Cuban Rum at the Rough End

Some fascinating details in this article from a Cuban rummery… places that don’t usually allow such scrutiny! – Rumpundit

Puerto Principe Rum Has Its Bouquet

February 26, 2011 |

Por Lazaro Gonzalez

Puerto Principe Beverage Complex in the central Cuban province of Camaguey.

HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 26 — Well yes, it’s like what you’ve read: Camaguey resident Lina Estevez is one of the few Cubans allowed by her husband to come in their house with alcohol on her breath – of course there’s only a trace, it’s not like she’s drunk or anything.

She’s part of the quality control team at the Puerto Principe Beverage Complex, in the central Cuban city of Camaguey, 340 miles east of Havana. Lina has worked in this field for 20 years, and as a rum taster she admits, “I’m not addicted, because we don’t drink all day. A couple sips are all you need to evaluate the parameters.”

Ongoing demands in all the links of quality control in the production chain have allowed this factory to reach a solid position in its supply of the domestic market, to win prestige and to satisfy the sensory demands of people with elevated levels of “ethylic culture,” because in Cuba rum — like tobacco and baseball — holds a special place.

Despite their creating an old line of artisanal products and being paid low wages, the 87 workers at this refinery give all their efforts and experience each workday so that their rums and wines don’t “fade,” but that these continue conquering the palates of Cubans – the first market for what they produce.

The majority of the workers at this factory have been working there for more than 15 years, because “here something can always be ‘solved’,” admitted bottle labeller Ramona Garcia. (“Solving” is the word given by Cubans to theft or the diverting of resources in State-run factories, offices and businesses.)

A message in bottles

At any rate, Florencio Brown, an administrator connected to the beverage world for more than three decades, recognized strength in the stability of the work collective. “Each one of them has mastered their job perfectly. Their technological discipline facilitates the meeting of objectives. They were the true protagonists behind our work last year when, despite difficulties, we fulfilled our commercial production plan two months ahead of schedule, demonstrating a high rate of productivity in our work.”

Brown complained about the shortage of bottles that the operation suffered during the first trimester of 2010. “The Raw Materials Recovery Company of the province was unable to respond to our needs,” he affirmed. He added that the strategy consisted of taking a good part of the liter-and-a-half plastic containers out of production. Basically, this is “an alternative that will are continuing to follow because of the high demand.”

According to the administrator, this solution has allowed a monthly reduction in bulk quantities of rum, which is about 150,000 liters, thus minimizing the classic “baptism” or adulteration that is so common, as well as harmful to consumers.

The plan for tourism, which embraces seven products, floundered for several years also because of the lack of bottles, which had to be imported because they had to be new. Of the different varieties of Arecha and Puerto Principe rum conceived for tourism, barely a third of the 37,000 crates anticipated for 2010 were produced, said Brown. He also complained that the difficulties posed by the island’s dual currency and its effects on managerial accounting did not stimulate production. “Concretely speaking, to fulfill my plans I need to produce more for the domestic market.”

The Ministry of Domestic Commerce and the national network sale points undertake the marketing of their main product, which is Puerto Principe rum refined to 34 and 32 proof alcohol, both bottled in plastic containers and glass bottles.

The mystery of the bouquet

An almost mystic air floats through the storage area where different types of rum, aguardiente and wine are aged. Hundreds of Canadian and American white oak barrels contain the precious liquids in their paunches. From the wood they slowly absorb that delicious bouquet that will later give it a delightful taste.

Soraida Alvarez, a true master in this mysterious and millennial art, indicates that the total aging capacity in this refinery is almost a half million liters, of which 95 percent is dedicated to solera rums that are used as a base in the end products. These rums age for between six months and seven years, according to their uses. In the rest of the barrels is “El Tradicion,” a sweet wine made from raisins and that pays homage to its name.

Puerto Principe Drinks Complex in Camaguey.

Alcohol, aguardiente matured for a minimum of one year and alcoholized syrup are the three basic raw materials for the creation of rum base or solera, Brown explained. A third of this rum is employed in products for tourism, especially in the three-year-old rum.

Nevertheless, 70 percent of the Puerto Principe products are made with pre-processed rum coming essentially from the Cardenas Rum Refinery and the Central Villa Clara Rum Refinery, though they “don’t always arrive with the required quality,” the administrator pointed out.

