Review: Matusalem Gran Reserva Rum 15 (2010)

Review: Matusalem Gran Reserva Rum 15 (2010)

First produced in Cuba, Matusalem now hails from the Dominican Republic (after a stint in the U.S. — presumably Puerto Rico), but claims to hold fast to its original Cuban recipe dating back to 1872.

This is the company’s top-end bottling, aged for 15 years using the solera style of barrel aging (though what exactly that means is up for debate, as you can see in the comments).

As for the rum, it’s not as dark and rich as I’d have expected from such an old spirit, its green-tinted caramel color masking a spirit that’s still got a lot of heat to it despite weighing in at just 80 proof. Less sweet than you think, its wood notes are heavy, with a touch of charcoal and even bitterness in the finish.

Otherwise this is a surprisingly, shockingly even, simple rum. Fortunately, it’s very affordable — I’ve seen it as cheap as $20 on sale — and for that, you might find it perfectly acceptable for use as an everyday mixer.

80 proof.


Matusalem Gran Reserva Rum 15 (2010)




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Rum fan on January 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    There is also an 18 year old that should be on the market shortly. And if you like strong, dark rum, you should really try Kraken Rum. Just came out… I tried it, a black spiced rum and it’s amazing. plus the packaging is really cool.

  2. Edoc on January 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Supposedly Kraken is a product of the Angostura distilling group. If that’s true, it’s an excellent pedigree– Angostura rums (such as 1919 and 1824) are very good rums.

  3. Robert Burr on February 12, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Matusalem was made in Lake Alfred and Auburndale, Florida for a few years. THe 151 proof Red Flame was legendary. The new Matusalem 18 year old should debut at Miami Rum Renaissance Festival May 5-9, 2010.

  4. Crash on February 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    This rum is NOT 15 years old. Nowhere on that bottle is there a genuine age statement. That “15” in the middle means absolutely nothing, it could just as easily be “150”.

    If they want you to believe that it’s 15 years old, that’s one thing, but you don’t have to perpetuate their marketing myth.

    • Jonathan Echavarria on January 31, 2018 at 7:43 am

      You my friend, are very wise. Thank you for being an advocate of true rum. “Crash” is right, for many years, in a ditch effort to keep up with demand for whiskey, there have been false labels coming out left and right for rum. This is saddening, for someone who truly appreciates rum for what it is. There are rums that are misleading with their labels, and color, and flavor… adding sugars and caramel coloring making people believe the aging of the rum is real.

  5. Christopher Null on February 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Crash – I have confirmed that this is indeed a 15-year Solera style rum.

  6. Arctic Wolf on March 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I am very curious as to how you confirmed the age statement. I have found researching Matusalem rums very difficult. Persons I know in the Dominican Republic have never heard of the rum, nor a triple column still from which it might have been produced. The only evidence I have found of a presence of Matusalem in the Republic of Dominica is a warehouse which may or may not be a bottling facility, and it may not even be related to the Matusalem Rum.

    I guess I am a little with Crash here, as to the age statement, but then I am suspicious of almost every age statement. Calling something a Solera blender, can mean just about anything.

    Having said all that, I really do not care what age the rum is. Matusalem Gran Reserva tastes great, and pleasing my palate is what really counts, the rest is just marketing hype!

  7. Christopher Null - Drinkhacker on March 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Arctic Wolf – The back of the bottle indicates it 15 years old, specifically. You are right, this could be completely bogus or misleading, but they are at least claiming 15 years, but that goes for just about anyone doing anything in this business.

  8. Capn Jimbo's Rum Project on August 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

    At The Rum Project (link above) Sue Sea and I have published over 120 independent rum reviews. At the main rum website we’ve taken the time to identify the five basic styles (not origins) of rum which of course includes the Cuban style (light, smooth, peppery heat).
    … Gran Reserva was chosen as the reference standard and we think for good reason. Ron Matusalem is not only a great example of the Cuban style (as confirmed by El Machete) but also of the Solera method for producing a rum that reveals growing layers of beautiful complexity.
    … Solera is a much misunderstood method of aging. A typical solera might be composed of three or four rows of barrels, with a portion of the bottom layer taken periodically for the final product, and replaced in turn by each row above. The top row is then replenished with young product. Thus the final rum is a blend of many years. The “15 years” is intended to imply the age of the oldest rum in the blend.
    … The problem is this. Because of the system’s expense and angel losses, it’s very expensive to exceed much more than four rows/layers which leads to an average age of about 7 or 8 years. And the oldest rum is always changing. If the solera has been in existence for 15 years then the oldest rum will indeed be that age. The very next year and the oldest will now be 16 years. But of course the label never changes, go figure.
    … Still, this is a magnificent rum, way too easy to drink (trust me). It would be hard to do better. Compare to Santa Teresa.

  9. J WHITE on March 2, 2011 at 11:06 am

    “As for the rum, it’s not as dark and rich as it should”. THAT an understatement. The drink color is GOLD. don’t be fouled by the dark bottle. Dont be fouled. It is completely like whisky when poured.. There is NO RUMMY character to it. It is whisky spirity. whisky yeasty. little heat. no stand out carmale vanilia. There no spice. It’s bitter sweet at most and is deprived of any molasses. My brain wanted my to pour a jar of molasses in my mouth because certinly this drink did not have any. The brain cant be fouled. The smell from bottle was soft oak, bourbonary, and a fruit – maybe a plum but I think cherry. Legs are thick. everything else sucks. I could of bought 1919. I have to wait over a week or 2 to buy another bottle. That why I am pissed. My store cant help with nothing and only have baby section of stuff. they dont have small versions. If a review mention like scotch or not as … what ever. say away from it. Can anyone recommand Havanna club 7 or Havanna ? mixer? Is there also any cane or white rum be drunk straight from bottle. Is 1919 “RUMMY”. I hear it just VANILLIA OAK instead. Also very CREME-Breule. That sould good. the softness i love. What is myers like? Oh good. Why can I order this stuff in minture or 1/2 pints. I am after recommanded afforable stuff that is no dry or crisp for my palate.

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