Cuban rum – by its very nature – has some serious expectations to meet. Between the mystique of being taboo, the equally high bar set by Cuban cigars, and the general buzz of how incredible Cuban rum is supposed to be, it only stands to reason that finally getting your hands on a Cuban bottle should be a moment to celebrate. And as such, the rum itself is certainly expected to be worthy of such a lofty build-up.
My first dissappointment with the Cuban rum was the bottle itself – mainly the screw cap and plastic diffuser. I like corks, and diffusers seem appropriate only with cheap mixers. So why cheapen a dignified rum with one? Well, I have been schooled. It seems that with the diffuser locked in place, it prevents malcontents from drinking a rum, refilling the bottle with some other rum, and then reselling the thing. It makes sense. I still don’t like it, but I recognize the logic, and will try to be less critical of plastic diffusers from here on. (This said, it bears note that to date I’ve only discovered this forgery-defence utilized on highly praised yet over-rated rums, and never on those I would genuinely deem worthy such concerns. In my experience, the best of the best rums remain humbly – and honorably – corked.)
As to the rum…
To the nose, Havana Club 15 was a shock. I’ve smelled many things with a new rum, but never one that was so overwhelming of over-ripe apples. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just very odd. But it’s also not really what I look for in rum. And so on to the taste.
Hey, apples again. Apples with an undercurrent of caramel and syrup. It’s really not bad – layered, but not complex. A definite shift from the ordinary, and just a speck light and refreshing. The trouble is – and I can sometimes be a bastard on this point – I like my rum to be rum. But with Havana Club 15, while I taste many interesting things, I don’t taste much rum. It’s sweet, it’s apple, it’s caramel — but it’s like dating a bubbly blonde cheerleader when you’d meant to hook up with a dusky aztec princess. Where’s the seduction? Where’s the depth and exoticness?
If I ever wish to enjoy some fermented caramel appel with the added thrill of breaking international sanctions, I’ll reach for some Havana Club 15. But if I want RUM, I’ll just as soon reach for a Gosling’s Black Seal.