“As soon as the raw material enters we begin carrying out a physical-chemical analysis as to the alcoholic grade, the total acidity and the ester content, which are of great importance in the bouquet of the base rums,” explained out Lina Estevez.

After 10 years of experience, Darvin Castrillon (an all-round operative whose comrades affectionately call the “doctor” of the filling machine, the position where he has spent the most time) staffs the most critical point on the production line, since this is where breakdowns tend to occur.

“Here the principal difficulties are related to the wearing down of the pistons, which are very old and force me to position the bottles to keep them from drawing in air. Once I was trying to re-position a bottle that had drawn in air and it exploded. That resulted in an injury that required two stitches in my finger,” he explained, emphasizing the importance of workplace safety.

“The hoses also create problems because they’re made out of a material that is very difficult to find. The rum stiffens them, so it’s necessary to cut the tips so that they don’t take in air and fill the bottles too quickly. The springs come apart, which leaves them shorter, requiring me to apply more force to the lever. This precarious technological state demands a lot from me. It’s exhausting work, but I’ve gotten used to it and I’ve learned how to innovate…to do more with less, something in which we Cubans are masters.”

Pink Pigeon outflies Dodo!

One can see why the name of Mauritius’s most famous bird, the Dodo, might not have appealed to marketing types- as dead as a…!


Pink Pigeon Rum


“Creative agency devilfish and Buddy have joined forces to launch a new rum brand for Berry Bros. & Rudd, one of the world’s oldest wine and spirit merchants. The new rum brand is called Pink Pigeon, and hails from the island of Mauritius.

Berry Brothers & Rudd wanted to create a new ‘ultra premium’ rum brand, aiming to attract a new younger rum consumer by breaking with all of the conventional premium alcohol brand communications and packaging.

Whilst researching Mauritius, we found out about the pink pigeon – a rare extension to the pigeon family which is only found in the wild on the island. This unique creature became our brand icon, aligning ‘The Pink Pigeon’ with both the island and the notion of rarity.”

“devilfish was commissioned by BB&R to create the whole Pink Pigeon brand. Together with Buddy we generated the Pink Pigeon brand name, brand guidelines, bottle design, packaging, and label design.

The striking iconic crest celebrates the story of the Pink Pigeon and it’s Mauritian provenance creating a contemporary look and feel that challenges the conventional ‘design’ language of premium rum, other packaging details include; a pink rubber (pigeons foot ring) band, sealed with ribbon strip and black wax and pigeon droppings within the crest.

With its distinctive, stylish bottle, easily drinkable Vanilla tones and Mauritian provenance, Pink Pigeon redefines rum as a fresh alternative to the over saturated Vodka market. It launched initially in Mauritius in Dec 2010, and will roll out in exclusive bars and clubs around the world, from Feb 2011.


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Not in the US!

Havana Club’s ultra-premium Selection de Maestros

01 / 21 / 2011

20 January 2011 By admin. Following two successful years in the UK and other select markets, Havana Club is extending the availability of its authentic Cuban Barrel Proof rum by launching it globally as Havana Club Selección de Maestros.

In a move to promote the craftsmanship and quality credentials of this super-premium rum, ‘Selección de Maestros’ reinforces the brand’s Cuban heritage by highlighting the involvement of the six experienced Maestros Roneros that collectively create it.

The expertly crafted rum itself remains unchanged and its superior quality continues to be recognised with prestigious awards; most recently a Gold medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition – two of the world’s most influential.

Patrick Venning Head of Marketing for Havana Club, said: “As an authentic Cuban rum, we place huge importance on the heritage of Havana Club, and we believe this quality, award-winning rum perfectly reflects that. We are confident that by focusing on our Cuban heritage, Havana Club Selección de Maestros will continue to drive the ultra-premium rum category by appealing to discerning rum connoisseurs, and will eventually mirror the success of Havana Club 7 Year Old in the super-premium category.”

The packaging of Selección de Maestros has been designed to reflect the quality, status and authenticity of this inimitable Havana Club rum. The bottle shape has elements reminiscent of the prestige Havana Club expression Máximo Extra Añejo, creating a clear differentiation from the core range, which includes Havana Club 3 Year Old, Havana Club Añejo Especial and Havana Club 7 Year Old.

