Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros ★

3, medal, silver icon

Heavenly, almost perfect!
Best served:
Creme brulee, Christmas cake, complex wood, cigar box, tobacco 
In a nutshell:
Wonderfully complex and balanced to near perfection by Cuban rum masters! Don Jose Navarro says it best, it is "simply delicious"
Complex shades of sweetness balanced by amazing nuances of oak, fruit and spice  
Not much! 

Simply delicious! Don Jose and Havana Club, gracias por una hermosa ron/ thank you for a beautiful rum. This is the epitome (perfect example) of rum at its finest. It is silky smooth and luscious with a power that elegantly delivers a complex bouquet to the nose and fireworks of character to the palate. The magic in this rum is owed in part to the distillation and maturation, but also to the nose and palate of the master blenders at Havana Club who select the rum that is blended, aged again, then bottled as "Seleccion de Maestros" (literally meaning "selection of teachers"). 

Cuban Barrel Proof finishing process

To craft the Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros, the Maestros Roneros - led by Don Jose Navarro - select the aged rums that will consist of this blend, blend them, and then age them again in selected barrels which in my view allows them to "marry" and draw out the flavour of the new barrel. The Mestros Roneros then select the rums that will become Seleccion de Mestros, and this final blend is then bottled at 45% ABV straight from the barrel. This finishing process is descibed on the Havana Club website as the "Cuban Barrel Proof". It is a process over which the Maestros Roneros have a lot of control, and can select the rums and in turn influence the character of the final product. The best example to date of blending at its finest comes from the rum world in the shape of Seleccion de Maestros. 

Now, let's explore the craftsmanship and artwork of Cuba's rum masters or teachers. 

Tasting notes - Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros 

The Havana Club Seleccion de Mestros is almost perfect in every way; its oily texture holds together a vibrant and energetic character that boasts a heavenly balance. It is not too sweet, not too bitter and not too dry, and the complex sweetness is not confined to simple sugar but merges with the influence of the oak to give a sensationally complex rum with a lot of depth.


What immediately struck me about this rum was its complexity and elegance. The character of this rum sits powerfully in the glass, and with each sniff came a gust of character that was strong and potent but not piercing or harsh. It was gentle and elegant, sensual and smooth, yet powerful and assertive; the stereotypical Latin lover, really. 

This rum has a complex sweetness, and this makes it spectacular. Rich creme brulee meets the nose, with the sugary sweetness of its shell morphing into burnt bitterness and the soft creaminess of the center. As the sweetness grapples with the bitterness, it becomes more complex with time developing into Christmas cake; the sweet raisins packed in a dense dark sponge and layered with vanilla and icing. Of course, the oak plays an integral role in moderating this sweetness, with bursts of varied spice (cinnamon, star anise and licorice) as well as the distinct fusion of wood, tobacco and paper that comes from smelling a cigar box. The wood does not dominate, but compliments the evolution of sweetness in the glass as fruity mandarin and pineapple shine through the dry wooden cigar box. It is in no way simply "sugary", but complexly sweet having its basis in sugar; hence the creme brulee, Christmas cake and gentle fruits. The wood is also complex, with dry wood mingling with damp tree sap.

Each aspect of this rum - the oak, the sugar based spirit and the marrying in new barrels - work together with near perfection to produce a rum without any noticeable unevenness or ripples and instead a seamless silky smoothness.

Letting the rum rest in the glass for 20 minutes allows it to open up and release more character. The gentle aroma of dried fruit develops, particularly banana chips, as it progressively becomes more complex and banana bread drizzled with honey hits the nose. In the backdrop is that wonderful solid oak, balancing out the sweetness with some sharp dry bitterness and dark chocolate as the faint sparkle of glazed cherry twinkles. 


The bite of a cigar: long gone smoking day
While the texture is oily this rum is fresh and light: youthful and energetic yet old and graceful. A powerful surge of oak strikes the palate, as its dry bitterness is moderated by the highly complex sweetness that is not simply sugary but dense and rich; almost dessert-like with caramelisation and fruit. The creme brulee moves to the palate with its bitter burnt shell and sugary sweetness, and the dense raisin packed Christmas cake adds further depth with dashes of vanilla bean.

The character on the nose moves beautifully to the palate, but the strike of bitterness increases as the tang of zest dances with sweet fig and dark chocolate while spice tingles in the background; now mild nutmeg and cinnamon and the bite of a cigar. The character bursts on the palate and then tingles into a foray of sparks, as the taste and aroma of old tobacco lingers gently. 


Amazing! The rum electrocutes the taste buds, bringing them to life as they buzz with energy; the complex sweetness develops into a fog of dry wood that gradually intensifies into a bitter-sweet and earthy end of oranges, cigar boxes and the bite of a thick torn cigar with tobacco leaves protruding the paper. 

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