Havana Club vs. Havana Club

blog-post-1           I’ve never been much of a rum fan. Sure, it’s great in Pina Coladas and other summer libations, but to drink it neat or on the rocks, I always felt it was too sweet. Then I went to Cuba.

Relaxing at the Palacio de las Artesanías in Havana

Partaking in your daily imbibe on the island comes with limits. There are only a handful of Cuban beers, all of which are light lagers except one, and that one is usually sold out. Cubans aren’t into wine, so finding a bottle of vino is nearly impossible. Bourbon, Tequila and other spirits are in short supply too. But rum, rum is everywhere, and, as they say, when in Havana … so why not. I had just lit up a Partagas Serie D #4, and it was now time to try the rum, “on the rocks please!”

To my surprise, it was delightful. Still sweet, but dry enough to enjoy. Maybe the warmer weather was affecting my taste buds, or perhaps the savory spiciness of the cigar balanced it out. Either way, a few bottles (and cigars) were emigrating back with me.

Now that I’m home, and one bottle of Cuban rum poorer, I got curious to see how Bacardi’s Havana Club (produced in Puerto Rico) compared to the real McCoy. Of course a true comparison is impossible since Bacardi’s offerings are limited to only two, and the Cubans produce at least a dozen variations of Havana Club, but here it goes.

blog-post-3            To start, I choose the Bacardi’s Havana Club Anejo Clasico, which is listed as being aged 1 to 3 years. (I assume this means it’s a blend.) Both the aroma and initial flavor was filled with oak and a bit of pepper. The pepper quickly fades though, leaving just a tingle, and blossoms into a semi-sweet caramel and vanilla. The finish is somewhat short, lasting only about 15 seconds, and the body medium. Now moving to the Cuban version.

The best and most common Cuban Havana Club for sipping is Anejo 7 Anos, aged for seven years, and is quite remarkable but an unfair comparison to Bacardi’s version. Instead, I choose to compare the Havana Club Anejo Reserva, which is aged slightly less but more then the Bacardi. blog-post-4The Reserva has a creamy and cedar aroma, and begins with an intense caramel flavor along with a semi-dry vanilla and cream. As the vanilla and cream start to develop, some nutmeg emerges, perhaps a hint of allspice, and then a light white pepper takes over. The finish is rather long, lasting a couple of minutes, and the body a bit more then medium.

Without tasting the Cuban version, I would likely find the Bacardi Havana Club a pleasing spirit, albeit simple in taste. However, the Cuban version is much more approachable for having it on the rocks, with its slightly drier taste, and is certainly more complex.

With this being said, even the Reserva may not have been the fairest comparison. The Cubans also make an Anejo Especial that is contrasted against the Reserva as being sweeter and less spicy, which may be more comparable. Unfortunately when I was in Havana, I did not see any bottles of Especial whereas the Reserva was all over. Maybe on my next trip to Cuba, I’ll be able to bring a couple bottles of that back.


Tasting Notes

Bacardi Havana Club Anejo Clasico

·      Oaky and bit of pepper


·      Nice medium oak with some pepper. Pepper quickly fades to a tingle on the palate.


·      Blossoms in a nice vanilla and caramel with a hint of oak and sweetness.


·      Medium body with a short finish. Flavor dissipates quickly.


Cuban Havana Club Reserva


·      Creamy, cedar


·      Intense caramel and oak flavor with a touch of vanilla and cream, semi-dry start.


·      Quickly starts to develop into a nutmeg spice giving an overall tingle to the tounge. A touch of white pepper enters and then fades.


·      Medium-full body with a long finish. Light pepper and spice lingers on the palate for a couple of minutes.

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