Rum review: Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 Solera

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Count Silvio
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Tue Oct 21, 2008 9:59 pm

“Esto es mas viejo que Matusalem”

In the 1800s two Spanish brothers Benjamin and Eduardo Camp, along with their partner Evaristo Álvarez, arrived in Cuba to establish Matusalem Rum in 1872 in Santiago de Cuba, where they used their knowledge of distillation and blending of sherries, brandies and wines to create a formula for rum that would be passed on to generations to come.

In 1912, when Benjamin returned to Spain, the company was left in the hands of his brother Eduardo and their partner, Evaristo who would soon unite their families through the marriage of Evaristos daughter and Eduardo's son, Claudio Álvarez LeFebre.

For the next 25 years LeFebre would the lead and improve the company using his expertise in rum production and administrative skills and in the 1940s LeFebre asked his son, Claudio Álvarez Soriano, to join the company. Soriano, schooled in the U.S., used his acquired management and marketing skills to help take the company to the next level of success by capturing 50% of the lucrative Cuban rum market.
Read the rest of the review on the frontpage.
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Capn Jimbo
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Wed Oct 22, 2008 12:37 am

Thank you for a great review!

Thought you might enjoy Sue Sea's notes...
At first I picked up a light alcohol prickle - not in a bad way. This rum is quite complex and requires airing. I found a high citrus orange, vanilla, oak and below some clove, a hint of cinnamon and leather. My early taste was sweet and thick with some deep orange moving into a hot white pepper finish. Gran Reserva left a smokey aftertaste.

I will tell you that I kept finding new notes in this fine rum, I think due to its Solera method spanning 15 years. This is a rum you can and should spend time with. We start with a half shot, and usually pour another half before concluding our notes. With Gran Reserva we just kept pouring, kept exploring and finding new notes.

Then Jim discovered something really surprising: cocoa. Like a nice warm sweet cup of cocoa on a cold day, served with mini-marshmallows floating and melting on the top. Or a warm Toll House cookie. Mmmmm. He was so right!
The full review and comparative comments are here.

I chose Gran Reserva as the flagship - or reference rum - for the Cuban style of rum, and it is certainly a must buy. However, much later we were blessed to find a rum that better exemplifies the light, clean Cuban style, namely Rum San Pablo - produced by the heirs of Justo Gonzalez of Cuba, and produced on Curacao with A. D. Jonckheer.

Rum San Pablo (and other Cuban style rums) are compared here.

Again, thanks for highlighting this superb ron.
Regards,
Capn Jimbo
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Count Silvio
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Wed Oct 22, 2008 9:34 am

Some people have said Matusalem has similarities to Havana Club rums but personally speaking I could not find much similarities at all between these rums. Matusalem is just so very robust compared to these light bodied Cubans. That is not to say they are wrong, it is just my opinion and everyone has their own.

Interesting to read other reviews of this - I'm having hard time to find anything citrusy or peppery in the Finish though, it was a smooth ride for me from beginning to the end.

This comment of yours made me curious as to how you define a cigar rum: "The finish is short and lightly peppery, leaving a smoky orange aftertaste that makes this a cigar rum."

Is it by the smokiness and pepperiness you define a cigar rum?
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Wed Oct 22, 2008 12:41 pm

I'm having hard time to find anything citrusy or peppery in the finish though... Is it by the smokiness and pepperiness you define a cigar rum?
Count, great questions and I will defer to Sue Sea on this one. She is really quite amazing and has the unique attributes of being a bit obsessive and has the kind of observational skills I just have to admire. For example, I can move one tiny object in a large room, she'll walk in and immediately spot it. She has an keen, almost photographic, memory for tiny details in those areas that interest her, like cooking and rum tasting. And she is an ex-smoker, loves cigars.

Her answer to you: "...the rums I consider good cigar or smoking rums are those that have finishes and aftertastes that complement smoking. These include smokiness, cigar box and tobacco elements that leave an almost coating aftertaste and what I call an "exhale", different from and later than the aftertaste. When I exhale then I sometimes get a second experience and sensations in both my nose and mouth."

Jean-Luc Broud identifies something he calls "retro-olfaction":
Occurring several minutes after tasting, the phenomenon of retro-olfaction generally reveals a product of high quality. This step is between smell and taste and is an aromatic return from nose to mouth. The retro-olfaction often sharply pinpoints an aroma previously revealed.
Sue Sea's "exhale" is a bit different in that it affects both secondary aroma AND taste. Only a very few, fine rums do this. For me - and do keep in mind I operate proudly as The Compleat Idiot - the factors that appeal to me as "cigar rums" (in addition to Sue Sea's factors) are a certain heaviness, and coating aftertaste. Rich rums which almost always feature some deep citrus and some sweetness.

