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Rum Review: Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros

Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros Review

Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros

With the thawing of relations between the USA and Cuba, I thought it would be a good time to offer a review of a Cuban rum. So with that, I give you the Seleccion de Maestros, a premium offering from Havana Club. Coming in at 45% ABV, this bottle would retail for about $50 were it available here.  Blended by Maestro Don Navarro and his team, this rum is “triple barrel aged” according to HC.

From their web site:

Selección de Maestros is a Triple Barrel Aged rum, fruit of a unique process of elaboration: First, the Maestros Roneros gather and select the finest and most exceptional aged rums. These rums are then blended and placed for further ageing in barrels carefully selected for the aromatic properties of their wood, in which the rum will develop its character and intensity. Finally, the Maestros Roneros get together a second time to select the rums that have perfectly matured. They will make up the final blend, bottled straight from the barrel at 45% ABV.

Or in other words, it’s a blended rum with no age statement. OK, got it! Let’s leave the marketing behind and have a look at the product itself.

The clear glass bottle is handsome and classically shaped, with a thick base and a noticeable taper that widens toward the shoulders. The label is quite small, which allows the rum to shine through and be the real star. The words “LA HABANA CUBA” appear in raised letters on the glass, and the neck itself can accommodate four fingers. Peel back the foil atop the bottle, and you’ll find a plastic cap bearing a raised Havana Club logo attached to a natural cork stopper.

In the glass, the rum presents itself with a deep copper color. A swirl shows golden highlights and a thin ring forming atop the glass. The droplets that form descend rapidly, and then a second set appears and fall more slowly. Moving in for a nosing, there is a fair bit of astringency coming off the glass. After allowing the rum to breathe for a moment, the astringent notes give way to lemon peel and cardamom. Beyond these bright notes lies Sherry and caramel, vanilla, dates and raisins.

As the rum washes over the palate, I’m greeted with heaps of dry, dusty oak, and quickly the tongue is rapidly and thoroughly coated with bitter wood extractives and some tobacco. Just past the wood is the Sherry, and then a host of spices including cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. At this point, the acclimation process appears to be taking longer than normal due to the ample oak and spice.  Subsequent sips yield a bit of vanilla and caramel, but I find myself continuing to struggle in the search for additional flavors. Eventually additional fruits come to light, including orange, plantains, pear and tart apples. In the end, the finish provides some dates and raisins, but the wood is the dominant factor, and I feel as though I’ve licked the inside of a barrel. Perhaps instead of a “triple barrel” aging process, they should have stopped at “double”.  Alas.

Buy Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros online

On to the scores:

  • Appearance: 1/1
  • Nose: 1.75/2
  • Mouth feel: .5/1
  • Taste: 2.75/4
  • Aftertaste: 1 /2
  • Total Score: 7/10

Have you tried Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros? Please share your thoughts below.

 

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2015 4:33 am

    A rum worth reviewing. Though I certainly understand and accept the fact that no rum ever receives universally high ratings. That’s reviewing. But it is fair to say that the real Havana Club offerings are highly respected and in general, get extremely high ratings. For example Dave Broom gives mostly 5-stars to the entire HC line, with the sole exception of the entry level 7 year. Which still gets 4-stars. BTI (Beverage Tasting Institute) calls it “exquisitely flavorful and sophisticated.”

    Enviable, but no matter as we all have differing opinions. Which leads to this rather long comment, forgive me.

    It’s worth examing why and I believe the answer is simple. The great body of bottles labeled “rum” are altered – not a new subject – but at last we have real proof of this alteration. Some of the old favorites like Zacapa, Zaya, Diplomatico and yes, Plantation, are all heavily altered with up to 40g of sugar per liter. That’s a LOT of sugar. The HC line varies from minimal or natural wood sugars, to just a touch (4-6g), but in general it is fair to consider them relatively pure and unaltered.

