Like the duck in that well-worn saying from long ago, the look, taste and character of Grand Havana Reserva Excelencia confirms it’s every bit the fine traditional Cuban rum its name suggests it is…
Except that it’s not… Sort of… Let me explain…
The story of Grand Havana starts on the outskirts of Cuba’s capital city during the 1800’s in the person of Don Tirso Arregui, a local businessman with a rum distillery and a penchant for making magic therein. For generations, the Arregui family followed old Don’s rum formula, crafting the type of exceptional blend that helped to make Cuban rums famous the world over.
Fast forward to Castro’s Communist revolution and the end of the Cuba the Arregui’s once knew. Like a lot of the island’s prominent business-owning families, the Arregui’s fled their homeland for the United States in the 1960’s, taking the family rum secrets with them. (Sound familiar..?)
For years the time-honored formula for Arregui family rum lay hidden away, until 2000, when Don’s fourth generation descendants contracted with the legendary Westerhall Distillery in Grenada to bring Grand Havana to life.
So, yes, the grand tradition of Grand Havana is 100% Cuban, but it’s actually crafted in The Spice Isle, a good 1,200 miles down the island chain, where I found it on the liquor shelves of a local grocery store in Grand Anse last November.
I’m not usually a sucker for fancy packaging, but I must admit to being initially drawn to Grand Havana’s jet-black, faux alligator skin cylindrical container. The Grand Havana name and Westerhall origin also piqued my curiosity. Was this some sort of commemorative blend harkening back to the two islands’ Cold War ties?
The answer, of course, is no, though there definitely are some nice taste ties between Cuba and Grenada in this rum.
Grand Havana Reserva Excelencia bears a light, golden color, with a clean, soft aroma that gently welcomes your nose into the glass. Sampled neat, you get a slight bit of burn with hints of cinnamon, cloves and vanilla spices emblematic of Grenada. Like other traditional Cuban rums, or rums produced based on old Cuban formulas that I’ve tried, there isn’t a lot of sweetness, oak or woodsy flavor in this one. The finish is pure Cuba – smooth, light and dry. Nice.
I haven’t tried mixing Grand Havana in any cocktails just yet, as I’ve derived too much joy enjoying it neat, or with a couple ice cubes. It’s aged up to seven years utilizing a slow oak barrel aging process, so it’s plenty refined for sipping.
Grand Havana may not have the dark, amber sexiness or sweet, rich flavor that I tend to prefer, but when I want to travel to Cuba by way of Grenada in a glass, it’s perfect for me.
Cheers & salud!