Meet the people making Havana Club rum
JOSE NAVARRO - LOYALTY IS HIS STRENGTH
“A garden of aromas", a drink full of mystical nuances that ensures an experience full of exotic flavors so says Don Jose Navarro about Havana Club 7. Navarro, a man that could claim to be the creator of this world famous rum; however, he modestly prefers to recognize the anonymous and generous work of men who crafted and preserved the aged rum bases before him. So that when the time came, he could blend them together and thus create a top quality product like never before. Don Navarro, “Primer Maestro del Ron Cubano”, thinks that loyalty is his greatest virtue. Loyal to his work, his culture, his family. He enjoys a good game of baseball, and when it comes to spending time with friends he prefers to play dominoes, a game that requires concentration, mindfulness and a sense of observation and in which there is always a strategy. He says he gave all he could in life, without limit. Very proud of his family: four children and nine grandchildren, "all university graduates, all decent, what else I can ask?"
RAUL DE LA VEGA - HOLDER OF THE LONGEST RECORD
That bottle of Havana Club 7 that you are about to enjoy peacefully in the company of family and friends, was shipped to you thanks to the efforts of Raul de la Vega, a custom agent of this prestigious brand. He is one of the Havana Club agents in the Cuban Customs authorities and takes care of everything that relates to exporting this rum out of Cuba. Perhaps no one has laid hands on so many Havana Club 7 bottles as Raul, at least on paper. 63-year-old Raul is passionate about intense and complex aromas of this rum, which he always drinks in moderation. He confesses when he opens a bottle he always noses the liquid first to soak up the aromas. His hobby is dancing. He can dance salsa tirelessly and when his wife is his partner, he can dance even longer. He loves to share a good meal with his family and he is never reluctant to seek a meeting with friends to have a great time.
ROBERTO SUAREZ - FROM THE BATTER’S BOX
Roberto Suarez has been luckier holding jobs than holding on to women. He is 44 years old and has been married 5 times, on the contrary he has held just 3 steady jobs. Founder of the distillery of San Jose de las Lajas where Havana Club 7 is made, he was involved with it even before it opened in 2007. Today he holds the post of bottling shift team leader. It is in the bottling section where the very last touch to the product is given thus its significance “because the eyes are the first catcher of our pitch”, confesses Roberto, using his baseball jargon. His superiors and colleagues consider him a major “asset” because of his commitment and passion. Roberto enjoys spending his free time with his family especially when his is with his children. As the good Cuban that he is, he loves baseball, he is a complete fan of Cuba’s national sport. Which he enjoys by either playing it himself or by watching it. A real proud father on weekends what he enjoys the most is watching his youngest son train with his team.
YARIEN RUIZ - PRIVILEGED HANDS
Yarién Ruiz is one of the carpenters (coopers) at the Ronera of San Jose de las Lajas where Havana Club 7 is made. This is an understatement, a half-truth, because Yarién is a real artist with privileged hands capable of turning into a small masterpiece the discarded waste of barrels. In fact, in the Havana Club Rum Museum in Old Havana, as in the distillery itself you can find seats, counters and shelves that 34-year-old founder of the Ronera, created with pieces of barrels that others would not have known what to do with. He learned from his craft to love what he creates and to see in the barrel the mystery hidden in them. He likes to go freshwater fishing with his son and loves going to the beach, especially when he shares the day with family and friends, whom he always tries to convince he once catch the largest fish in his town.
ALBERTO MARTINEZ - ALWAYS READY TO FIX THINGS
Electrical engineer Alberto Martinez believes that it was a blessing to have found a job at the Havana Club distillery; a place that opened the gates for him to improve his professional level through overseas training (Switzerland and Germany). However, he reckons all this training is not enough if there is no will or desire in the person for self-improvement. He is the main maintenance specialist in automatic control at the Ronera San Jose de las Lajas, a distillery with a mix of high technology and traditional methods, a working place that represents for him not only a great school but also a vehicle to implement his innovative ideas, some of which have proven to be very successful. However, these successes have not had any effect on Albe, as he is affectionately called by his closest colleagues. His teammates consider him as a hard-working man, intelligent, good friend. He is always ready to give a hand or an idea to those who may need it. Already 33, he is an open and cheerful man, there is nothing hidden, and he likes to spend his free time very close to his little daughter and his wife. Always around them, he enjoys his favorite hobbies: reading and fixing electronic devices.
