Mon, Apr 09, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Cuban rum and the end run around the US blockade

It was in Cuba 150 years ago that light Spanish-style rum was first created, which through natural aging in white oak casks, blending and skill, has evolved into the softer, darker, more subtle version consumed today

By Moises Avila  /  AFP, SAN JOS DE LAS LAJAS, Cuba

“To me as a bartender, both rums can be used in different ways as a base for cocktails that showcase their qualities. I find the Cuban version a little sweeter on the palate with the Puerto Rican version drier.”

German tourist Curosch Zandi, 41, is a fan.

“Cuban rum? I don’t know, there is something special about the taste. Maybe it’s about the country,” he said after buying a bottle at the Rum Museum in Havana.

RUM MASTER

The human touch is key to a rum’s flavor.

“The role the rum master plays, what he has in his mind, nose, throat, identify the profile of product he wants to obtain,” Morales said.

“Without the master who controls the process from the raw material to the finished product, it is impossible to make Cuban rum.”

Burrell says a rum master is “like an artist using a palette,” blending rums from different distilling columns to create a final product that matches the desired flavor profile.

In Cuba, there are eight rum masters — including one woman — who benefit from a tradition passed from generation to generation.

And those old white oak barrels are critical. They have been used to age whiskey, and are essential to the rich color and natural flavors of the rum. The master selects the specific barrel for each batch and decides how long to age it there. For example, vanilla notes become apparent after 10 years.

The highest quality rums are aged in 60-year-old barrels, in which only oxygen, time and the wood contribute to the smooth liquor’s flavor.

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