would recommend a more casual rum drinker to enjoy this blend. In my opinion this makes a lovely Rum Based Old Fashioned cocktail and a Cuban classic cocktail of Cuba Libre is probably the best instance of this cocktail I have tried. Why not have a look at an article written earlier on rum based cocktails and experiment with those as well?

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Everyday Rum – Review 1: Bacardi Superior White – £12 (700ml)

A new segment here on RumCask, I’ll be reviewing the rums that are available to the general public in supermarkets. Hopefully these will showcase some of the qualities of rum and may lead onto more people enjoying the basics and deciding to look deeper into the sugarcane spirit.

Bacardi is the name synonymous with rum. Almost every person I have spoken to who doesn’t know anything about rum will mention Bacardi when I say rum. It goes a long way to show how well their marketing team has done over the years. The Bacardi brothers purchased a distillery in Cuba in 1862 and made a smoother version of the local rum of the time via different methods of filtering the rum. However, Bacardi left Cuba when Fidel Castro planned to nationalise all private property and moved to Puerto Rico to continue their production. This Superior White is a direct descendent of that particular blend. Although it has been refined and production methods have changed, they still age the rum for up to a couple of years and filter through charcoal. For more on the history of Bacardi and their logo especially, here is a link to an article I wrote earlier.

The Bacardi Superior bottle is clean and elegant. Everybody knows what it looks like and when presented, the rum looks perfectly clear in the bottle. It is obviously very economical as it is mass produced. But everybody knows what the bottle looks like. It is in almost every bar and is the standard rum that is served with any rum drink unless specified otherwise. This particular flagship offering from Bacardi is meant to be the superior mixing rum and is not meant to be drunk neat.

To get the basic notes of the rum I will taste the rum neat. This will hopefully give me a better explanation as to the particular ways I would personally mix the rum to get the most from it for you. On the nose it is quite grassy and pungently raw with a fruity finish creating quite an intense nose. On my first sip neat I find the rum very harsh. It is quite dry and I can taste hints of nut and grass. I think I can taste some lemon zest alongside some apple and pear. In the throat afterwards the grassy notes seems to linger the most but in general this is not rum I would purposefully sip neat again. It is too much of a rough and raw ride for me.

My personal opinion on which cocktails work best with Bacardi has always been the classic Mojito. Having tried it again for the first time in a while I have to say it still works well. I have tried better, but with more expensive rum. The fruity notes are complimented well and it creates a fresh very drinkable Mojito. It is easy to see why this is a commonly used spirit in mixers. It is cheaper than most and the flavouring really adds to basic cocktails.

The other cocktail I have been told to try this rum with is the Cuba Libre. Basically Bacardi mixed with coke and a dash of lime. This didn’t work for me. I found the drink too sweet and the flavours didn’t match well. Nothing really inspired me to have this again. I would prefer a dark rum such as Lambs or Captain Morgan as the mixer here for this cocktail.

Overall, at this price point I don’t think a more commonly found white rum can compete with Bacardi when it comes to mixing white rum. Potentially the Captain Morgan White but that is it. Bacardi is an excellent economical mixing rum that can be found anywhere that produces a very drinkable cocktail. If you agree with my recommendation here then why not look at my piece on white rum which can be found here for more expensive alternatives to further your journey along!

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How Is Rum Produced? (Final Part 5 – Blending & Bottling)

The earlier four parts can be found here: Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Now we have aged the rum, the distilleries almost always decide to blend the rum with other batches some of which maybe aged for different periods of time. Spiced rums can also be infused with herbs, fruits and spices to produce flavoured rum. Also it maybe diluted with water to help bring the alcohol level down to 40-50%. Once the colour, taste, consistency and anything else the master blender wants to manipulate has been done, the final product is ready to be bottled and distributed. The entire process can be completed in weeks if you do not require your rum to be aged.

As you can see there are only between 3-5 steps for producing rum depending on how you want your final product. However, the endless possibilities in the variety of stages make rum an extremely unique product with endless flavour profiles!

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The Largest Collection Of Rum Outside of London in the UK?

We have been to a few bars outside of London in the UK which have had an excellent selection of rum. One of the more notable was The Liars Club in Manchester which not only had over 100 different rums, but a friendly and informative staff to boot. Also there is Island Bar in Birmingham, which has a separate tiki bar and boasts over 50 different types of rum.

However, we came across a bar, Cubana, in Sheffield in the news recently which has over 150 bottles of rum. Now we haven’t been to Sheffield, but this bar is a reason to go. A very good reason! The owners Brad Charlesworth and Adrian Bagnoli have put together a list of rum which is sourced from far and wide. As well as a large selection from the Caribbean, they have the famous Japanese Rum “Nine Leaves” as well.

However, the reason they were in the news recently was due to the fact they have purchased one of the most expensive bottles of rum in the world directly from Havana in Cuba. They will be selling Havana ‘Maximo Extra Anejo’ for £150 per 25ml shot. There are bottles available in the UK online at around £1,250 and it is touted as one of the best rum’s in the world. As well as spending time in Cuba for the rum, the Cubana spent time building other contacts and are currently in talks to bring a group of talented Cuban musicians to Sheffield for a short period to play at the bar.