MANUEL CALDERÓN - AN EXAMPLE OF IRON DISCIPLINE
Chemical Engineer, Manuel Calderon, is a real Cuban Maestro Ronero about whom you barely hear anything outside the Ronera (rum distillery) San Jose de las Lajas; nevertheless, he watches over the crafting of Havana Club 7 with as much pride and passion as if he was Don Navarro himself, the renowned creator of this rum. His humbleness may disarm you and his discipline is so strict to the point of making you question if he is a friendly person. When one inquires how much of him there is in a bottle of Havana 7, he replies that his portion is very difficult to quantify since each bottle represents a legacy of involvement that starts with those maestros before him and extends to those who make it today. Reading is amongst the passions of this wise and discerning man; he is worried about the deterioration of the environment and strongly believes time is precious. A day without learning something new, he says, is a sin for which there is no forgiveness.
AGUSTIN COCA - CONFIDENCE OF YOUTH
It all started for professor and chemical engineer Coca, when he felt the urge to put into practice all he learned at University and prove himself capable to do more than just teach. This desire would bring a change in his life that Coca, with the confidence of youth, was willing to make. Coca is a founder of the distillery and as a result of a lot of hard work has become head of the distilling area, where the aguardientes are born, and the rum crafting process starts, in other terms he is a master distiller. Married, his most precious treasures are his two children. 35-year-old Coca is a good-natured man, talkative and very passionate about all he does. A real fan of demanding sports like football which he likes to enjoy in the company of his colleagues. Whenever he plays, he confesses, his determination is to win at all costs.
EDDY MENDOZA - NEITHER MAGIC NOR MISTERY, JUST DISCIPLINE
Holder of a degree in Mathematics and a former professor at the University of Medical Sciences never for a moment did it cross this man’s mind that he would be working at a rum distillery and that he would become the right hand man of a rum master. As a master blender, 36-year-old Eddy Garcia is directly involved in the elaboration of Havana Club 7: his intervention is one of the key moments in the process; since it is here when aspects like the color and the alcoholic strength of the product are finally calibrated. There is no magic or mystery in what he does. Everything comes from hard work and rigorous technological discipline; he is satisfied with the expertise he has acquired. Eddy enjoys the company of his family, listens to music and, in his spare time practices with passion baseball and football, sports that he shares with colleague Agustín Coca as a teammate. Moments of rest that he values fully when leaving aside the arduous process of blending, something he knows like few others.
JOSEFINA SIERRA - AN ANGEL OF KINDNESS
Radiating with the charisma of her majority, Josefina Sierra looks reflective, deep and mysterious, capable of keeping a secret to the death. It is not a surprise that she is the person leading the Sensory Panel at the distillery where Havana Club 7 is crafted. An angel of kindness is how some of her colleagues refer to her and you would think that being like this would hinder her job, on the contrary, people respect her judgement and her evaluations are strict and fair. Josefina and her team are responsible for making sure that all instructions of the Maestros Roneros have been properly implemented along the whole production process. If that is not the case, she has the authority to turn down a whole batch. The life of foods production specialist Josefina turns around her two passions: her work and her family and she is immensely proud of her 2 children, 11 and 21. There is nothing she enjoys more than when she is with her family cooking their favorite dishes, a practice she takes as seriously as when she is doing her job at the distillery.
MIGUEL MONTES DE OCA - A MAN OF MANY TALENTS
48-year-old Miguel Montes de Oca seems to have a solution for every problem. His main mission at the San Jose de las Lajas distillery is to look after the ageing of the rums and the aguardientes. Always surrounded by thousands of barrels he enjoys the silence and quietness of the ageing cellars. He is all versatility; he could make a living in various ways since he is a massage therapist, paramedic, physiotherapist and martial arts expert. He also has a diploma certifying him as an intermediate graduate in veterinary medicine. At University, he taught practical classes of artificial insemination. Of peasant origin, he is also a member of the Cuban Association of Animal Production and he is very passionate about animals, especially horses. However, there is a craft he loves most: bartending, he is a total magician when it comes to the preparation of cocktails like the Cuban classics: Mojito and Daiquiri, as well as the ones of his own creation in which he uses Havana Club 7.