Selección de Maestros will be available through prestige retail outlets including Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, and selected premium on-trade accounts with a RRP of £37.09.

Source: Havana Club and…

Read more:
Original article here!

Cuba launches Ron Caney

Haven’t had time to check, but it looks like this might be made in the former Bacardi plant! -Rumpundit.

Cuba-Ron Company launches New Rum to the Market

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Havana, Cuba, Jan 5.- Renown Cuba-Ron S.A Company launched the Caney 12 years to the market, a new product of excellent quality that represents the best traditions of Cuban rum culture.

Rum master Tranquilino Placencia told ACN news agency that this new beverage was created by experts at the legendary Santiago de Cuba rum factory, where the Cuban light rums were born.

Placencia said the entire production of the Caney 12 years is already sold, a show of the preference Cuban rums, a source of hard currency for the country, have in the international markets.

Cuba-Ron Vice-President Juan Gonzalez said this launching answers the need to increase the diversity of the exports for his enterprise. He added it is made of special sugar canes harvested in the Cuban east region and treated especially to give it a unique flavour.

Among the brands that give prestige to Cuba-Ron is the Sao Can, to which Cuban son legend Benny More sang in the 1950´s. (acn).

Colombia’s other product: Ron Caldas Grand Reserve

I recently tasted some of Colombia’s finest, Ron Viejo de Caldas Grand Reserve or Caldas Grand Reserve Rum, and was as impressed as many Colombians told me I would be. Distilled in the Caldas region in the heart of the country, the original recipe was designed by a Cuban distiller brought in to lend his expertise, but the brand has been thoroughly naturalized by now.

For sensual satisfaction, it certainly beats Colombia’s other famous product (coffee, of course).

When swirled in the snifter and held up to the light, it had legs to die for – the alcoholic equivalent of a chorus girl’s shapely limbs. The aroma was subtle but clear: my trusted band of co-samplers agreed on butterscotch with floral overtones and a hint of oak, redolent of the locally made Colombian oak barrels used to age it, with hints of vanilla and banana overtones as it adhered to the tongue.

On the palate, there was a similar balance between the sweetness of the cane and the sharpness of the oak that rolls over the taste buds, but the rum has a finish that lingers, clear without being sharp.

Definitely, for me at least, it’s a sipping rum to be savored with lingering satisfaction to make the experience last.

Another Stiff One on the Way

ronjeremy-rum.jpg Rum, as all alcohol, is meant for adults. Next year, however, infamous adult star Ron Jeremy is launching his “adult” rum, making him another Johnny-come-lately–or Ronny-come-lately, if you’ll indulge–on the celebrity booze scene. Ron de Jeremy, which will be available next month for sale online, is a “well-balanced” 7-year-old Panamanian rum.

The “adult” vibe is evident at the very least in its wink-wink description: “The oak comes through robustly and satisfyingly […] The finish is elegant and long.”

While most celebs are known for their boozing of a different kind (see: Celebrity Rehab, Lindsay Lohan, and so on) famous names are now putting their monikers on bottles of liquor.

The Huffington Post has a round-up of the new faces on the top shelf, including shock rocker Marilyn Manson’s absinthe, Mansinthe, Willie Nelson’s Old Whiskey River Bourbon, Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Tequila, and a whole lotta vodka, from Donald Trump to Flava Flav’s flavors, and Dan Ackroyd’s Crystal Head.

Do celebs make better liquors? Or should they just stick to shilling for swill?

Bright Day for Bundy Black Fans

Crowd braves rain for Bundy Black

13th December 2010


EAGER punters lined up overnight outside the Bundaberg Rum Bondstore to get their hands on a bottle of limited edition Bundaberg Black.

Distillery manager Anthony Mortimer welcomes local identity Barry Bogan to the bar where he eagerly pours out a glass of his new Bundaberg Black. Photo: Max Fleet/NewsMail
Max Fleet BUNRUM
Launch of Bundaberg Black
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IT would have taken a lot to dampen spirits of those queuing outside the Bundaberg Rum Bondstore yesterday when eager punters lined up to get their hands on a bottle of limited edition Bundaberg Black.

