Due to a complicated history involving the Cuban Revolution and the nationalization of the country’s rum industry, there are two Havana Clubs—one made in Cuba and one made in Puerto Rico. Bacardí seeks to take back the historic name that the Fidel regime stole with its Añejo Clásico Puerto Rican Rum, and claims to use the same recipe as the family that originally created the product. But although this aged rum is affordable and works just fine in mixed drinks, it doesn’t compare to the original bottle or the current Cuban version.
Classification aged Puerto Rican rum
Distillery Bacardí (Puerto Rico)
Still Type copper column
Proof 80 (40% ABV)
Aged Up to three years in an undisclosed location, then re-blended and aged in the Caribbean for another three months
An affordable aged rum that should appeal to casual rum drinkers
Bacardí is seeking to right a historical wrong by taking back the Havana Club name, which the Castro regime stole decades ago, with the cooperation of the family that launched it in the 1930s.
The more knowledgeable one is about rum and rum history, the more this bottle disappoints.
Regardless of who should have the rights to the name, the Puerto Rican Havana Club pales in comparison to the Cuban version.
Color: Light copper
Nose: Quite intriguing, with dried apricot and pineapple, brown sugar, and hints of light tobacco and tea
Palate: Very sweet and heavy on the vanilla and brown sugar with subdued caramel, leading into fruity notes of papaya and raisin. The mouthfeel is slightly thin and watery.
Finish: Medium length and sweet. Molasses and raisin flavors combine with subtle hints of oak and char.
Havana Club was introduced in 1934 by the Arechabala family, one of the foremost rum producers in Cuba. After Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and nationalized the country’s rum industry, taking the Havana Club name away from the Arechabalas, the history became pretty convoluted. Long story short: There are now two Havana Club rums—one made in Cuba in partnership with spirits giant Pernod Ricard and sold everywhere except the United States, which has a long-running trade embargo with Cuba. The other, which we’re talking about here, is made in Puerto Rico by Bacardí—the company claims the rights to the name in the U.S. and made a deal with the Arechabalas back in the ’90s to use their original recipe. It’s a gripping backstory, especially if you’re a trademark lawyer. But how is the bottle for rummies who just want a glass of something tasty to sip or mix into a cocktail?
Havana Club Añejo Clasico—the Bacardí one—is adequate as a sipper or mixer, if not terribly exciting. Its big problem is the name on the label. It doesn’t do justice to the myth of the original Arechabala Havana Club, and it pales in direct comparison to the current Cuban version. The whole idea of “Havana Club” being made in Puerto Rico is also just plain confusing, but that’s another story.
At 80 proof, Havana Club is a little watered down and light on the palate. A higher proof would amplify the flavors somewhat and perhaps temper the sweetness that is this rum's dominant characteristic. It’s not too cloying to sip, but it doesn’t have the body and bold flavor that a good sipper requires, and we wouldn’t suggest drinking it on the rocks. In simple cocktails like a Rum Old Fashioned or a Cuba Libre, it holds its own, and for those who use rum as a base ingredient in frozen cocktails or punches, it’ll do just fine. But serious rum drinkers should ignore the historic name and look elsewhere for their next bottle.
Bacardí wasn’t always produced in Puerto Rico. The company originated in Cuba, and back in the 1930s, the Arechabalas’ Havana Club rum was a competitor. But by the early ’60s, both companies had left Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro’s nationalization of the country’s rum industry, which included taking the Havana Club name away from the Arechabalas. In light of the American trade embargo against Cuba, Bacardí licensed the name for use in the States, and also made a deal with the Arechabalas to position itself as the true, legitimate Havana Club.