Havana Club 3 and 7 Years Review

“The Sweet Escape”

Short Introduction:

Lately, some very esteemed Whisky Bloggers have released articles where they question if they should continue to write Whisky Tasting Notes as they feel that those might support an industry that is currently overflowing the market with NAS Whiskies of indifferent quality and at very high prices. Next to the fact that they get bored with writing about uninteresting Malts. Many consumers seem to agree and venture into other spirits such as Brandy, Armagnac and Rum. As a Whisky Blogger I have always given my personal opinion on Whiskies and I will continue to do so. If I think a Whisky is indifferent or inadequate I will write exactly that. I can only hope that the market circumstances will return to normal at some point in time as they have done in the past. I must admit that I am a bit concerned in the short term however as the large whisky producers tend to aim at producing mainstream whiskies for large groups of consumers. While I will continue to write my Tasting Notes on interesting Malts and boring NAS stuff a-like, I have always wanted to try out writing a Review of another strong Spirit. For some time already I had two bottles of Rum in my cabinet so finally I have decided to give it a try. I'm really looking forward to this so here we go!


Country: Cuba
Brand: Havana Club
Type: Plain White Rum
Age: 3 Years
ABV: 40%
Charcoal-Filtration: Yes
Rum Review: # 1

Colour: Pale Straw (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Young, Light, Fruity, a little Rough and mostly Sweet. The Alcohol is quite noticeable as could be expected at this age. My first impressions are Banana, Canned Pear in heavy Syrup and Vanilla. The Havana Club Rum ages in casks made of American White Oak. As Cuba was not able to buy these casks in the USA on account of the Trade Embargo, they probably purchased 2nd and 3rd refill casks in the Caribbean region from other Rum producers. I also find notes of Toffee, Molasses and Marzipan. It's funny that I keep looking for the usual whisky Aromas but I can't find a lot of them. Although this is a very young Rum I need to consider the fact that Spirit matures much quicker in tropical regions. I do find some traces of Charred Oak as well as a bit of Citrus, Grass and light Ginger. There's not too much going on but the Havana Club 3 Years does have a little personality on the Nose. More than I expected actually as this Rum was created as a mixing component rather than a sipping Spirit. 

Palate: Light, Harsh and mostly Sweet but with a slight Bitterness towards the end as well. Grapefruit Juice comes to my mind. But I mainly find Toffee, Sweet Molasses, Vanilla, Banana, Grass and Straw, Lemon, light Menthol, light Pepper, lightly Charred Oak and light Cinnamon. The Alcohol remains very present.    

Finish: Short and surprisingly Dry. The Alcohol is very present and stings a bit. This is easily the worst part of this Rum. In the end you're stuck with an after- taste that reminds me of Artificial Sweetener and Rubbing Alcohol. Before that sets in however I perceived little hints of Vanilla, Toffee, Banana, Lemon, Ginger and Menthol.     

Added Water completely kills this Rum. I tried it over Ice as well but that did not work for me either. This is indeed a Rum intended for Mixing.   

Rating: 71   

Nose: 20 - Taste: 17 - Finish: 16 - Overall: 18

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average    

Conclusion: So there it is, my first Rum review! I really liked the experience. I chose this simple 3 Year Old Mixing Rum on purpose to have a reference of young White Rum. I could have chosen Bacardi as well but I happened to have the Havana Club 3 Years in my cabinet. From my above notes it's quite clear that this Rum does not qualify as a sipping Spirit. It's too Young and Harsh and does not show interesting Flavours on the Palate and in the Finish. The Finish is indeed the worst part and the Artificial Sweetener Flavour lingers on for a while. But on the Nose I detected some pleasant Sweet notes like Pears, Bananas and Vanilla. They were underdeveloped in this Young Havana Club but they make me curious enough to taste other - and perhaps better young Rum. 


