For many - particularly us Northern Hemisphere city-dwellers - rum is a spirit readily associated with the exotic ideal of endless sunshine and sandy beaches, sipped languidly on holiday in the form of fruity cocktails with novelty umbrellas. For Cubans, it goes deeper. Rum is a way of life, intrinsic to the nation’s culture and representative of a rich history and heritage. Far more than the refreshingly delicious drink so many of us know it as, it manages to connect and celebrate Cuba as well as provide employment for a good deal of the population.
Leading the world’s production of Cuban rum is Havana Club, a label that so perfectly encapsulates the effervescent spirit of Cuba. First distilled by the Arechabala family in 1878 before being officially established as a brand in 1934, it is now loved the world over for its deliciously smooth rums, which are characterised by a perfect synergy between rich sugar cane, famously fertile soil and a perfect tropical climate.
Max Warner, Ambassador for Havana Club’s prestigious Icónica range, attributes the global success of the label down to a combination of science, creativity, passion and patience. “The process starts with growing the sugar cane in some of the most mineral-rich terroir,” he explains. “Cuba has famous soil, perfect for growing coffee, tobacco and of course sugar cane. Harvested perfectly at the right time, sugar is extracted and refined and the remaining molasses are fermented with natural yeast. Column distillation then produces a rich flavoured aguardiente.” Max emphasises the important role of the Maestros Roneros de Ron Cubano, the Masters of Cuban rum and custodians of the age-old tradition of rum making. “It involves their instinct, selection of oak casks, creation of the bases and the blending,” he says. “This is true craftsmanship: to them it makes perfect sense, they live this, they breathe this and ultimately when the moment is perfect and the sun sets, they get together, smile and drink it.”