Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 15

Ron Matusalem is a Cuban rum……but rather strangely it is now produced in the Dominican Republic. The tale of how and why this came about is an interesting one filled with awards, destructive legal battles and a family forced into exile.

In 1872, Benjamin and Eduardo Camp, two Spanish brothers embarked upon their adventure accompanied by their partner, Evaristo Alvarez. They endeavoured to create a smooth rum of the highest quality. They opened a distillery in Santiago de Cuba and took their cues from the production methods and ageing processes used in the production of brandy and cognac to create the closely guarded formula for Ron Matusalem. Over 140 years a later, Matusalem Rums are still highly regarded as excellent examples of Cuban style rum.

In 1912, Benjamin returns to his native Spain leaving Eduardo and Evaristo running the company. Claudio Alvarez LeFebre, the son of Evaristo joins the company and continues to run operations for the forseeable future. 25 years in fact. His knowlege and experience in the production of rum along with his business acumen sees the company continue to grow within the global marketplace and begin to become recognised with awards.

With prohibition in the U.S, tourists flocked to Cuba and Matusalem grew in popularity with these visitors at a time when Cuba was at the height of its popularity, with Havana being considered as the Paris of the Americas. The company profile grew and at the beginning of the 1940’s, Claudios’ only son, Claudio Alvarez Soriano is asked to join the company. His drive and skills in the marketplace which he gained whilst in the U.S contributed greatly to the brands success. However, in 1960, the events surrounding Fidel Castro coming to power and the regime change within Cuba forced the family into exile and tensions developed around who had control of the Matusalem brand.

During the 1970’s, several groups were struggling for control of the company and in the early 1990’s, Claudio Alvarez Salazar, the great-grandson of the company’s founding member Evaristo brings forward legal action and sues for control of the company. In 1995 a settlement is reached giving him sole control of the family company. Following this regaining of the company control, the Alvarez family focuses production solely on premium rums. Matusalem completes its relocation by beginning production and bottling in the Dominican Republic. With its excellent sugarcane, sun, warm climate, the original formula for the rum is adhered to and production of the rums begins in earnest.

In 2002, the Matusalem brand is relaunched worldwide and in 2005, Dr Claudio Alvarez Salazar passes on control of the company to his eldest son, Claudio Renaud Alvarez. He becomes company CEO, therefore seeing the fifth generation of the Alvarez family taking control of the Matusalem brand.

The range has a fair few products. Available in the UK are the Platino, Solera 7, Clasico 10 and Gran Reserva 15. There are others in the range but sadly they are unavailable in the UK… the moment. The rum that I have in my possession to talk about today is the Gran Reserva 15.

Matusalem GR Label

The Gran Reserva 15 is a solera rum. This, as discussed in other places on this site, whilst having the same basic principle, varies from producer to producer. The specifics of the Matusalem system are as follows:

  • The Third Criadera (top-tier of barrels) is replenished when necessary with the new product when its contents are emptied into;
  • The Second Criadera. This contains younger rums from the tier above which are married with existing rums in these casks. This is replenished with rum from the Third Criadera when its contents are transferred into;
  • The First Criadera. This contains rums from the Second Criadera which are married with existing rums in these casks. This is replenished with rum from the Second Criadera when its contents are transferred into;
  • The Solera. This is the final stage where rums from all of the upper casks are aged before being removed and blended to create what is said to be, the Cognac of Rums. The 15 used in the rums title reflects, in this instance, the average age of the rum contained in the blend.

Anyway, down to business. What is it like?

Matusalem GR Bottle

Tasting Notes – Matusalem Gran Reserva 15

In the glass: The rum is a dark amber / copper colour with red flashes. It leaves thick slow droplets on the glass. Initially, there really isn’t much of an aroma. After a while leaving the glass sitting, I can pick up light vanilla and woody notes with a very light almost honeyed fruitiness.

In the mouth: There is a fruitiness with oranges and apricots but you have to work for it. This is followed by caramel and a slight vanilla sweetness. There is a touch of toasted spice on my tongue. There is absolutely no kick on the finish which is of medium length with a light spice warmth which leaves quickly and is replaced by vanilla. There is a slight coconut aroma left in the glass. It’s drinkable and when you are in the right mood, I’d imagine large quantities of this can disappear very rapidly. The state of the bottle tells its own tale as to how many times I’ve been in the right mood as its close on full. Its just not that interesting.

It’s an average example of this style of rum and one that you should try at least once. It’s almost more savoury than sweet and for me it is definitely a rum that I need to be in the right mood to drink. It has no prominent flavours competing for your attention, but it does have a level of complexity that is so subtle that I need to feel like I want to drink this rum, rather than drink a rum. Its just a little insipid to warrant being a definite purchase.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ron Cubay

This is a new one for me and maybe for most of you…..unless of course you’ve visited Cuba, which means that you will be more than well versed with the delights that this range of rums has to offer! Cuban rums hold a special place for me as it was Havana Club Anejo Especial ( a rum that my wife had a fondness for and introduced me to ) that became one of my staple drinks and one of my entry points into the world of rum. Anyway, I digress. It is Ron Cubay that I’m talking about and please forgive me if ‘talking’ becomes ‘raving’.

