Available in just about every nation on the planet that imports rum, its not available in the United States. US President John F. Kennedy placed an embargo against Cuba making all products from that country illegal, including anything Cuba was famous for like sugar, cigars and rum. Is it a big deal? Well, Cuban rum, like its cigars are exceptional. However, as time goes on, other countries find a way to improve, innovate and excel over the original masters.
Rum is one of those spirits that you would never think to drink neat and/or straight up. Its always something you would automatically think to mix with cola, with juice and/or with a Tiki or Polynesian cocktail. But when you do come across a really fine rum that has been aged in an oak barrel or made from the very finest ingredients, then you will take notice and discover there is a lot more to rum than coke.
Havana Club is my most favorite and best tasting rum, and I’ve tasted a lot of rum. The very first time I tasted Cuban rum is when I was on assignment in Aruba, a Dutch territory. I spotted it at the bar after a long flight and I asked for a shot straight up. It was sweet, smooth and the very best spirit I’ve ever tasted in that way, right from a bottle off the shelf, at the bar, straight up.
Now if you live in the United States, you can’t legally buy or enjoy Cuban rum. And trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve been buying, smoking and enjoying Cuban cigars for well over 20 years now. But I never came across Cuban rum. So, what do I do? I can drive 6-7 hours up to Canada where its legal, or take a 5 hour flight by plane to someplace like Aruba. Yes, Cuba is closer, but US Citizens cannot legally visit Cuba. Even if you are a journalist, it takes a great deal of documentation and clearance before you can even think of visiting.
So what do you do? Well, a 6-hour ride from NJ/NY to Canada is not such a bad thing, and a 5-hour flight to Aruba is even better. Outside of that you still have plenty of options like rum from Venezuela. Cuba and Venezuela are close allies and go together like bread and butter. Its not a stretch to think they share the same sugars, molasses, techniques, technology and other things close friends share. But there are also places closer to Cuba like Haiti and Jamaica that have equally good rum from similar regions.
The bottom line is you have to taste a lot and lot and lots of rum to really determine which is the best or of the best quality. I love Havana Club, and I’ve tasted all 5 of their major varieties (Blanco, 3yr old, 5yr old, 7yr Añejo and even the Maestro, and while its all exceptional, if you could ever taste Puntacanca Tesoro 15 year old rum finished in single malt barrels, you will forget rum from Cuba even was the topic of discussion.
If you are a rum aficionado, yes, find a way to try, taste and enjoy it. However, if you can’t, there are plenty of other fine rums out there which even surpass anything produced in Cuba.
¡VIVA LA REVOLUCIÓN!