Vertical tasting rums Santiago de Cuba and pairing with Habanos, held
last November in the VIP lounge and the atrium of the Royal Cigar
Factory Partagas in Havana, Cuba. Event held in the middle of Partagas
Friends Meeting, which is held every year in the famous manufactures,
one of the best places for lovers of Habanos in Havana.
Many times we want to enjoy either a distillate, which we like, but we would like to know
something more of it, get some explanation that makes us understand how you get to get a
product that time, the quality of the raw materials, the ability of those who are responsible for
creating it, and most importantly, the culture behind them and that is what gives rise to them,
it is essential to evaluate and understand them in perspective.
Sometimes, so few when that can happen you’re talking about a real privilege, we are
honored to receive from the hands of creator, in this case a line of high quality rums, we want
explanations, and all knowledge that allows us to understand the wonderful world that hides
behind a rum, and access that unique moment in which a Rum Master reveals some of those
things that usually never said or done it publicly.
This is the case of the vertical tasting held at the Royal Cigar Factory Partagas, in which the
Master Ronero Julio Ayan, from the city of Santiago de Cuba, and one of the creators of
brand Ron Santiago, shared with a small and privileged audience, some of the secrets hidden
behind the making of the best rum in Cuba. There was also an extensive and comprehensive
discussion of all that is behind the culture of rum in Cuba, and the name of the city of Santiago
de Cuba, which was 150 years ago the cradle of Cuban Light Rum, high expression of Cuban
My thanks to Mr. Amir Saarony, friend and connoisseur of the world of Habanos and Cuban
rum, to have the delicacy of note this event and send me a summary of it all, which left at your
The tasting pairing
Last week I was in Havana enjoying the usual cigar and social festivities that is the week of the Encuentro de Amigos de Partagás. As in years past, it was a great time spent with old and new friends, smoking cigars, eating long meals, catching live music and of course, drinking liquid sugar.
This year special treat was truly something special. Thanks to the passionate crew at Ron Santiago, a few friends and I were treated to a rare privilege, a private tasting with blend master Julio Ayan (who was brought in from Santiago for the tastings).
The first tasting took place in the V.I.P. lounge of the LCDH Partagás and was a lesson in history and culture accentuated by a wonderful tasting of the 20 year old Rum Santiago. Sr. Ayan, and Jorge Cardoso (Export Director of the brand) entertained and educated the 8 or so of us in the 150 year history of light rum and the tradition of rum production in Cuba. The second tasting, in the atrium of the Partagás factory was a vertical tasting of the 11, 12, 20 and 25 year old Santiago rums.
I would like to thank everyone involved in creating this special event for my friends and myself. As Ayan told me himself, this is not my job, but a passion, a life. Their passion was evident in every word, and likewise, in every drop. The age on the label is the minimum age of the rum in the blend. The rum is aged in American White Oak barrels, periodically blended and put into new barrels for the duration of the aging. The rum is aged naturally, no solera. This rum, along with Caney and Varadero are created in Ron Santiago distillery, at the location of the old Bacardi
factory, open in 1862.
In the 1930’s Bacardi tried to reproduce the rum they were creating in Puerto Rico and Mexico in order to be closer to some of their markets in the states but were unable to recreate the characteristics of Cuban rum offshore. There are no recipes or blends from before the revolution in use, all the blends were developed post revolution and are a constant evolution under the guidance of Sr. Ayan and his predecessors.
The goal of this journey was not solely to taste rum but to try to make recommendations as to which cigars we believed would best be paired with each. As we know taste is personal and subjective. The notes and recommendations are based on my opinions and comments and those of the other participants.
Rum Santiago de Cuba Superior Aged 11 years old
This was my favorite Cuban rum previous to the tasting. A unique rum, reflecting like no other
you have in Cuba, the essence of old Cuban school. It is a product that is made according to
a recipe of great antiquity, which has not been modified in any part to obtain rum certainly
extraordinary, transmitting the special character of the light rums produced in the city where
they were born 150 years ago.
This rum has a rich caramel colour and the aroma of caramel and slight vanilla. There is a bit of
heat when the rum is in the mouth with sweetness permeating the aftertaste. This rum is not
exported and available only on Cuba.
