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Havana Club Añejo 3 Años

Review: Havana Club Anejo 3 Anos   74.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted June 26, 2014

Havana Club is a Cuban Rum produced by Havana Club International (a joint venture between the Cuban Government and Pernod Ricard) currently produced in two Cuban locations, San José de Las Lajas and Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba. According to tradition the production of the rum which was to become Havana Club began in 1878 when Spanish immigrant José Arechabala established Destileria La Vizcaya in the port city of Cárdenas, Cuba. The distillery remained in the hands of the Arechabala family and in 1934  José’s grandson (also named José Arechabala) apparently created the recipe for Havana Club Rum and began to market it throughout the world. However, the family lost control of the distillery and the brand when after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Cuban Government nationalized the distillery and company.

Havana Club Añejo 3 Años is a pale straw coloured rum spirit which has been aged for 3 years in Cuba. Because of the current difficulties between USA and Cuba the distillery which produces the rum must source its aging barrels from outside of the USA. This means that first fill American oak is almost certainly not used in the aging process, more likely the distillery uses second or third fill barrels which would be sourced from its Caribbean neighbors. Although the rum exhibits some colour it is nevertheless sold as a white cocktail rum which is said to be particularly well-suited for the Cuban Mojito.

Note: The nationalization of the original distillery and the Havana Club brand has been seen by some parties as an illegal act. And in fact,  in 1994, rum giant Bacardi entered into an alliance with the Arechabala family to repatriate the Havana Club brand. Later, in 1997 Bacardi purchased the residual rights to the Havana Club Trademark as well as the recipe for the original Havana Club rum from the Arechabalas. It is however, unclear whether the Arechabala family actually owned these residual rights. This is because the family had allowed their US registration of the brand/trademark to expire in 1973. Subsequently, in 1974, the Havana Club trademark was registered by the Cuban government through a government owned/controlled entity called Cubaexport who have aligned themselves with Pernod Ricard and formed Havana Club International.

In the legal battles which have followed, courts outside of the USA have generally ruled in favour of Havana Club International’s claim to the brand name (citing the 1974 Cubaexport trademark as proof that the Arechabalas no longer owned the brand); whereas courts within the USA have generally ruled in favour of Bacardi’s purchase of the trademark from the Arechabala family, and have officially revoked of the Cubaexport trademark (as of 2006).

I suspect that the fight for the trademark is not over, although it appears from the outside looking in that Bacardi is slowly losing ground in the battle.

Havana Club 3 SAM_1182In the Bottle 4/5

The Havana Club Añejo 3 Años is sold in the tall clear bottle shown to the left. The yellow label with the red and white Havana Club logo have apparently not changed very much over the past few decades. Personally, I would like to see a presentation with more ‘pop’ although I suspect the owners of the brand believe that the real ‘pop’ for the brand stems from its authentic Cuban heritage.

In the Glass 8/10

When poured into the glass the rum displays a light straw colour with tinges of yellow and green. When I tilt and twirl the glass, the rum leaves a slightly thickened sheen of liquid inside the crest of which lays down slightly thickened legs. I sense the light thickness reflects partially the three years of aging which the rum has undergone, although perhaps we have a bit of sugary sweetness on display as well.

The breezes above the glass are lightly sweet with hints of cotton candy, butterscotch and a light vanilla. Although it takes a minute or two the scent of fresh-cut grass becomes stronger as the glass sits, as do impressions of fresh plantain and canned pears. Bits of sandalwood struggle out of the glass which indicates that although the spirit appears to be filtered, some indications of wood aging are apparent in the air above the glass.

In the Mouth 45/60

The rum displays an unusual dichotomy in the mouth. We have what could be delicious flavours of cotton candy, butterscotch, and mint, but these are ambushed by sharper more astringent flavours of banana peel, fine oak spice, white pepper, and fresh-cut green grass which permeates the rum. Although the spirit seems to become sweeter as I sip and has some underlying vanillans trying to poke through, the winding grassiness of the spirit makes it almost impossible to sip.

Although I cannot sip the rum comfortably. I am not necessarily concerned, as the rum is meant to be a mixer and the qualities which make sipping difficult, might turn out to be a benefit in the cocktail glass.

I decided that I should test the spirit in the manner which was suggested on the Havana Club website, and I made myself a mojito using fresh mint from my garden with a bit of lime juice and soda. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed as the grassy quality of the spirit pushed right through the cocktail, and the flavour of the mojito was average at best. When I tried a daiquiri, the results were similar, and I was at a bit of a loss as to how I should proceed. I decided to transfer my daiquiri to a tall glass, and I added ice and tonic. Then added I some more mint, and I finally  ended up with a mojjito style bar drink which I could enjoy (see recipe below).

In the Throat 10/15

The exit features some butterscotch and vanilla, but not enough sweetness to make up for the grass and chlorophyll. Because the negative aspects of the grassy finish impact the cocktail experience in a detrimental way, it is hard for me to score the finale in a positive manner.

The Afterburn 7.5/10

I have a friend named Jason who comes to my rum club tastings now and then. Jason has told me more than once that the Havana Club Anejo 3 Anos is his favourite mojito rum. Knowing this, I had high hopes for this review. Unfortunately I found the rum stayed on the grassy side of the palate, and I never warmed up to its flavour.

My final score of 74.5/100 which represents a rum which is a mixer pure and simple, but not a mixer that excites me to any degree.

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


Suggested Recipe:

Tonic Mojito SAM_1183Mojito Tonic

1 1/2 oz Havana Club Anejo 3 Anos
Large Ice Cubes
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup
4 oz Tonic Water
3 sprigs of mint

Muddle 2 sprigs of mint and the Havana Club Anejo 3 Anos in the bottom of a tall glass
Add ice,sugar syrup, lime juice and tonic water
Garnish with another sprig of mint

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score 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 spirit. 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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