Next in our Meet the People series, we speak with Rubislandy Aguilar Reyes, Havana Club International Ambassador during his Australian visit.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became brand Ambassador for Havana Club?
I started working at Havana Club three years ago at Havana Club Museum of Rum as a tour guide before they offered me to become Havana Club International Brand Ambassador. I took the role in December 2016.
What does your role as international ambassador for Havana Club involve?
My role is training and education. I travel around the world and teach people how we produce our rums, the processes behind it and how to make the classic cocktails that were born during Prohibition. We don’t necessarily want to change people’s minds about their cocktails but show them how we make cocktails in Cuba.
I am in Australia to host the Havana Club Master Class. During my visit here, I will host 4 masterclasses in Melbourne and Sydney, teaching bartenders about the rum distillation and process, and the origin and culture of the traditional Cuban Cocktails, made with Havana Club, the authentic Cuban Rum. At the end of the trip, we will pick Australia’s best participating bartenders to travel to Cuba with us to learn more about Havana Club, our rum, our people and our culture.
Havana Club is regarded as the bartenders’ rum. Why do you think it has achieved such worldwide status ?
When bartenders use Havana Club rum, they add a rum that harmonises very well with other ingredients. It gives balance and freshness. When you taste it neat, you taste a lot of flavours used in cocktails such as citrus, cinnamon and chocolate which makes it very versatile.
With the US considering lifting embargo and restrictions on Cuban rum, how do you think this will impact Havana Club?
Havana Club is the third largest producer in the world after Bacardi and Captain Morgan. If we are able to enter the US market, our ranking will go up because the quality of our rums can compete for the first place. We currently produce 4 million cases a year and we’re ready to increase our production to 6 million cases.
From your frequent travels around the globe, what are the emerging trends in the rum category?
Rum internationally is the third biggest category behind whiskey and vodka. Rum is both dark and light giving this category versatility, playing in more consumption moments and needs. Globally rum has been slow to premiumise, giving it a big opportunity for the future.
Focusing on Havana Club, we are now available in over 120 markets worldwide. Sales have multiplied by 10 in last 20 years. We are experiencing strong growth in premium dark rum especially in Europe, Germany and the UK.
Why do you believe the dark rum category is a growing trend?
People now realise that rum is not what it used to be. In the past, it was mainly used for cocktails. Now people know that rum is also a good spirit to sip neat, and when they know how it’s produced, they know there’s more in the world than cognac and whisky.
More extra aged rums are now paired with cigars whereas it used to be mainly whisky and cognac and people recognise rum as a good pairing no with cigars. Rum and cigars share a lot in production. Both are aged, cigars use different kinds of tobacco leaves which is similar to the blending of rums.
What are your recommended cocktails/signature serves for the various Havana Club expressions?
Havana Club 3 Años is good in a mojito and daiquiri. Havana Club Añejo Reserva goes well in the Cubata and Havana Club Añejo Especial is for Cuba Libre. Havana Club Selección de Maestros, I recommend rum old fashioned. Havana Club 15 Años Gran Reserva is for sipping and Havana Club Máximo Extra Añejo is best enjoyed neat with a cigar.
What innovations has Havana Club been working on of late?
Havana Club Unión is the first Cuban rum created to be paired with Cuban cigars, particularly Cohiba No. 6. Havana Club Tributo is a tribute to the Cuban way of making rum. Each limited release uses some of the finest aged rums rums to showcase different styles. Essence of Cuba is a range of four flavourings created by Havana Club and “The Bitter Truth”. It has a base of Havana Club 7 Años and natural ingredients used to highlight cocktails like bitters but they don’t have a bittering agent. It comes in four flavours: Aromatic Leaf, Coffee, Honey and Island Fruit. These will not be available in Australia at this stage.
Now that you’ve completed your Australian trip, can you share with us who will be travelling to Cuba to learn more about Havana Club?
Gordon Purcell from Coogee Pavilion in Sydney and Joshua Crawford from Boilermaker House in Melbourne.
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Gordon Purcell from Coogee Pavilion, Sydney has been in the bartender community for 10 years.
Havana has always been a staple for me. It is robust, complex and shines in almost any cocktail.
Joshua Crawford from Boilermaker House, Melbourne has been the in the industry for 12 years.
For me, as for many bartenders over the years, Havana Club Rum has always represented the intriguing historical romance of the Cuban cocktail culture over the last few centuries. The stories we hear when learning about drinks like the Mojito, the Daiquiri, the Mary Pickford and the Cuba Libre have become invaluable tools of the trade when creating those magical experiences of spinning together an amazing drink with tales of intrigue and wonder for our customers.
We will be featuring both winners of the competition here on Cocktails & Bars after they return from their trip to Cuba.
In partnership with Pernod Ricard Australia.
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