Cubay Label

A little rum history to begin with. Rum production was first undertaken in Cuba in the 17th Century when sugarcane was used to create a crude molasses wine which would eventually be called Ron, or Rum. The sugarcane that was used was first introduced to Cuba in 1493 by Christopher Columbus on his return visit after discovering the Island on his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. The sugarcane, which had come from Spain from its origins in the Far East grew well in Cuba’s climate and soon became its main crop. In the 19th Century, rum production in Cuba really ramped up with places such as Havana, Cardenas and Santiago de Cuba beginning to produce large quantities of rum for export.

Fast forward to 1964 and Ron Cubay was founded in Santo Domingo, Villa Clara, which is centrally located in Cuba. The Cubay rums are produced by the distilleries of Cuba Ron S.A which also produce Havana Club. The Ron Cubay brand was only ever intended for domestic consumption, hence the reason that we are only just seeing it in the UK with it only having a presence in Europe since 2010. Distribution rights within the UK are held by a company called JBE Imports and it is thanks to Jonathan of JBE imports that I have the opportunity to sample and write about these rums.

Cubay Bottles

Although the Ron Cubay range consists of 5 rums……a 3-year-old Carta Blanca, a 4-year-old Carta Dorada, a 5-year-old Anejo Suave, a 7-year-old Anejo and a 10-year-old Anejo Reserva Especial, it is only the 3, 7 and 10-year-old expressions that will be marketed in the UK. As it has been making waves in Europe, particularly in The Netherlands, Ron Cubay has also been collecting awards with the Anejo winning Best Golden Rum at the 2012 Dutch Rum Awards and the Anejo Reserva Especial winning Best Premium Rum at the 2012 Dutch Rum Awards. All of which is nice, but what you really want to know is how it tastes… here goes.

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Carta Blanca

In the glass: The rum is clear but does display a slight golden hue. Immediately you get green sugarcane and a freshness. No harshness at all and a little sweetness.

In the mouth: There is a slight sugarcane on your tongue and a little fruity sweetness. The finish is medium length and leaves you with a grassy, fresh sugarcane taste. It’s clear that this rum will mix well.

I wanted to use the rum in a drink that would allow the rum to be at the fore, therefore I went for a daiquiri, or more specifically, a Hemingway Daiquiri. If you look online there are numerous recipes with varying quantities, some have sugar syrup as well as maraschino liqueur and others have an insane amount of lime. Truth is, as mentioned previously, you will find a combination that suits you, and you wont believe how different this tastes to a standard Daiquiri. I don’t like mine too sour so I opted for 10ml fresh lime juice, 10ml fresh ruby grapefruit juice, 10ml Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and 50ml Ron Cubay Carta Blanca. Put it all in a Boston Shaker with plenty of cubed ice and shake well for about 10 seconds so as not to dilute too much. Double strain into a pre-chilled glass of your choice, mine is a rocks glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if you desire, I just dive straight in.

Cubay Carta Blanca

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Anejo

In the glass: The rum is a bright golden colour and there is an initial brown sugar and honeyed vanilla aroma. The rum smells quite light and doesn’t look to viscous in the glass but there is a nice light sweet fruit depth to the rum that I can’t quite put my finger on.

In the mouth: The rum tastes quite light and doesn’t coat your mouth too heavily but my word its tasty. The sweetness that I couldn’t put my finger on is displaying itself as an almost pineapple and peach mixture. I then get a wave of warming vanilla. The rum has a medium finish and ends with brown sugar and fruit. The glass, once empty, which happens far too quickly, displays the trademark leather and tobacco aromas and it is unbelievable. This rum is so easy to drink neat, I forgot to mix it with anything and continued to sip glass after glass, enjoying each one more than the last.

Cubay Anejo

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Reserva Especial

In the glass: The rum is a deep mahogany brown and shows itself to be more viscous than the Anejo. It hits you straight away with dark brown sugar and an almost treacle sweetness. You can smell warm honey drenched peaches and a little spiciness. This all leaves a lasting vanilla above the glass when you leave it to sit. It smells like it has more going on than the Anejo in terms of complexity.

In the mouth: Instant warming sweetness envelops your mouth and it leads with treacle and a liquorice feel. Almost bonfire toffee. Not chewy in any way but like you’re about to enjoy fireworks! This gives way to a warm but not bitter oakiness and a little spicy vanilla. There is a little kick on the back of the tongue and it just lets you know that its there. It has quite a long vanilla and toffee finish. Its amazing what another 3 years in the barrel can do over and above the Anejo. It also benefits from the additional 2% abv that it has over the Anejo with the Reserva Especial weighing in at 40%.

Cubay 10


So that pretty much sums up my experiences so far with Ron Cubay. It’s not as well-known ( in the UK ) as other Cuban Brands, but it has equally as much to offer and at the potential price point, could offer incredible value should demand lead to a presence with your favourite online retailer’s. I for one am sold on these rums, particularly the Anejo which I think it’s a very nice rum to sip at any time and now having tried the Reserva Especial to complete my tasting of the range, you can really tell that this is truly a family of rums and the Reserva Especial is that natural progression from the Anejo in terms of complexity and quality. It is my favourite rum in the range as far as sipping goes but there is something about the Anejo and its taste both neat and when mixed that makes me think that it could become the pouring rum in quite a few bars that are adventurous enough to break from the familiar.

If you are attending Rumfest this year, JBE Imports will be showcasing Ron Cubay and it should be available for purchase there. I wholeheartedly recommend that you grab a bottle of all 3 expressions because based on my experiences so far, you will not regret doing so.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.