    Therein lies the issue. Since probably 90% of what is sold is mostly altered thin and column stilled product – overly sweet – when you run across a rum that is pure or nearly so the difference can be dramatic. Pure rums surprise us as they don’t taste like the “rum” we know. In comparison it is dry and the flavors more subtle and which must be teased out (unlike the altered rums which also use unlawful added natural and artificial flavors).

    I believe that is the case here. Maestro, though carrying no age statement, is a blend and is reputed to have rums of many ages, from younger, but up to 35 years. As Richard Seales holds, “blending” is a high art and will almost always be better than a single batch aged rum (which cannot possibly match the complexity of a yes, complex blend).

    Whisky drinkers – whose spirits ARE pure – thus tend to really like Maestro for its dryness and complexity. They feel it stands up to some very good single malts or Scotch blends (think Johnny Walker).

    So in sum – if we are to appreciate rum we owe it to ourselves to identify the real, pure and unaltered ones – whose aromas and tastes are honest and unaltered. Real rums are an acquired taste, but that doesn’t take long. Soon enough the sugar bombs will taste like, well, sugar bombs. Carry on, and thanks for the review.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      March 22, 2015 9:46 am

      Your comment seems to suggest that I don’t like this rum because I can’t yet appreciate “pure” rum, which is not the case I assure you. I just didn’t enjoy it–simple as that. If you’ve tasted it and would like to share your opinion, I’d be curious to read what you found enjoyable about it.

      Regarding the differing opinions you mentioned, Dave Broom has been around a lot longer than me, and his credentials and body of work are certainly more impressive. But his opinion has nothing to do with mine, and neither do those of the BTI. I’m kind of surprised that you hold the BTI in high regard given the scores noted below for the rums you mentioned as being impure above:

      BTI Scores:

      Zacapa, 95 points
      http://www.tastings.com/scout_spirits.lasso?id=181265

      Diplomatico Reserva, 93 points
      http://www.tastings.com/scout_spirits.lasso?id=202633

      Plantation Original Dark, 92 points
      http://www.tastings.com/scout_spirits.lasso?id=204993

      Zaya 12, 89 points
      http://www.tastings.com/scout_spirits.lasso?id=188549

      And looking through my copy of Dave’s book “Rum”, it doesn’t look like his scores are “mostly 5-stars” across the line:

      Havana Club Silver, 2.5 stars

      Havana Club Anejo Blanco, 3 stars

      Havana Club Anejo 3 Anos, 4 stars

      Havana Club Anejo Oro ,3.5 stars

      Havana Club Anejo Reserva, 3.5 stars

      Havana Club Anejo 7, 4 stars

      Havana Club San Cristobal de la Habana, 5 stars (very limited and no longer available)

      Havana Club Anejo 15, 5 stars

      Interestingly enough, Dave’s opinion regarding Zacapa seems to line up with the BTI rating:

      Zacapa, 4.5 stars

      Bonus entry that makes me question the entirety of Dave’s work:

      Malibu Coconut, 3 stars, “Conclusion: Well-made”

      So yes, my reviews are nothing more than my opinions, but that is true of the experts’ reviews, too. Cheers

  2. krjstoff permalink
    March 22, 2015 10:39 pm

    Nice review, Josh.

    It is great to read a review that differs from my own opinion of the rum.

    I actually liked it a lot for its lighter style and gentle flavours. I didn’t find it over oaked at all.

    But that is the great thing about opinions 🙂

    Keep up the great work.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      March 23, 2015 7:58 am

      Thanks, Henrik. Looking at your site, I know we agree on many other rums 🙂 BTW, I just added yours to my link section. Cheers

  3. Steve Mackay permalink
    April 15, 2015 10:28 am

    Hi Josh…thanks for the review.
    I believe that this rum replaced the Barrel Proof which I have in stock and agree with you entirely on the review. I have to admit that I expected a better tasting rum..but like you it was just not to my taste.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      April 15, 2015 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Steve! Cheers

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