Havana Club Masterclass: Day #3 The Distillery

Day #3: The Distillery

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Maestro Ronero Asbel Morales

The Maestros Roneros ensure the perfect quality of the blending and ageing processes with passion, patience, precision and a strong attachment to Cuban rum making tradition.

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Together, they keep the secrets of one of Cuba’s true treasures: a unique product of incomparable quality resulting both from quality ingredients and ancient traditions.

At least ten years of training are required to become a true Maestro Ronero; this is the amount of time required for the most experienced to transmit their knowledge to the youngest.

Generations of Maestros Roneros have been the guardians of Cuba’s rum making tradition, humbly learning from their forefathers and generously leaving their own creations to age, so future generations can blend even better aged rums by using them.

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A fresh batch of barrels sanitising ready for use on the next blend of Dark Havana Rums.  Havana Club use Old white oak barrels at every step of the production process.  These barrels have previously been used for both bourbon and whiskey before arriving in Havana ready for use by Havana Club Rum.  Subtle exchanges occur between the liquid and the cask’s wood, allowing the rum to mature and acquire its wonderful aromas, complexity and amber colour. Some of the barrels used at the end of the process are nearly a century old, and allow the rum to rest, settle and breathe.

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Processing

The Cuban sugarcane produces a high quality, low viscosity molasses, with a hint of acidity.  The Maestro Ronero of Havana Club select the purest Cuban molasses.

This results in a natural, residue-free fermentation that takes place using pure Cuban spring water.

Fermentation

The pure water used to dilute the molasses is controlled through a series of precise filtration treatments.  Once the molasses are purified with water, a selected yeast is added, to form a mixture called the ‘baticion’.

The fermentation process takes place under close supervision in ‘corbatos’ (huge metal vats) as it is transformed into ‘vino de cana’ (sugarcane wine) at about 5% abv.

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Distillation

An extremely slow distillation process in columns that are especially designed for Havana Club produces the powerful and aromatic ‘aguardientes’. The young ‘aguardientes’ are aged in American white oak casks giving style and profile to the future rum.  Havana Club distils the ‘aguardientes’ to about 75% alcohol, maintaining aroma and flavour as well as distilling an extra fine distillate to about 96% alcohol.

Blending

These intense ‘aguardientes’ are aged for a minimum of 18 months and then blended. After this first cycle of blending particular ‘aguardientes’ are chosen for further aging.  These will become a part of a future rum blend and are called ‘madre’ (mother).

The aged ‘aguardientes’ are then blended a second time with extra-light sugarcane distillates that add smoothness and balance to the new ‘ron fresco’ (fresh rum).

Filtration

The ‘ron fresco’ is filtered in the traditional Cuban method through activated charcoal in oak barrels.  This is one of the slowest methods of purification but also one of the best.

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Ageing

All Havana Club rums are aged, and are therefore called ‘añejos’.  After the ‘ron fresco’ is filtered it is aged in white oak casks many of which are very old.  After many years aging the Maestro Roneros determined that the time has come for that rum to be blended a final time before being rested, filtered and bottled.

This last act of blending is called the ‘toque’ – the final touch.

Throughout the ageing phases, the choice of barrel is crucial, as the wood gives colour, aroma and complexity to the liquid. The Maestro Ronero chooses old white-oak barrels to allow the rum to breathe, and younger barrels for their tannic properties.  A few special  ‘aguardientes’ are selected for further long term ageing.

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If you want to read more about the Havana Club Masterclass Adventures:

Click here to read the Havana Club Masterclass: Meet the Winners

Click here to read the Havana Club Masterclass: Day#1

Click here to read the Havana Club Masterclass: Day #2

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