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Rum Review: Matusalem Gran Reserva Solera 15

Ron Matusalem 15

Matusalem & Company was founded in Cuba in 1872 by two brothers from Spain. Their expertise in brandy-making translated well into rum production, and the company enjoyed success until the 1959 Cuban Revolution forced them into exile. A struggle for control among the founders’ heirs kept the brand out of the market for decades, but a 1995 settlement allowed Matusalem to re-enter the market with a Dominican-made product in 2002. I’ve only had the platino so far, so I’m looking forward to trying the 15 year-old; let’s get to it!

The dark brown bottle is fairly short with an antiqued label bearing a watermarked map, over which the metallic red Matusalem logo is emblazoned. The word “CUBA” is prominently featured on the label despite the fact that this is a Dominican product. The bottle is sealed by a natural cork stopper attached to a plastic top that appears wooden. On the very top of the stopper is a raised representation of the Matusalem swallow carrying a ribbon.

In the glass, the color is golden to copper. A swirl produces several legs around the top that move at a medium pace. As I move in, I detect very little astringency, and the initial aromas are of orange and vanilla supported by an oaken base.

The first sip produces a very pleasant sensation as the seemingly mellow spirit bursts forth onto the palate with bright notes of citrus and spice followed by caramel and dark fruit. It’s almost as if I’m drinking two rums at once—young and old. As I evaluate further, I pick up pepper and allspice with a slightly dusty oak note. The rum hits the back of the throat with a rich ripe plum flavor suggesting some sort of fantastic chutney. As I stop to appreciate the finish, my mouth remains in a heightened state of joy as the bright notes fade and give way to baking spices and caramelized sugar.

This is just my second experience with a Matusalem rum, but it won’t be the last. With such a nice 15-year expression, I’m keen to try the 18 and 23.

On to the scores:

Appearance: 1/1
Nose: 1.5/2
Mouth feel: 1/1
Taste: 3.5/4
Aftertaste: 2/2
Total Score: 9/10

Buy Matusalem 15-Year online

Have you had the chance to try the Matusalem 15? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Aloha,
Josh

5 Comments leave one →
  1. M.R.J. permalink
    April 22, 2013 4:42 am

    You do know that Matusalem gets its flavours from extracts of macerated beans, prunes, fruits, is heavily laced with sugar, and this is why it tastes as it does? It is basically cheap column-distilled neutral alcohol that is artificially made to taste as it does.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      April 23, 2013 8:22 am

      Thanks for your comment, MRJ. I have heard a variety of interesting production notes about Matusalem, prune macerate included. As much as I’d like to know what goes into the rums I enjoy, the most important thing for me is that I enjoy them. If Matusalem really started out with cheap neutral spirit and ended up with this stuff, then my hat is off to them, because that’s an incredible achievement.

      One of the things that makes rum so interesting to me is variety. We both know that starting with juice, miel or molasses gives you completely different products. Ditto for the yeast used in fermentation. Different barrel finishes yield even more flavor variations, but what does further adulteration matter? We all know caramel color is added. We all know some measure of sweetener is added to many rums. I’m not terribly concerned with it, personally–this isn’t single malt Scotch we’re talking about. At least they’re not adding dead cattle to the tank to jump-start the fermentations anymore!

      When it comes down to it, I just want to drink cane distillate that tastes great, and this is one that I quite enjoy.

      • April 23, 2013 9:06 am

        Never underestimate the power of a goat’s head to get a traditional fermentation cycle activated! Seriously, postulating on how rum is made is largely a waste of time. Many such stories are told by competitors. You can choose to spend your time denigrating good products — or drinking them. Hint: if you spend more time attacking rum that enjoying it, move to another category and spare your rum-loving friends the agony of listening to your miserable diatribes ad nauseum. I like this rum very much.

        p.s. does anyone know or care what’s in Coca-Cola?

      • May 27, 2013 6:40 am

        Josh, if you (or Burr below) feel that it simply doesn’t matter whether your super-premium rum is the result of 20 years of aging or of 20 grams of flavoring, then there’s really no difference between “rum” and “flavored rum”.

        If all we care about is that rum is tasty and fun, then why bother with expensive pot stilling or long aging when a cupful of additives can imitate them for far less cost and for far more profit. It’s all good, right? The same basic rum can then be made to taste many different ways. And when you say “I want to taste distillate that ‘tastes great'”, aren’t you really saying I want my flavored end product to taste great?

        And how then do we distinguish a pure and unadulterated product from one that is if they both are labeled “rum”. I guess Burr forgot the time Richard Seale appeared at one of his Coral Gables tastings to announce a “new product” and offered to give a bottle of Seales Ten to anyone who could guess whether it was pot or column, cane or molasses, and age.

        The talented audience consensus was pot stilled, molasses based, about 7 years old. Seale then did his reveal “I fooled you all. It’s a brand new column stilled rum that I phonied up with vanilla and other things to taste old and complex”. He then made much of the fact that none of his rums contain any additives, are pure and real and are the honest minimum age on the label.

        Burr was there and at least on that day, concurred with Richard. What a difference a few years and a million dollar “fest” makes, eh? The attitude that all it takes is for what is vaguely labeled “rum” is “to taste good”, then we are looking forward to rums by Dupont. Indeed, this trend is already evident as the Big Three (Bacardi, Fortune and Diageo) now make clear that origin doesn’t matter anymore, having been supplanted by their phonied up brand identitties. All they now need is bulk rums acquired from just about anywhere and they’ll do the rest.

        And those who don’t really appreciate the difference, simply won’t care. For rum it’s a race to the bottom, dominated by the Big Three, facilitated by our failure to note, distinguish and value the differences.

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