The top of Havana’s production line, the bottle is more of a glass decanter and was made by one of their master distiller; Maestro Ronero Don José Navarro. He has over 40 years of experience in making Havana Club and is one of the most experienced in the entire industry.

We am yet to try this rum, but from what I have read it is meant to have notes of oak and smokiness alongside subtle tones of fruit on the nose, namely coconut and pear notes. On the tongue it is said to be woody with hints of vanilla and very smooth indeed. The finish is warm and spicy. From the couple of people I have met who have had the opportunity to savour this rum, they have unanimously agreed that it is an excellent rum, very complex and yet subtle at the same time, a must try for all rum enthusiasts indeed.

When we next make a trip up north, The Cubana Tapas Bar will definitely be on our must visit list. If your bar in the UK has a wider selection of rums, please let us know and We’ll be happy to update this post.

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What Is Your Favourite Rum Based Cocktail?

a)    Daiquiri

b)    Rum Punch

c)    Mojito

d)    Other

What is a Cocktail?

The first definition appeared in Hudson, New York in 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository. The editor is quoted as answering:

“Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any
kind, sugar, water and bitters –
it is vulgarly called bittered sling.”

An alcoholic drink which contains a spirit or a mixture of spirits mixed with a variety of other ingredients. The term cocktail has a variety of myths and legends about how it came into existence. Rooster’s tails being used as a garnish, the colour of the first ones resembling a roosters tail, drinks being stirred with a roosters tail (my personal favourite) etc.

Daiquiri

Whatever your choice is on your favourite, it’s clear that rum’s versatility  lends itself to the ability to create a wide variety of world renowned cocktails. The Daiquiri is probably the most famous rum based cocktail in the world. There are a multitude of variations which include a wide spectrum of fruits and extra ingredients, but in my opinion after trying the original last year made by an expert, it can’t be beaten.

The story of the origin of the Daiquiri is said that in Cuba a man called  Jennings Cox was entertaining guests one night. He was an iron miner on the island and was earning a healthy profit. Whilst entertaining those guests, he ran out of the gin he was accustomed to and he went to the nearest shop and purchased the easiest liquor he could find in bulk, rum. He added what ingredients he had at his residence to the rum to try to make it more drinkable as the white rum of the day was harsh and unforgiving. Those were lemon, sugar, water and ice. The drink went down a treat with his guests and they wanted to know what it was called. As he had just made it up, he decided to call it the Daiquiri after the nearby beach.

To make the original Daiquiri bartenders use the rhyme, one of sour (lemon), two of sweet (sugar), three of strong (rum) and four of weak (water). After it was introduced into America, as all good bartenders do, twists and alterations were added to the cocktail to create the variety of Daiquiris that are available globally. Next time you order one, ask for the original if you haven’t tried it, and maybe even recite the rhyme to the bartender as a conversation starter!

Rum Punch

As many people know, punch is a term that is used for a mixture of drinks. Usually these contain fruit juice and/or fruit pieces. There are a number of different rum punches out there. Usually rum punch is quite common amongst the younger drinkers. This is because they can be made with cheaper ingredients and has the ability to mask very high alcohol content. However they also can, and in my opinion should, be treated as a refreshing and tasty cocktail, drunk sparingly to be enjoyed. Rum Punch was created by sailors travelling to the Caribbean. Any beer/wine and other alcoholic drinks they took with them, turned rancid by the time they landed and rather than complain, they decided to become resourceful and use the local ingredients and meld them together with the local spirit to create something drinkable. They added bitters and nutmeg which are also found locally.

One of my favourite is Planter’s Rum Punch. This was invented at the bar of the Planters House Hotel in St Louis Missouri. The recipe for this particular punch differs and usually contains a mixture of rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, lemon juice, grenadine, curacao, soda water, cayenne pepper and Angostura bitters.

Mojito

The Mojito is a world renowned rum cocktail similar to the Daiquiri. However, unlike the Daiquiri, its original recipe still is the most popular and widely used. The five ingredients are white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water and mint (bruised not shredded). These are mashed together using a muddler and topped with crushed ice.

The birth of the Mojito is still subject to debate. One version says it was created from local ingredients and used as a treatment for scurvy and dysentery. The sugar and mint were helpful in hading the harshness of the unfiltered rum. The other version says it was created by slaves who worked in Cuban sugar fields.

My favourite of these three purely depends on where I am. I love a rum punch in the Caribbean on a white sandy beach. I love an original Daiquiri in the summer in the city as a cooler. I love the Mojito as a bookend drink on a night out. An excellent start or finish to the night, whatever the hour!

I know there are other rum based cocktails out there. The Mai Tai, Dark and Stormy, Rum Based Old Fashioned etc. Leave a comment on what is your favourite, or your favourite twist on a classic cocktail and next time you’re in a bar, why not ask your bartender where he thinks the term cocktail comes from?