The heat from this rum will balance well with a full bodied, even spicy cigar. In my opinion the ideal would be either Partagás or Bolivar.
Rum Santiago de Cuba Extra Aged 12 years old
This is a new blend based on the solicitation of a French importer. I was very surprised at the dramatic difference between this and the 11 year old. The colour was slightly darker yet very similar to the 11 year old; the aroma drier and less sweet, with a hint of coconut and vanilla. In the mouth this rum is softer and drier than the previous with less heat upon drinking.
This rum was designed with cigars in mind, conceived as an homage to the Rum Masters of
Santiago de Cuba to the world of the Habano, and I believe it has been successful. Initially
this rum comes from a small reserve of extraordinary quality that makes the Masters of Ron
Santiago, used in those times when they met to discuss their work, was a private reserve,
which had no commercial purpose, but due to its exceptional quality, it was decided to
produce in an amount not very large, such as a homage to the world of Habano and their
meaning. It is the only rum produced in Cuba and in the world, which has been conceived
and designed to pair with cigars Habanos, a real work of art of Cuban light rum distilling
consecrated to serve exquisite companion as an exceptional product like Habanos.
It can accompany most cigars from full strength to medium. My recommendation would be something along the lines of a Montecristo or Hoyo de Monterrey. Production is limited to 4,500 cases of 6 bottles.
Rum Santiago de Cuba Extra Aged 20 years old
At this point we are experiencing a whole new world of rum. The colour is extremely rich burnt caramel with a hint of redness when held to a light. Very brilliant tone. When swirled in the glass one witnesses long lasting legs that would be the envy of most wines. The aroma is of sweet caramel, coco and cream. Almost reminds one of tiramisu.
The nose is exposed to fruitiness and a tremendous balance of enticement. The dry glass holds the distinctive aroma after half an hour and we are told will do so for 24 hours. Even in the dry glass the aroma is distinctive enough to identify the rum after it is drunk.
The taste is rich and well rounded. You can sense the molasses and the aftertaste is long and sweet. This rum was created to celebrate the 485 anniversary of the founding of the
city of Santiago de Cuba. Therefore, and special meetings, it was decided to bring to light, one
of the best Cuban light rum reserves, one of those who are dedicated to unique and exclusive
event, where it is necessary to have available a special product, other than everything and
extraordinary quality. Honestly I think it’s one of the best things that has ever tasted.
This rum is very limited in production (3,000 cases of 6) and deserves the smoothness of a
Cohiba, specifically the BHK series. I would not pair this with a full bodied spicy cigar as it will
not allow the subtlety of the rum to shine.
Rum Santiago de Cuba Extra Aged 25 years old
Offered a rich and deep burnt caramel colour and aroma. This rum is very delicate and refined. The nuances tease the palette long after the rum has been swallowed. To say this rum has legs on the glass is an understatement. It appears to leave the glass completely coated when swirled. This is a rare delicacy with production limited to 2,000 cases of 4 bottles each.
Such a special rum deserves to be accompanied by a special cigar. I cannot think of any new cigar that would not deter from the experience. Two cigars immediately came to mind: Trinidad Fundadores from 1998-9 era, and the La Gloria Cubana Medalle D’Or No. 1 from 1997-8. Regardless what you choose, it will have to be a complex delicate cigar. In my humble opinion, the honey notes of the LGC would be a superb compliment.
This 25 years old, born like 20 years to commemorate an important date, for it is only in those
in which it is decided to make available to lovers of Cuban light rum, the extraordinary quality
reserves of the city. In this case the timing was the commemoration of the 490th anniversary
of the founding of the city of Santiago de Cuba.
There are moments that are memorable, certainly unique, and the chance to enjoy an event
like this, accompanied by some exceptional Habanos, great friends, and also in a unique and
special as any, is something I have to thank and so I’ll feel lucky lifetime.
All I want is to arrive and the date of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the founding
of Santiago de Cuba (2015), I cannot even imagine what will come out of their legendary
City of Havana. November 2012. A simply an unforgettable day.