LUXLIFE MAGAZINE | 39 New Year 2020 From our arrival in Havana it was evident that Havana Club rum is a strong part of the Cuban national identity. The famous rum is a marker of pride amongst Cubans, and from our experience in the charismatic capital city, it is clear why Havana Club rum has a second to none reputation both in Cuba and across the world. From the moment we sat down in any restaurant, we were served a classic complimentary mojito, made with Havana Club Rum and served in a glass displaying its distinguishable logo. A traditional Cuban cocktail, the mojito is made up of a refreshing combination of lime, sugar and mint alongside white rum and sparkling water. It is still one of the most popular drinks in Havana, which is no surprise as it is made with some of the best rum in the world. Rum is so significant in Cuba, as the country provides the perfect conditions for the growth of sugar cane; the sole ingredient in Havana Club rum. The island’s unique tropical climate and fertile soil mean there’s a rich supply of good quality sugar, which in turn, creates exceptional rum. This, along with its nationalisation in 1959 is why Havana Club rum has become such a pinnacle in Cuban society. Whilst in Havana, we learned more about the authentic Cuban rum making methods as we were invited on an exclusive tour of Havana Club’s rum distillery. During our tour of the distillery, we were honoured to meet one of the ten Maestros del Ron Cubano (Masters of Cuban Rum), Asbel Morales. Morales spent time with us discussing how Havana Club’s rum is uniquely made, with Cuban culture at the heart of its creation. Following traditional Cuban methods, the rum is made from pure Cuban sugar cane. The molasses produced as a by-product from sugar extraction, are then fermented, distilled and stored in barrels to be aged for a number of years. We were lucky enough to be shown these barrels during our tour and it was incredible to see the sheer amount of them stacked up and aging in the dark storage shelters. Maestro Morales explained how important this aging process is in producing the best quality rum, as it allows the rum to intensify and different flavours to develop. He informed us of how the barrels are made of the finest wood, previously used for maturing American bourbon. The rum is matured here first and is then transferred and “double aged” in fresh Irish whiskey barrels, a process which ultimately creates unique rum blends. However, the masters state the most important part of Havana Club’s success is the people and the cultural heritage of Cuba. From our visit it was clear that everyone involved in the process, from the distillery workers to the master rum makers were driven by their passion for this Cuban tradition. The rum masters are especially devoted to their work, undergoing fifteen years of rigorous training in order to learn how to select the best molasses and casks to blend the finest rums. They are truly masters of their craft, which has given them their illustrious reputation in Cuban society; after all, they are the creators of the most symbolic element of Cuban culture. It is clear that Cuban heritage is important to Havana Club, and this is the very reason why its rum masters have created the phenomenal 1519 blend in celebration of Havana’s 500th year anniversary. The 1519 blend honours this significant moment in Cuban history and as a result, it is a once-in-a-lifetime release. Devoted to their Cuban legacy, Havana Club’s rum masters started creating the 1519 rum twenty years prior to its release in 1999, re-blending the rums every five years with other exceptional bases. Choosing the most old and exclusive rums, they have created a blend so special, that only 500 bottles have been released. At the launch of the 1519 rum, we tasted this new blend, and it is clear that its special, as this intense rum carries rare notes of wood, honey and tobacco. It also possesses a delicate scent nuanced with fruity notes and tropical hints of vanilla, coconut and cocoa. The Havana Club Primer Maestro Juan Carlos González, has said of the new blend: “Havana Club 1519 is a product I feel deeply proud of. It is the outcome of decades of a long development process and has an unparalleled sensory profile. These exclusive bottles encapsulate the extraordinary heritage of the city.” Meanwhile, Christian Barré, the CEO at Havana Club International, said: “Havana Club is quintessentially Cuban and is recognised as an iconic brand that reflects the pride, passion and soul of the people of Havana. The exceptional taste of Havana Club 1519 will add to the celebrations of Havana’s milestone 500th birthday!” It is not just the rum itself which celebrates Cuban heritage. Bottled in an ornate mouth-blown glass decanter, Havana Club 1519 comes presented in a spectacular dark wooden box, with enchanting golden doors that echo the baroque ironwork found amongst the glorious architecture of historic Havana Vieja. Prior to the launch we were taken on a tour where we viewed these beautiful, and historically rich buildings and it is true that the aesthetics of the 1519 rum distinctly mirror these. The Havana Club 1519 launch night event itself also embodied the rich Cuban culture in every detail. Held in the Havana Club Rum museum, we were treated to a night of Cuban entertainment, from iconic jazz performances to energetic steel drummers. Following our rum tasting, we were then shown the process in which the rum is made through an interactive exhibition which saw us walk through a mock sugar cane plantation, amongst seeing how molasses are extracted. The night was a sensory experience of life in Havana, with many parallels to what we’d experienced when being driven through the city in classic cars earlier on in the day. Of course, our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a rum and cigar pairing experience. As well as its rum, Cuba is renown for its cigars, as due the tropical conditions it grows some of the worlds’ best tobacco. We were fortunate to visit the cigar factory in Havana, where we witnessed how intricate the cigar making process is, as tobacco leaves are accurately layered and rolled into place. Cigars are just as important in Cuban heritage as rum, and so the two are inevitably paired. Our experience of trying famous Cohiba cigars alongside Havana Club rum, was the most authentic Cuban experience. Sat in the small smoking lounge in the famed La Guarida restaurant, featured in the film Fresa y Chocolate, we were immersed in Cuban culture. We were given a chance to cut and light our own cigars and we were taught how to smoke it correctly, only holding the smoke in our mouths so we could appreciate how its woody flavour complimented the fruity notes of the Havana Club Union rum. It was a truly unforgettable experience. Following our trip to Havana, it is clear that Cuba has a symbiotic relationship with rum. Havana Club relies on the incomparable sugar cane that Cuba provides, and in turn Cubans are proud of their excellent rum which has become a monumental part of their society. The 1519 Havana Club release reveals just how much this nation and Havana Club’s rum are bonded together. The vast Cuban nation is united by the love and cultural heritage of rum, and it’s a devotion unique from elsewhere in the world. This authenticity is what makes Havana Club rum one of the best.