Great questions...
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forrest
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Mon Nov 03, 2008 3:54 pm

Hey Count, another excellent review!!
i couldn't agree more...
Matusalem G R is deeply overlooked as a premium rum, and i think unfairly so.
Where i work, i can pick up a bottle of this for $21.+ US, and that my friend is a steal!!
By the way your assessment on the relative stylistic comparison to Havana Club is dead on!! i have been fortunate enough to taste the full range of H C before the involvement of Pernod Ricard, and though i love H C the differences between the 2--even stylistically-- are clearly obvious.

Another shame is how underrated/unknown Matusalen Platino & Classico are... these are also fantastic rums, and an excellent price point... (By the way you can see more similarities to the H C in both of those-- especially the Platino--H C Añejo Blanco.

And Sue Sea-- what a palate!! Capn Jimbo you are a lucky man to have a partner to taste with!!
And on the point of the 'Exhale' this is especially helpful in the analysis of higher proof , and lighter bodied spirits (i know you both know that, but for those that don't it is a helpful piece of info.)

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Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:07 pm

forrest wrote:Hey Count, another excellent review!!
i couldn't agree more...
Matusalem G R is deeply overlooked as a premium rum, and i think unfairly so.
Where i work, i can pick up a bottle of this for $21.+ US, and that my friend is a steal!!
By the way your assessment on the relative stylistic comparison to Havana Club is dead on!! i have been fortunate enough to taste the full range of H C before the involvement of Pernod Ricard, and though i love H C the differences between the 2--even stylistically-- are clearly obvious.

Another shame is how underrated/unknown Matusalen Platino & Classico are... these are also fantastic rums, and an excellent price point... (By the way you can see more similarities to the H C in both of those-- especially the Platino--H C Añejo Blanco.
I'd consider most US prices a steal but that is definitely cheap! Regrettably I have not tasted Matusalem Platino and Classico yet but I could see them being more similar to the standard HC range than the heavily aged Gran Reserva and perhaps the Gran Reserva is more similar to the HC 15?
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Count Silvio
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Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:30 pm

Capn Jimbo wrote: Her answer to you: "...the rums I consider good cigar or smoking rums are those that have finishes and aftertastes that complement smoking. These include smokiness, cigar box and tobacco elements that leave an almost coating aftertaste and what I call an "exhale", different from and later than the aftertaste. When I exhale then I sometimes get a second experience and sensations in both my nose and mouth."

Jean-Luc Broud identifies something he calls "retro-olfaction":
Occurring several minutes after tasting, the phenomenon of retro-olfaction generally reveals a product of high quality. This step is between smell and taste and is an aromatic return from nose to mouth. The retro-olfaction often sharply pinpoints an aroma previously revealed.
Great questions...
Depending which cigar I am smoking I try to choose the drink based on the cigars characteristics ie. is it light or heavy? I wouldn't want the drink to be much more powerful than the cigars flavours so I can avoid overwhelming the flavours of the cigar or vice versa. But I can definitely see the logic in Sue Sea's comments, interesting.

Retro-olfaction is certainly an interesting effect and there seems to be somewhat varying views with Jean-Luc Broud's definition. This website describes it as the following:
At the moment of swallowing retro-olfaction takes place, in other words an exhalation of air through the nose provokes a simultaneous inhalation of air through the mouth. This "draught of air" completely cleans out the sensitive area of our olfactory apparatus and we can then smell 100% of the aroma molecules. To understand the importance of this step, one only has to hold one's nose at the moment of swallowing: in this way retro-olfaction does not happen and perception will be limited to the three flavour sensations described above.
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Fri Nov 07, 2008 3:54 am

easily one of my favourite rums in the whole wide world.....almost quaffable.... yet... just as the world is beginning to fall apart... and my investments wither before my eyes... one of my favourite rums.. my keeper... my crutch...my support through long and cold nights.... has increased in price from $45 to $75 a bottle... damn you wall street!!!!! dammmmmnn youuuuu!!!!!
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Fri Nov 07, 2008 9:09 am

Well that is not too foul a price for it in Australia though I understand the shock if it was as little as 45 AUD before! Now that was a steal!
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Fri Nov 14, 2008 12:00 am

Here is some more information about the bird carrying a banner in the Matusalem logo - In 1872 when Matusalem was still based in Cuba they had swallows in their warehouse barn, hence the name Barn Swallows or "Golondrina." The swallow was common to the area of Santiago and was also considered a symbol of free-spirited freedom. Matusalem thought it was an appropriate symbol thus it became a part of the Matusalem logo.

I added a picture of their solera barrels to the review and here are a couple more from their laboratory and distillery.

Image

Image
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