Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Rum review > Havana Club Añejo Blanco

havana club anejo blancoOne of Europe's favourites
Havana Club is a rum that is produced on the Caribbean island of Cuba. They currently operate two distilleries - one in Santa Cruz del Norte to the east of Havana, Cuba's capital, and the other in San José to the south. Most of the rum produced is exported, especially to the European market where it is the second best selling rum brand behind Bacardi. The distilleries and the Havana Club brand is joint owned by the Cuban government, who control the production, and drinks giant Pernod Ricard, who deal with the promotion and distribution. A staggering 30 million bottles of Havana Club rum was sold worldwide in 2006 and Pernod Ricard predict that this will be doubled by 2013!

Humble beginnings
Havana Club was founded in 1878 by a man named José Arechabala. He had arrived in Cuba from Spain in the 1860s, before setting up a small distilling business with the help of his family in the eastern town of Cárdenas. The original name of the distillery was La Vizcaya and the popularity of his rum soon grew, so he had to expand the facilities to cope with demand. The company name was changed to José Arechabala S.A. in 1921 and shortly afterwards Arechabala died in 1923. The distillery was taken over by his son-in-law and it remained in the family until 1959. It was then taken in to the control of the Cuban government after a combination of the Cuban Revolution and a tragedy in the Arechabala family. The family had returned to Spain and left the distillery without an owner.

A unique partnership
The Cuban government gave the rum its Havana Club name and had sole control of the distillery until 1994, when Havana Club International was founded. This was a company made up of the government and drinks company Pernod Ricard in a unique partnership. This partnership enabled Havana Club rum to be opened up to the worldwide market through Pernod Ricard's distribution channels. The popularity has grown so much that a new distillery at San José was opened in 2007 to help deal with the world's demand for Havana Club rum. Please watch the interesting film below that explains more about the history of Havana Club and the history of rum in Cuba.

This Havana Club Añejo Blanco has been aged for 18 months in a combination of ex-bourbon and Scotch whisky casks. All Havana Club rums are aged (the word añejo means aged in Spanish) and this rum has then been filtered through charcoal to remove most of the unwanted colouration that develops during the ageing process. It is bottled at 37.5% ABV and should cost £15-20.

Our tasting notes
The rum appears almost clear with no colour but has a slight yellow hue when held against a white background. The nose is fresh and vibrant with an interesting mix of sweet and herbal aromas. There are initial notes of sweet brown sugar, vanilla and tropical fruits (think of mango and papaya) and these are quickly joined by some woody and grassy aromas with a hint of witch hazel and surgical spirit. On the palate, this is again crisp and light with a more pronounced sweetness than on the nose - a lovely combination of maple syrup, sultanas, dried mango and brown sugar - and this is counteracted by a distinct citrus-like sharpness (imagine lemon zest) and a hint of spicy heat (think of red chilli). The finish has more of a bitter edge, that is reminiscent of burnt sugar, and leaves the palate with a slightly spicy alcohol burn.

What's the verdict?
This is a good rum that is slightly hard work to the untrained palate when consumed neat. However, it has plenty of character and an interesting flavour profile and these would make it very good for using with a mixer or in a cocktail. It offers decent value for money and makes us want to try other older Havana Club rums.

Beginner's guide > Where is rum produced?

The distillation of rum takes place in numerous locations across the globe. These are spread far and wide and include such diverse locations as the Bundaberg distillery in Australia, Stroh in Austria and the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius. However, the main regions for the production of rum are the Caribbean islands and the countries that border the Caribbean Ocean. Here, we split the rum producing nations of the Caribbean in to their three defined groups and briefly explain about each group. Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule! Further basic information about rum can be found by clicking here.

1 - Spanish speaking
These countries and islands produce a wide variety of rum styles but are most associated with the lighter white (blanco) and gold (oro) rums. These are most common on the islands of Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico plus the Central and South American countries of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.

2 - English speaking
The style of rum that these countries are most well known for are those of the darker and fuller bodied variety. These are also known as black rums. They are produced on the Caribbean islands of Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, in addition to the Central American country of Belize and Guyana in South America.

3 - French speaking
These islands are renowned for the manufacture of rhum agricole - a style of rum that is made by fermenting sugar cane juice rather than molasses, which most other rums are made from. Islands that produce rhum agricole include Guadeloupe, Haïti and Martinique.