General Remarks: The Arechabala family founded a distillery in 1878 in the city of Cardenas, Cuba. The Havana Club brand name was launched in 1934. In the year 1960, Fidel Castro nationalised the company. As a result, the Arechabala family left Cuba. They went to Spain at first but later moved on to the USA. Exports of Havana Club started in 1972, mainly to Russia and Eastern-Europe in general. In 1977, the production moved to a new plant in Santa Cruz del Norte. In 1994, the Cuban government closed a 50/50 Joint Venture with Pernod Ricard. Since then, the product is exported to 120 countries all over the world. Recently Cuban Rum is allowed in the USA again. In the USA, Havana Club is produced by Bacardi, authorised by the Arechabala family. For many years, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi are fighting it out in court as to who may use the brand name. As I write, HC is the 5th largest rum brand in the world. Well-known expressions include the 3 years, the 7 years, the 15 years, the Maximo and the Seleccion Maestros. The 3 Years costs around 20 US Dollars while the 7 years is also relatively cheap at around 30 US Dollars. (June 2016).

This is what the producers say about the production process of the Havana Club 3 Years old:

"Havana Club 3 Years is the result of blending aged and aromatic Sugar Cane Aguardientes with extra light Sugar Cane distillates to produce a selection of young Rums. These Rums are then allowed to rest in White Oak Barrels after which the Maestro Ronero chooses the best barrels and blends the final 3 Year Old Rum which is again set to rest before being filtered and bottled"


Country: Cuba
Brand: Havana Club
Type: Plain Molasses Rum
Age: 7 Years
ABV: 40%
Charcoal Filtration: Yes
Rum Review: # 2

Colour: Caramel (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: The Alcohol is noticeable but it is much better integrated than in the 3 Years. It's different from Bourbon and Brandy of course but there are some similarities as well. Despite the longer maturation, the 7 Years is still a bit Rough on the edges. My first impressions are Sweet Molasses, Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Charred Oak, Banana, Raisins, Wood Polish, Wax and the Wooden boxes where my late Grandfather used to keep his Pipe Tobacco. I also find hints of Grass and Straw, Toffee, Caramel, Treacle, Bitter Black Espresso, Dirt Road, Roasted Almonds, some Herbs and light Spices such as Nutmeg and Clove. The 7 years needs time to open up so give it at least half an hour in the glass before Nosing and Tasting.  

Palate: A little Thin for my taste. I think this would be much better at 46%. This is quite Dry actually. I didn't expect that to be honest. I find Sweet Molasses, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Toffee, light Vanilla, Raisins, Plums, Charred Oak, Pipe Tobacco, Leather, Licorice, light Pepper, light Nutmeg, light Cinnamon and Banana.         

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and a little Sour towards the end. Like was the case with the 3 years, this is the weakest part of this Rum. The main drivers are Sweet Molasses, Treacle, light Vanilla, Charred Oak and Pipe Tobacco. I also find a little Pepper, Nutmeg and Cinnamon as well as traces of Dirty Earth, Leather, Straw and Yeast. Quite Dry in the end. The Alcohol stings a bit as well.  

I Added a little Water and I found some more fruit on the Nose. Banana and Pineapple mainly. Some extra Toffee as well. It's certainly less Rough this way as far as Nosing is concerned. Palate and Finish become too Thin for my taste but you can carefully experiment with a few drops. I tried it over Ice as well but that did not convince me. Finally I tried it mixed with Coca Cola and that tasted quite good albeit a little Sweet!

Rating: 82   

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good    

Conclusion: This is quite a different Rum when compared to the 3 years. It is certainly a Rum that you can sip and it would combine well with a nice cigar. It's much darker than the 3 years and not only in colour! The 7 years offers lots of Molasses, Treacle, Raisins, Earth, Black Espresso and Tobacco. It does still feel a little underdeveloped and rough. I also think that an ABV of 40% is not quite adequate for this type of Spirit. So while the Havana Club 7 years is not a bad Rum, I'm sure there must be better stuff around. If I can find something of interest here in Brazil I will review it somewhere in the future. Until then!   

Jan van den Ende                                                                     June 6, 2016

The Production Facility in Santa Cruz del Norte

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