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Cuban rum a gift to the palate.
When visiting Cuba, many people come in search of the sun, the heat, the beaches with white sand, but others prefer to please the palate with Cuban rum, a drink that gives prestige to the largest of the Antilles.
To talk about rum, it is necessary to know that the first attempt came with the brandy obtained from sugar cane, which in turn came with Christopher Columbus, the Admiral, on his second trip to America in 1493.
The cane from the Canary Islands adapted very easily to the climate and to the land of Cuba, still virgin and little cultivated. The aborigines were the first to discover how much could be done with this fine stem.
First they obtained the juice, then with the Spanish settlement and the construction of mills, refineries, and sugar mills multiplied production and results.
The rum, a by-product of the cane, was obtained in an artisanal way and little by little, as it was an excellent business, it was produced in small factories until it reached unlimited productions and varieties to choose from.
More than 500 years after the arrival of cane in Cuba and with all the process that led to obtaining exquisite rums, the drink remains in the taste of Cubans and foreigners. It presides over important and small celebrations, love encounters and other moments of life.
Knowing its history, the types of rum produced in Cuba and where you can find them can facilitate moments of relaxation when visiting the island.
Origins of Cuban rum.
Many stories surround the rise of this universal drink. In the Caribbean specifically, it is said that corsairs and pirates were the first to manufacture it. In their constant attacks to obtain loot, they kept it as another gem, around 1650 they called it rumbillion.
Later in the sixteenth century, with the arrival of African blacks, the story continued. Slaves fermented cassava and corn, they called this drink guarapo. But then with the work in the cane fields, they realized that the sweet juice obtained from the cane and then fermented, provided a strong liquor.
First they obtained it in a rudimentary way and then through the sugar mills. The primitive guarapo was transformed into alcohol and from there arose the brandy.
The brandy had a strong taste and smell. It was a highly appreciated drink because after a night of drinking the fearsome headache, characteristic of a hangover, did not appear.
They distilled it again and again and then came the rum that until the 19th century did not find the necessary quality or the competition to be chosen as a drink of excellence.
The secret is kept by the Master.
The Rum Masters of cuban rum
The rum has its history, the cane also, but behind the elaboration of this important drink there are the Rum Masters, specialists in finding the bouquet, the smell, the grade and the aging necessary for the Cuban rum to have the quality that is required.
The rum masters keep the oldest secrets of the industry and not only have knowledge of the technical part, but also have a thorough knowledge of raw materials. They select and identify what is necessary to achieve a better product and they even dare to venture into technological improvements with equipment designs so that quality is the word of order and a natural rum is obtained that will make the palate fall in love.
José Navarro, First Master Ronero of Havana Club.
Perhaps we got a little ahead of ourselves by mentioning the Ron Havana Club, but it is necessary to introduce its master ronero. His name is José Navarro, a native of Santiago, a chemical engineer and who has dedicated many years of his life to the country’s rum industry.
He reaffirms that each rum master must know the barrels, the raw materials and that beyond the secrets and formulas, one must stick to the culture, know it and carry it like a flag.
Three important rums of Cuba.
The distillation of the brandy over and over again and obtaining the rum with much higher quality and acceptance led to the emergence of the distilleries and the various brands.
Distilleries appeared in Cárdenas, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and Havana and various brands prevailed in Cuba and the world, including Matusalem, Jiquí, Bocoy, Campeón, Obispo, San Carlos, Albuerne, Castillo, Bacardi and the most famous, the Havana Club.
Matusalem rum was born in 1872. Spanish brothers Benjamín and Eduardo Camp, together with Evaristo Álvarez, set out to create the smoothest and highest quality rum up to that time.
The first thing was to open the distillery and inspired by the way of making cognac and brandy, they invented a formula, which was passed down from generation to generation in absolute secrecy.
They named it Matusalem, as the biblical character recognized for his many years and in this case alluding to aging. It received the highest honors in 1881, 1904 and 1911 respectively, and all of this is also related to the history of the region.
It is recognized as the rum of the golden age of Cuba. The Dry Law in the United States between 1929 and 1933, attracted North American tourism at a stage where Havana was considered “the Paris of the Americas” for its shows and parties.
Matusalem at issue.
