Havana Club Tributo 2018

15 Mar. 2018
Smoke, meet Cuban rum.

When does a tradition become a tradition? Is doing something three years in a row enough? If so, then we can happily say that, as per tradition Havana Club launched the latest release in the Tributo collection at last month’s Cigar Habanos Festival in Havana.
If you didn’t pay attention or are just too focused on making cocktails to notice very special rum releases, a quick reminder: Tributo is a collection that was launched in 2016; it pays tribute to diverse aspects of the authentic – and quite idiosyncratic – Cuban rum production process. With each edition, prepared under the auspices of our Maestro del Ron Cubano Asbel Morales, the focuses changes. And for the Havana Club Tributo 2018, Don Asbel looked at oak cask maturation and its effect on Cuban rum.
As you may know, the Maestros del Ron Cubano are not expecting barrels to provide a huge hit of flavour. They think their aguardiente tastes good enough on its own: it has to be treated gently. That’s why they prefer to work with older barrels, already stripped from the most aggressive aromatic components. And while all barrels at Havana Club are old, their ages obviously vary – so does their use. It all depends on what the Maestros are aiming to achieve on any given batch. For instance, they use particularly old barrels to bring complexity and a better integration of flavours. But if they are after a more aromatic strength for a particular base, they’ll opt for more active barrels (“younger” ones). Without surprise, the oldest barrels are used for extra old rums: they are ‘quiet’ and ‘wise’ and will better give the subtle treatment that our more matured reserves need.
As befits such a special rum, Havana Club Tributo 2018 is of course based on some of the brand’s oldest and finest reserves. The blend Asbel Morales came up with showcases the expertise of the Maestros when it comes to playing with oak. But that is true of all Havana Club rums, in particular of the most exclusive bottlings, such as Havana Club 15 or Maximo. What makes Tributo 2018 extra special is that the rum was finished in barrels that had previously held peaty scotch whiskies. A first in Cuba, described by the Maestro as “a manifestation of our proud Cuban heritage interpreted for modern rum drinkers”. It’s “a true Cuban rum with a unique taste that pays homage to the influence of the cask in the different varieties and styles of Cuban rum”.
The smoky whisky cask finish has a subtle yet distinctive effect on what remains a quintessential Cuban rum. The connoisseurs will particularly enjoy the notes of smoke, seaweed and iodine that complement the typical flavours of the finest aged Cuban rums.
Admittedly, such an exceptional product released in such a small run (2500 bottles) comes at a price. Our Bar News reader won’t want to mix this one in cocktails. But if you get the opportunity to taste this beauty, it will certainly give you a better appreciation of the art and vision of the Maestros. We can’t wait to discover what Asbel Morales has in store for 2019!

François Monti