Classic Cuban Rums
By Ciro Bianchi Ross
Cuba entered the world of international rum production pretty late, but quickly made up for lost time.
In 1778, the Island exported over 230 thousand liters of rum, but by the beginning of the 19th century – 20 to 25 years later – the country was producing over 4.5 million liters.
By 1861, there were 125 distilleries in Cuba, mostly in privately owned sugarcane mills. During this time, Cuba was producing one third of the world’s sugar.
The production of Cuban rums marked a new age and a new culture in rum making. In the 1860s, people used to drink a range of “British” rums made in Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados, made from sugarcane molasses in pot stills.
Cuba then introduced a new technology – continuous or column stills - that allowed distillers to create a new, lighter and sweeter spirit.
Ever since, and almost 160 years later, the production of authentic Cuban rums has continued uninterrupted. The Island’s eight rum masters – one a woman – hold the knowledge about the product’s manufacture, and are conscientious guardians of the warehouses that preserve the spirits in ancient American white oak barrels.
These natural spirits are produced from sugarcane molasses and aged without any flavor enhancing, the reason why they carry the Cuban Guarantee of Origin and Quality label, a guarantee of their high standard. The rum master title is not granted by any academy or university. It is the result of a long apprenticeship. A rum master is a person who is acknowledged by specialists and co-workers in the field who are able to recognize such expertise and identify those who able can create a formula and act with unquestionable authority.
Two of Cuba’s eight rum masters are of the first master category; José Pablo Navarro Campa and Juan Carlos Delgado González. All eight are university graduates and combine science and technology with the best practices of previous rum makers. Navarro has said that “Cuban rum is a combination of science, technology, culture, magic, creativity and dreams…“.
Navarro adds that there are different kinds of rum masters: those who mix the rum, those who oversee aging, those who supervise the distillation process… but Cuban rum masters have to be experts on the entire process, which begins as sugarcane syrup and ends with bottled rum.
They also have to be able to identify different types and ages of rum, and foresee what will happen in 10 or 15 years’ time. They keep the best of their work in the warehouses so that other rum masters can have better results in the future. Cuban rum masters also identify Cuban rum with the national culture and try to preserve and pass on to future generations the legacy they themselves inherited.
There is a great range of quality rums on the Island. One of the most appreciated is the “iconic” Havana Club 7-year old collection. This beverage is full of mysticism, it is strong and hot and it exposes people to its exotic flavors.
Santiago de Cuba – 11, 12, 20, 25 and 50 years old – are smooth and brown rums created in the city of the same name, the cradle of the Cuban light rum, where Varadero and Caney rums are also produced.
Also distilled and bottled in Santiago de Cuba are: Isla del Tesoro and Santiago de Cuba 500, limited edition rum to mark 500 years since the foundation of the city. It promises a magical trip through a variety of the mild flavors of the area’s fruits and spices.
Cubay 1870 Extra Añejo rum, produced in the center of the country, is characterized by its delicate aging and soft, brown texture.
For drinkers who prefer white rums Cubay Carta Blanca Extra Viejo is perfectly balanced and has a great taste.
Other white and gold Havana Club rums are produced in the Santa Cruz distillery and Perla del Norte – White and Gold – at the old Arechabala distillery in Cárdenas, near Varadero beach. This is a rum that reaffirms the flavours that characterize rums from western Cuba.
All Cuban rums combine the essence of Cuba’s nature, and all are simply classic rums.