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Havana Club 7

Review: Havana Club 7 Year Old Cuban Rum 83.5/100
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

In most of the world,  Havana Club rum  is associated with the brand owned by Pernod Richard who is currently embroiled in a battle with Bacardi over whom owns the rights to the Havana Club Trademark.  Suffice it to say, if you buy Havana Club outside of the US, it is probably the Pernod Richard brand, and if you buy it within the borders of the US,  it will be the Bacardi brand.  In the end, after lots of lawyers have made a ton of money, the matter may finally be resolved…or not.

The subject of my review is Havana Club 7 Year Old. It is an authentic Cuban Rum.   This rum (brand owned by Richard Pernod) has become widely available in markets outside of the US, including where I live in Alberta, Canada.

Introduction:

Sometimes when I take the first sip of new rum, I close my eyes; and I let the rum show me where it belongs. This rum brought me to an old tavern, close to the docks.  The kind of place you see in old movies where the rum flows and stories get taller in the telling.  The place has an oily, tobacco stained floor. Cigarette smoke drifts up to the ceiling mingling here and there with the occasional smell of a Cuban cigar.   A girl sits on a boardwalk stage, singing slightly out of key, as the patrons in the tavern pay more attention to their stories than to her.  A burly bartender, who looks like he can handle whatever trouble comes his way, wipes the sweat from his brow, and then with the same towel wipes the bar-top.  He glances at me playing solitaire in the corner of the room and sipping the rum he served me.  I had told him I would stay and pay him well if the rum was good.   He served me a soft oily, smoky rum called Havana Club.  I smile… the tip will be generous tonight.

In the Bottle: 4/5

The Havana Club 7 year old rum arrives in a tall slender brown bottle.  The Havana Club label is bold and assertive with an eye catching style.  This presentation is solid except for the pressed on screw cap.  I have come around a little in recent months to the acceptance of plastic screw caps, but I still believe the pressed on metal caps are inferior.  I have had too many which did not properly reseal my bottle.  I am not a fan of plastic diffusers in the bottle top either. I was told that the purpose of the diffuser is so that bartenders cannot refill the bottle with an inferior spirit and then place it back on the shelf. My experience is that the diffuser just makes it harder for me to get my rum out of the bottle. I think that if a company can take the time to relabel a bottle in French and English for the Canadian market, they can take the time to eliminate the annoying diffusers for that same market as well. The last time I checked, there was not a huge problem with Canadian bartenders trying to refill there expensive bottles with inferior rum. Maybe I am misinformed.

In the Glass  8.5/10

I am a fan of long slender legs that move slowly and gracefully. This is exactly what I see in my glass after I give it a small swirl with the Havana Club rum. The side of the glass carries a lot of oil, and the rum is sure to have a long finish.  The rum is a little darker perhaps than I was expecting. It has a look of richness that is very inviting.

The nose displays a moderate amount of smoke which seems to subdue the aroma from the glass to a certain extent. Over time, molasses, dark brown sugary baking spices, dried fruit (raisins and prunes) and a lurking tobacco all find their way out of the glass and into my nostrils. I would have scored this a little higher had the nose been more assertive.

In the Mouth  51/60

This is not a clean, crisp rum barreled in American oak and bottled with that smooth tinge of left over bourbon. This is a molasses filled rum with an unmistakable smoky character. The molasses carries a lot of sweetness forward into the smoke with prunes, raisins, and dates dancing in the wisps. Leathery tobacco crouches in the smoke adding a slightly bitter counter punch to the molasses sweetness.

Hot oak spices provide a bridge between the bitter and the sweet, but it is and odd union, with a certain metallic strangeness attached to the flavours that is hard to identify, but there nonetheless. The rum fits that tavern I described earlier. It is a rum for smoke filled rooms where men swap tall stories of adventure, or play solitaire depending upon their company and their mood.

In the Throat  12/15

The rum fills my throat with smoke and finishes with that odd lingering metallic taste. The sweetness from the molasses has become cloying, and the oak spice carries more odd flavours of grassy green tobacco and subtle hints of sulpher.  Strangely, this is nicer than it sounds.

The Afterburn  8/10

I can see why this is a favoured rum on forums and chat rooms around the internet.  It is dark and rich and carries a full round flavour profile compared to other rums in its price range.  It has a soft oil and a tobacco richness.  It is right at home in the taverns where the stories are tall and the air is thick . There are times when I really enjoy that particular style of ambiance and atmosphere. The next time I am in that mood, this will be the rum I sip.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.