1959 brought with it the exile of the production family and owner of the Company and began the fight for control of the brand. In the 1990s, Dr. Claudio Álvarez, great-grandson of the founder, litigates to recover it and an out-of-court settlement five years later gives him control of it.
From that date on, production focuses solely on the production of Premium varieties. It is produced under the highest standards and bottled in the Dominican Republic, preserving the original formula. In 2002 Matusalem was relaunched as a range of high-quality rums.
But you never forget that it was in Santiago de Cuba where it was created and for so many years, more than 140, it remains a world reference for its quality and excellence.
Ron Bacardí is another of those created in Santiago de Cuba. In 1862, the Bacardi brothers bought one of the city’s distilleries and adopted the bat as a symbol of their rums.
Initially they sold rum packaged in gallon containers that had previously been used for an olive oil firm that had a bat as a brand. The buyers began to recognize it and to order it as the rum of the bat, this is how this important Cuban brand was born.
During almost the entire 19th century and part of the 20th, Bacardi was the best and largest rum factory exporter in Cuba, but 1959 arrived and the nationalization of large private companies. The owners of the Bacardi also emigrated and took the brand, however, they were unable to obtain the good taste of Cuban rum.
Today Bacardi is still an alcoholic beverage company. Its international headquarters are in Bermuda, although it also has offices in Mexico, Miami, and Puerto Rico.
Bacardí has the largest rum distillery in the world and at the same time it continues to be a family and private corporation. In 1992 bought the Italian Martini & Rossi and in 2005 the Ron Bacardi was the second best-selling in the world.
It also has other important brands: Vodka Eristoff, Dewar’s whiskey and Bombay Sapphire gin, among others.
Havana Club, the Cuban rum.
1959 marked the point of reorganization and expansion of the Cuban rum industry. The Havana Club reappeared, a brand founded in Cárdenas in l878 and dedicated to export with its Giraldilla emblem, a statuette that also identifies the city of Havana.
In l993 the brand was presented under the Franco-Cuban signature Havana Club International S.A. and produces Añejos Blanco, Tres Años Especial, Reserva Siete años and Quince años, in addition to the younger Cuban Barrel Proof and the Extra Añejo Máximo.
It is important to note that for a long time the Havana Club Rum was alone in the world market, but currently other brands have also established themselves in the world market: Mulata, Caney, Arecha, Legendario, Varadero, Santero and Caney.
The history of rum seen through museums.
Many tourists while visiting Cuba, choose a bottle of rum, some very precious to take as a gift or souvenir. However, many do not know of the existence of museums where you can access not only the history and evolution of the rum industry, but also where you can appreciate the details of the elaboration of one of this drink. During your stay you can visit the Havana Rum Museum and the Santiago de Cuba Museum, both of the Cuba Ron S.A. Corporation.
The Museum of Rum in Havana.
The Museum of Rum in Havana is located in a colonial mansion from the 18th century. It is the old “Casa del Conde de la Mortera”, facing the Bay of Havana, on Calle San Pedro 262.
A guided tour will give you access to the entire history of rum and the discovery of a jewel of Havana architecture. On the first floor is the cooper’s workshop. There the crafts used to build and prepare the oak barrels where the rums age are exhibited.
Next, a gallery shows an original cane mill of those operated by mules in the first sugar refineries. There is a 1902 steam locomotive, and models of old rum refineries and distilleries are exhibited, with large chimneys and mills.
There is also the fermentation and distillation zone where a heady aroma is breathed. You can see the wooden barrels, the copper distillation columns, linked by tubes that transport the rum to large tanks.
In the aging cellars the barrels rest patiently waiting for the passing of the years to uncover. There is a model of the sugar mill La Esperanza from 1930.
The tasting area with its wooden bar is a favorite among visitors. There they try the varieties of Cuban rum, a service included in the price of admission to the premises.
Optionally, you can end the visit in the store where you can buy various brands of rum and items such as tobacco, glasses, stirrers and phosphoresters from the Havana Club brand, among other souvenirs.
There is also the museum’s bar-restaurant, where famous Cuban cocktails such as Mojito, Daiquirí and Guarábana are prepared, the house’s specialty, a mixture of Añejo Blanco rum, sugar cane juice and orange juice, very refreshing and tasty.
While in Cuba, be sure to try any of the brands that prestige the island’s rum industry, a very special invitation.