Die-hard fans started lining up at the store at about midday on Saturday despite the doors not opening until 10am yesterday.

South Kolan woman Michelle Kelly, who was third in line, arrived at 1.30pm on Saturday.

“My son collects rum and I’m here for him for his Christmas present,” she said.

Ms Kelly said the rain did not deter anyone from the line overnight.

“It was fantastic, we had a game of cricket and made some great friends,” she said.

Ms Kelly was just one of the many customers who let out a whoop of joy once they got their hands on their precious bottle.

A heavy downpour of rain just minutes after the shop had opened did not deter those in line, who did not move, unwilling to give up their place in line.

Only 12,000 bottles of the 10-year-old rum will be sold.

The last release of Bundaberg Black was five years ago.

Ms Kelly said the rum would never be tasted but some customers were so eager for a taste they stopped at the bar for a drop.

Barry Bogan, who started lining up at about 6pm on Saturday, was among the first to try the rum.

On the Whole, I’m glad I was in Philadelphia.

As I approached Adam Kanter’s Rum Bar and saw my name in lights (well chalk, actually) under “40 Years since Black Tot Day,” Sergeant Pepper began to run through my head.

“It was 40 years ago today

The Navy took the rum away.

But it’s never gone out of Style

Black Tot’s been around a while.”

A reverent group of aficionados including Robert Burr and Mike Streeter, the survivors of Adam’s excellent Rum on the River fest, gathered from round the country at the bar, and were so eager to sample the bottle of Black Tot, that they were prepared to listen to my disquisition on how Britannia had lost all pretence of ruling the waves once the Grog had stopped.

And then, carefully we stripped the wax from the bottle top and took out the cork, worried as one is at a mishap with a bottle costing close to a $1,000. Speciality Drinks had obligingly provided a more conventional stopper to replace the one designed to keep the rum for posterity.

This was genuine Navy rum, guaranteed to be at least forty years old. It had been matured and blended in wooden casks, to a formula chosen by an Admiralty committee, (membership of which was one of the most hotly contested postings in the Royal Navy). And then it was decanted into the large stone flagons intended to preserve its flavour before being dispensed daily at Spirits Up on ships around the globe. Speciality Drinks bought the lot at auction and bottled it, packaging it memorably and stylishly.

However, I have always defied conventional wisdom, that bottling spirits “freezes” the process. Those long chain molecules slowly break down and recombine in the bottle or flask, smoothing out the sharper edges of the spirit, bringing new complexities and subtleties, in this case to a strong rum whose flavour and aroma was designed to last dilution by 100 to 200% addition of water.

There was a touch of irony: W. C. Fields (Of British parentage) came from Philly and one of his catch phrases was “on the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” but he famously eschewed water because, he alleged, fish did unspeakable things in it.

But nonetheless, we added water, and as it was suspected, so it came to pass. Sniffing the bottle produced blissful smiles all around, as did judicious sipping by the assembled worshippers at the altar of Great God Grog.The molasses was there, but restrained, a faint hint of licorice, and then all the good things we associate with rum. In keeping with tradition, we tried it mixed with water, and, “Lo! A miracle!” It was like turning water into rum. The flavour and nose were enhanced if anything.

As a follow-up Adam dispensed a tot of Pussers to all participants in the ceremony, and even a miniature commemorative takeaway flask of Pussers. I wonder what it will taste like in forty years? Unless I’m pickled in the stuff, I suspect I will not be around for the experiment.

Havana Club – Master’s Choice

I hope their tasters are better than their translators. Whatever happened to their 15 year old, which even in Havana was ridiculously priced? – Rum Pundit.

New Brand of Havana Club Rum to Hit the Market Soon

HAVANA, Cuba, Aug 26 (acn) Havana Club International S.A. will soon launch a new brand of this world famous Cuban rum created in 1878.

Cuban News Agency

“Seleccion de Maestros” (Masters’ Choice) is the name of this new rum of 43 degrees of alcohol in whose preparation participated all rum masters who chose the best barrels for its production.

Sergio Valdes, director of the Exports Division of the rum company, told ACN that, because of the high quality of the product, its price will almost double that of the Havana Club 7 Years.

He added that the company is currently working on improving the image of their products with new bottles and labels with the history of Havana
Club Rum.

