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Ron Matusalum Gran Reserva 23 Rum

Review: Ron Matusalum Gran Reserva 23 Rum   (92.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
December 08, 2017

Ron Matusalem prides itself on being a Cuban style of rum with a history in Cuba they trace back to 1872 when two brothers, Benjamin and Eduardo Camp, together with a partner, Evaristo Álvarez opened a distillery in Santiago de Cuba. According to the information I found a few years ago on the Matusalem website, the rum they were producing began to win acclaim by the first quarter of the 20th century. The distillery apparently operated until the 1960′s when due to the Cuban Revolution the Álvarez family was exiled, and the rum they made disappeared from the landscape.

The brand was resurrected by Claudio Álvarez Salazar, who is the great-grandson of Evaristo Álvarez. Of course, it was not possible, given the political situation in Cuba, for Claudio to produce or bottle the rum in Cuba. Apparently, it is produced (presumably by a third-party as Ron Matusalem does not own a distillery) in the Dominican Republic, and then bottled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana by Proximo Spirits.

(Proximo Spirits is a privately owned, spirits importer based in Jersey City, New Jersey. In five short years they have grown their portfolio quickly and now represent premium brands in all several major distilled spirits categories including Vodka, Whiskey, Tequila and of course Rum. The most premium brand of rum which the company represents is Ron Matusalem.)

The subject of this review, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 23 is not an 23-year-old rum as many people believe, rather it is aged according to what the Matusalem company calls a solera aging process which in the past was described on their website as follows:

The Solera aging system is a cascading process where slightly younger rums are blended with slightly older rums. Stored in oak casks, the aged rum are stacked in different levels. The oldest distilled rum is housed on the lowest levels. Newer rums are put into the higher levels so that the youngest is on top. As the rum is pulled from the lowest Solera barrels for bottling, it is replaced with rum from the levels just above. This process is repeated with the remaining levels, though no more than one-third of each cask can be drawn off every three months. This marrying of old and new softens the fiery younger rum and provides it with a refined smoothness and flavor not found in ordinary rums. A 15-year Solera or a 10-year Solera is an average of the blended years. Our Matusalem rums are Solera blended and are a blend of aged rums that average a year’s designation.

The Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 23 Solera Blender is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

Although I really like the heavy glass bottle and the display box, I have a couple of quibbles with respect to the presentation of the Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 18 which prevents a perfect score. The first quibble is with respect to the statement on the label which reads Formula Original de Cuba. This statement leads many people to believe that this is an authentic Cuban rum produced in Cuba. In fact, I have had many fruitless arguments with persons who point to that statement as proof of that particular point of view. Although the back label explains that the rum is now crafted in the Dominican Republic, it is apparent that many people never read the back label.

The second quibble is the symbol above and below the main label proudly proclaiming Solera 23 Blender. Again many people confuse this statement as meaning the rum is a 23-year-old spirit with the youngest rum in the blend being 23 years. The truth is, that we do not know the age of the youngest rum in the blend. We do not even have a clear idea of whether any rum in the bottle approaches anything close to 23 years.

In the Glass 9.5/10

When I pour a bit of  the rum into my glencairn glass, the first thing I notice is the rich bronze colour of the spirit. The colour is quite a bit darker than the Gran Reserva 18 which had more of an amber colour. When I tilt my glass and give it a slow swirl, I see that the spirit is medium bodied, and the crest which has formed drops thick leglets travel slowly down the inside of my glass. The initial aroma carries a nice mixed aroma of brown sugar, baking spices, oak and vanilla.

I let the glass breathe and soon noticed hints of dark fruit (figs and raisins), banana, peaches, marmalade and canned apricots. The oak seems to grow in the glass and is complimented by caramel and maple toffee, hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, rich tobacco and roasted walnuts. I love what I have encountered so far

In the Mouth 56/60

The rum demonstrates a nicely melded flavour of dark caramel (treacle), vanilla and oak spice which gives us spicy, but smooth delivery. Baking spices ( nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon) separate from the oak spices with hints of burlap and leather, fresh toast, baked banana and coconut, touches  marmalade, and a lovely underlying flavour of toasted pecans. I added a dab of ice and noticed chocolate flavours beginning to ooze out of the rum, dark bittersweet chocolate that just seems to melt in your mouth.

I said that the Matusalem 18 Solera Blender was the type of rum which you could sit comfortably in an old leather chair and just sip on it as you enjoy your evening, the Matusalem 23 Solera Blender is even more so.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The ending is perhaps just a touch bitter with the flavours of  bittersweet chocolate, treacle and roasted pecans dominating the sweeter flavours of vanilla and caramel. Baking spices, nutmeg and cloves (with just a hint of cinnamon) rests on the palate after the swallow.

The Afterburn 9/10

This is a really nice rum, especially now at the start of the winter when the weather has turned cold and the snow won’t leave the ground. I suspect that if you like rum as much as I do, you will like this one just as much as I do. The flavours are bold and the sweetness is tempered. I suggest that you serve it in an Old Fashioned (see recipe below) or just sip it alone or with ice. You really can’t go wrong whichever way you choose.

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

Suggested Recipe:

Rum Old Fashioned

Rum Old Fashioned

2 oz Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 23
1 tsp simple syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Fees Cocktail Bitters)
3 large ice cubes
1 twist of orange peel

Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!


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)

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