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Suggested Recipes

This is an authentic Cuban Rum so I thought I would suggest  an authentic Cuban bar drink called the, Cuban Special:

Cuban Special

2 Oz Cuban Rum
1 Oz Lime Juice
1 Tbsp Pineapple Juice
1 Tbsp Triple Sec

Build over Ice in a Mixing glass
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a chunk of pineapple

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I also like Cuban Coffee:

Cuban Coffee

1 Oz Cuban Rum (Havana Club 7 Year old Rum)
3/4 oz Tia Maria
Hot Black Coffee
Sugar to taste

Top with Whipped Cream
Garnish with grated bittersweet Chocolate

I am going to point out that the cocktail photos were courtesy of Rum Connenction.

Enjoy! and please remember my aim is not to get you to drink more, it is to get you to drink better!

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You may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

17 Responses to “Havana Club 7”

  1. Shane F. said

    One of my all time favourites and definitely proof that rum tasting is very subjective. Personally I would rate HC 7 higher but perhaps that is because I judge mixes as highly as I do neat and “on the rocks”. I tend to enjoy this more than Selección de Maestros but once again that is personal preference. The only thing I do not taste compared to your review is the metallic taste but perhaps my palette is not sensing it (Unlike Brugal which simply overpowers me with a brine/chlorine taste). Still, I do feel for the Americans who suffer without Havana Club because of half a century of political sour grapes.

  2. Steve said

    Would like to add my agreement to others., a very good accurate review and your tasting notes are bang on…
    Have just returned from another Havana vactation with my full family allowance of 7 year this time after seeing the locals drinking it neat of an evening in the Salsa and Jazz clubs and thought I’d try it neat also.
    The 3year and Especial from previous trips will be kept for coctails from now on.
    And if you could only pick it up at the same price as the Gowernment shops in Cuba….. life would be sooooo sweet !

  3. Robin said

    Dear Chip,

    It’s been a while since I finished my bottle of HC 7yr, which I enjoyed very much. It was one of my first Rum bottles I bought and I never got to find a similar Tobacco-flavored taste in rums since then. Can you think of other rums which have this tobacco flavor or smell? I find it to be a very interesting flavor in rum!

    cheers,
    Robin

    • I don’t really have any great suggestions for you at this time but if I come across something for you I will let you know. Perhaps some of the readers have a few suggestions?

      • Robin said

        In that case, I just have to get myself a new bottle of the same then. :-)

        meanwhile off topic: I just received a bottle of Don Papa rum (from the Philippines), which I think has very unique taste to it. I’m not sure it is available in your region though, but it worth a try!

        cheers,
        Robin

  4. Nelson Abreu said

    I just sailed home with a case of this rum. I have been drinking the 3 year old and the Anejo Reserve for years now, and I cannot wait to crack open the first bottle of 7 year tonight. For those of you who are fellow Americans, you don’t have to sail there to buy it. It’s easily found anywhere in Mexico and the Caribbean, and also in Canada. You can legally bring in two liters per person back from vacation for personal consumption.

  5. tyler l said

    Hey there. Really enjoyed your review. I’m curious because I discovered a full, unopened bottle of havana club 7 year old probably anywhere from the 1940′s to 1950′s. Any idea of how much it’s worth?

  6. Mike Reyq said

    SO happy to find your blog. We traveled to Cuba several times over last 10 years. We used to have aranch there and went back to “see what my mom loved”. Bacame hooked on this rum and search constantly for something available in USA that is similiar. We tried the BArboncourts and Flor de Cana……..and now we are stuck on Matusalem Platino as “close”………….any other suggestions…??

    We also did extensive research and found that if one drinks ONLY 7 yr Old HC all night (even once an “all day and night”) you won’t have a hangover! This was proven on several occasions

  7. Dennis Decoster said

    Living in the EU has few to none advantages in the rum/cocktail industry, being able to replace the Bacardi line of products with Havana Club is one of them. I mix this one according to their website’s “Culto A La Vida” recipe, and its amazingly tasty.

  8. nivoxz said

    today i had my first bottle of this fine rum wich i have to say i really loved. i just had it with a little ice and i got to say, for the price it is a very fine rum

  9. Bob Sabatini said

    Where can I buy Havana Club in the U.S.A. ????

  10. Your tasting note is bang on! Fantastic rum. I enjoyed it last night for the first time neat and was truly impressed. Beautiful stuff that I just can’t bring myself to add coke to this finest of rums.

  11. C Gains said

    This one sounds good.
    big molasses rum is exactly what I’m after. Also the rich and dark and soft oil you mention seems exactly what I’m after. Basically no whisky character. Pure Rum!!!

    H club 7 is not
    “clean, crisp rum barreled in American oak and bottled with that smooth tinge of left over bourbon”

    That sounds exactly like Matusalem Gran Reserva I purchase I did not like at all and had nothing like rum.

    • Jay michael Pease said

      I agree with everything that you have said in your wonderful review (except one thing). This rum should be served with only one other thing……A Glass.

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