Havana Club currently sales more than 3.2 million boxes of rum bottles in more than 140 countries, with revenues of over $122 million.

Black Tot Day! 31 July 1970-2010 RIP

Ian Williams, Rumpundit, commiserates Black Tot Day.

Saturday  31 July is the 40th Anniversary of Black Tot Day when the Royal Navy abandoned the daily grog ration for its sailors. Do hoist  a dark rum to mark the occasion. The British decision to abandon a centuries-old tradition of high octane fighting spirit and replace it with high megaton Trident submarines has proven to be a financial and naval disaster. When it waived the rum rules, Britannia abandoned all pretension of ruling the waves!

The first reference to Navy rum was by Samuel Pepys, who although best known for confiding his sex life to his diary, was the civil servant in charge of the Navy. He authorized the Navy in the Caribbean to issue rations of rum to the sailors based in Jamaica.

Soon, however, rum was a major constituent of the Navy’s fuel supply. Admiral Vernon, after whom George Washington’s home Mount Vernon was named, decided that it was better for the health and safety of his ships and crew to mix the rum with water before issuing it, and to issue the half pint in two servings. He was known as  “Old Grog” because he wore a waterproof cloak made of “grogram,” a mixed fabric that served before oil-skins and that gave the name to the mixture.

His orders were that the grog was to be mixed in a “scuttled butt.” The idea that scuttlebutt was sailor’s chat around the water cask is a post-Prohibitionist invention. It was the rum barrel that loosened the tongues of the eagerly waiting tars.

Navy regulations insisted that once the grog had been mixed, it had to be served promptly, otherwise it would thrown overboard, because it went “flat.” I’ve experimented with Pussers, still made to the original recipe, and it’s true! While the rum is in a colloidal suspension in the water the droplets of rum hit the tastebuds and taste as strong as normal spirits but once they are dissolved it tastes like watered rum!

The US Navy initially adopted British grog rations but then under influence from the growing whiskey industry, swapped over to what was presented as a more patriotic spirit after 1806. During the Civil War, the US Navy abolished the ration completely, perhaps taking advantage of the connection between abolitionism and prohibitionism, both of them gaining the upper hand with the departure of Confederate personnel. However it was only the ratings who were deprived.  It was not until 1913 that officers were coerced into official abstinence.

In contrast, the British Admiralty was frankly scared of the mutinous consequences  of depriving ratings of their historical entitlement, and it kept issuing Royal Navy rum, until 1970, when they overcame public nostalgia by breathalyzing the pilot of  a nuclear submarine after he had drunk his ration.

In fact, for centuries, the Royal Navy had maintained naval supremacy despite often inferior technology compared with its Spanish and French rivals, because its crews, pressganged or volunteers, outfought their enemies. And looking at it analytically, the major observable difference was the rum ration, which is why wanabee naval powers like Czarist Russia and Japan also served up rum.

British captains and admirals still have the discretion to order “Splice the mainbrace!” for special occasions, however, and naval lore is still steeped in rum, which in Britain was known as “Nelson’s blood,” since allegedly the devoted tars donated their rations to bring the Admiral’s body back from Trafalgar to London.

I checked it out in the Gibraltar library in the contemporary newspapers, and sadly,  the Admiral’s body was carried back to London pickled in Spanish Brandy, aguardiente. Perhaps the tars did not want to waste the good stuff… but I have not been able to prove or disprove the story that the coffin was drained by the time it arrived in Britain. The tars might have preferred rum – but any spirit in a drought was long-standing tradition.

This week Sukhinder Singh of Speciality Drinks in London launched Black Tot – an exclusive bottling of Navy Rum over 40 years old – a find for rum-drinkers equivalent to discovering Tutankhamen’s pickled stiff, except the archaeologists never brought the young pharoah back to life, while the old rum has indeed been revived. It  was in sealed ceramic flagons allowing its unique biochemistry to play out over almost half a century.

In the Admiralty, the most coveted job was to sit on the committee that each year assessed what proportions of Jamaica, Trinidad and Demerara rums was consistent to maintain the formula, and Speciality’s experts have topped up the work of all of those departed palates to ensure that the bottles live up to expectations.

If you can’t get some, then up spirits on Saturday with any dark rum and shed a tear for bygone glory!