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Brand in the spotlight: Matusalem

When you think of Cuba and Rum, you usually end up with Bacardì and Havana Club, but in the heyday of Cuban Rum, both brands had a huge competitor: Matusalem.


Cuba and Rum

Today, Rum is inextricably linked to Cuba. However, only a fraction of the Rum in our regions comes from Cuba. There is not even a Cuban Rum in the United States. But where does that connection come from? To find that out we have to go back to the second half of the 19th century, when some Spaniards went to Cuba to apply their knowledge of distillation and maturation, which they had acquired in the production of Sherry and Brandy, to Rum. The production methods that we associate today with the Spanish style Rum are the result of that knowledge: short fermentation, column distillate and very important: Solera maturation.

The Cuban Rum was characterized by a pleasant and soft taste, which was largely due to the art of barrel aging. Due to the low fermentation and distillation in a column, the harsh molasses taste, that we mainly find in English style Rum today, disappears. In order to give the taste a little more complexity and to further eliminate the sharp edges, a good barrel maturation is indispensable. This is where the Solera method comes in: The barrels are stacked in a pyramid shape with the oldest Rum at the bottom (hence Solera, from the Spanish for ground, Suelo) and the youngest Rum at the top. With each bottling, the bottom is tapped and then topped up with the above, and therefore younger, barrels. This gives you a permanent mixture of young and old Rum that benefits the taste and in many cases makes the 'blending' of Rum completely unnecessary.

These smooth Rums were quickly discovered by the American public and were the drink of choice for parties and cocktails. So the rise of Cuban Rum had begun!

Unfiltered versus filtered

Fun Fact: Cuban, as well as most other Spanish style Rums, need to be aged for at least 2 years to be recognized as Rum by their country of origin. This means that every Solera Rum must be at least 2 years old to be added to the pyramid, and so the entire system usually contains much older Rum. This also means that white Rum, such as Bacardì Carta Blanca, normally has a color due to maturation, but this is filtered out to obtain a transparent Rum that does not affect the color of cocktails. That in contrast to a 'white' Havana Club, which is unfiltered and therefore slightly yellow.



Prohibition in America has given Cuban Rum the ultimate boost that today makes us associate Cuba and Rum. Every American who could afford it took a flight to Cuba to enjoy Rum and Rum cocktails in bars. Cuban nightlife was becoming a lifestyle and soon Cuban Rum was being smuggled along the sea and roads from Florida to Chicago, New York and other cities where the 'speakeasies' were sprouting like mushrooms. Cuban Rum became the expression of freedom, partying and quality.


969 years

The brands that are most familiar to us today were then part of the pioneers who introduced this way of producing Rum. We know Bacardì and Havana Club very well, of course, but the largest producer at the time with almost 50% market share was Matusalem. The brand was founded in 1872 by Benjamín and Eduardo Camp and their partner Evaristo Álvarez. To emphasize the long maturation, but above all to put the timeless character of their Rum in the spotlight, they chose the name Matusalem, a Biblical figure who would have lived to be 969 years old.

The logo is a swallow. This was chosen because at one point a flight of swallows flew over the buildings. For the brand, the bird represents elegance and freedom.

More than other brands from Cuba, Matusalem focuses on long maturation. Their master blender is called the 'Santiago Master Blender' and is always a family member who is the only one who can transfer the knowledge. They only use the Solera method and pride themselves on an Angel share of 4.5% with which they give the rum a lot of taste.


Not really Cuban

Matusalem originated in Cuba, but today they are no longer active there. Like other producers, they fled during the Cuban Revolution when their factories were nationalized. Where Bacardì initially opted for the Bahamas and later for Puerto Rico and Mexico, Matusalem has chosen to move production to the Dominican Republic. The choice was mainly motivated by the geographical and climatic similarities between the two islands. The volcanic subsoil and the mild temperatures all year round are a good starting point for a quality rum. Matusalem still likes to use his Cuban roots in his marketing. As for other producers, the association with Cuba is a necessity in order to distinguish oneself.


Not really a distiller

Unlike other brands, Matusalem no longer distills its own Rum. On an island like the Dominican Republic, where you don't have to go far to find a quality Rum, it was possible for Matusalem to focus only on what is really important: the aging in barrel. Matusalem uses only slightly charred barrels and Solera maturation to give its Rums the typical soft, fruity and sweet taste. The taste is one that is quite easy to spot. Especially the older varieties are very tasty and will appeal to many people. It shows that the finish of a Spanish style Rum deserves the most attention and that this can produce very good results.

The focus on traditional Cuban Rum makes for an unsurprising line-up. Matusalem won't offer spiced or pre-mixed Rum variants. The only variant that is a bit out of step is the Insolito: a Solera aged Rum that is filtered and then aged again in barrels of Spanish red wine, making the Rum look like a rosé wine.






Most famous variations:

  • Matusalem Rum Platino

  • Matusalem Rum Clásico

  • Matusalem Rum Añejo

  • Matusalem Rum Solera 7

  • Matusalem Rum Insolito

  • Matusalem Rum Gran Reserva 15

  • Matusalem Rum Gran Reserva 18

  • Matusalem Rum Gran Reserva 23

Conclusion

I can definitely recommend Matusalem to anyone looking for a Spanish style Rum of high quality and especially looking for a lot of softness and a fruity sweetness. Certainly the variations of 15 and higher excel in a very nice taste that you will recognize and which you will return to regularly.

Do you want to taste Matusalem? Then come to the shop, we always have bottles in stock.


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