Review: Havana Club Anejo Classico Puerto Rican Rum (Bacardi)

havana club (bacardi)

Havana Club is one of Cuba’s most noteworthy and famous rums. So how exactly does this bottle come from Puerto Rico?

Allow me to explain the best I can…

Like many things today, Havana Club isn’t a rum per se but a brand. The vast majority of the world knows Havana Club as a rum brand now produced in Cuba by Pernod Ricard. But the U.S. rights to the Havana Club brand name are owned by Bacardi, which a while back slapped it on one of its Puerto Rican products — though it is said to be produced using a recipe given to Bacardi by the original familial creators of Havana Club. (This split occurred about 20 years ago, and the history behind it is, like all things, quite complicated.)

For decades this has not really mattered, since Havana Club (Cuban) could not be sold in the U.S. anyway. Both Pernod Ricard and Bacardi have lived uneasily with the detente… the way the U.S. and Cuba have lived with one another in similarly uneasy peace.

Then comes Obama, who starts relaxing trade restrictions with Cuba. While you still can’t buy Cuban rum in the U.S., it’s starting to look like, maybe, you soon might be able to. In fact, the U.S. government recently granted the trademark back to Cuba… but Bacardi isn’t letting it go without a fight. Hence a big push of late for Bacardi’s Havana Club — primarily seen only in Florida but now aiming to head nationally in order to bolster its trademark claims.

Today there are two expressions of Bacardi’s Havana Club: a white rum and an anejo offering, the latter of which we review here.

Bacardi’s anejo rendition of Havana Club is just 1 to 3 years old, which makes it a rather young rum, and not anything I’d describe as “anejo.” I tasted it against Cuban Havana Club 3 Years Old, which is filtered to a near-white color but which should, in theory, retain the bulk of the flavor profile of a rum left without filtering. The Cuban 3 year old is clearly a richer and more fulfilling spirit, loaded with citrus and tropical notes, coconut, and banana.

The Puerto Rican/Bacardi Havana Club is thinner, with notes of vanilla and brown sugar backed up by vaguely Indian spices (think chai), barrel char, and some grainy notes on the finish. The fruitiness of the Cuban version is lacking here, with mild petrol notes picking up the slack where those herbal/granary-focused elements leave off. (It should go without saying that it’s nothing like the Cuban Havana Club 7 Year Old expression, which I also retasted for this, although it is at least similar in color.)

What then to do with Bacardi’s rendition of Havana Club? It’s worthwhile as a mixer — those odd chai notes are oddly engaging — but it simply doesn’t have enough power or depth to make you forget the real deal. Let’s call it Bacardi Club and open the doors for the Cuban stuff, already.

80 proof.

B / $28 / havanaclubus.com

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3 Responses

  1. ROGELIO ANASAGASTI SR July 13, 2016 / 6:44 am

    TO BUY HAVANA CLUB MADE IN CUBA IS TREASON. THE CASTRO DYNASTY (CALLED PRESIDENT BY MR OBAMA) STOLE A WHOLE COUNTRY TOOK BACARDI TO COURT BECAUSE THE BUNCH OF BANDITS DID NOT WANT THE STOLEN PRODUCTS OF THE CRIMINAL REVOLUTION TO BE PRODUCED BY THE REAL OWNERS. THAT IS INCREDIBLY. BUT WASHINGTON WITH THE PRESIDENT IN TRAINING FOR 8 YEARS OBAMA DOES NOT LIVE IN REALITY.

  2. Ron July 19, 2016 / 9:52 am

    Who makes a better Cuban Rum? A French corporation (Pernod) or a Cuban Family owned company (Bacardi)? Viva Bacardi y Havana Club!

  3. Luis September 22, 2016 / 9:39 pm

    This article is a joke. The only reason it’s made in Puerto Rico today is because the Cuban government seized the company assets from the family during the regime. Basically the family made rum for nearly 100 years and then the government said your company is now my possession. If your grandmother made her jam for 100 years and Obama decided he wanted the company, sorry, I don’t care! You’d be pretty pissed. It’s pretty cool they’re at least able to bring back the closest thing to the original recipe. It also seems obvious the ties to the original family are strong, despite your calling it complicated (duh, it’s complicated……..), or otherwise you’d think the American government and the French giant that sells rum from Cuba everywhere would have obviously had it shut down sometime during the past 20 years it has been out. This article was written with no sensitivity to Cuban heritage, but based on the author’s name I’m going to guess he has no ties to authentic Cuban culture.

    I don’t exactly blame the Cuban government for wanting to make a brand new (not original Havana Club, do your research) rum out inside Cuba, but call it something else and then, fine, go ahead and compare. Take it with a grain of salt. It’s your one person opinion. And mind. Shrugs.

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