I first tried Ron La Progresiva at the 2019 RumFest at Skylark’s Black Tears Cuban Spiced launch (both hail from the same company). They whipped out this stubby, premium looking bottle from under the counter and gave me a little taste. At the time I wasn’t particularly impressed, but my palate already had a few cask strengths in beforehand, so a 41% ABV “ron” wasn’t going to do more than tickle my senses at that point. Also, if you have a look at my website, you’ll see that I’m more like a full bodied with a dash of “in your face” rum kind of guy most of the time – that being said, I am not dismissing other rum styles hence me writing this review.
Ron La Progresiva (along with Black Tears) are coming from Ron Vigia S.A. (or Bodega Vigia), the company being a result of a joint venture between Island Rum Brands S.L. (a subsidiary of Island Rum Company) and AZCUBA Sugar Group (Cuba’s main government owned producer and supplier of sugar and alcohol). This would be Cuba’s first integrated rum production venture since Havana Club with a 50-50 capital and a validity of 30 years. The name Vigia is inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s house which was called Finca Vigia and “Bodega” means “wine cellar” or “storeroom” – appropriate given that over 7000 barrels of aged Cuban rum were included in the agreement.
Island Rum Company was founded in 2012 by two Norwegians, Tore Villard and Hans Christian Holst, and Enrique Arias, a Spanish entrepreneur based in Havana – with this collaboration they are looking to bring more quality Cuban rum on the international market. Skylark Spirits are managing the distribution their Black Tears and La Progresiva in the UK with Peter Thornton being in charge of both brands.
La Progresiva came about in 2017, created by Bodega Vigia’s women ron maestros, and is made at Enrique Varona Distillery which is located in Falla, Chambas in Ciego de Avila. The distillery was founded in 1944 under the name Nauyu and in the recent years it received a hefty investment thus facilitating some modernization works on the plant, from improving the fermenters and stills to building a laboratory.
The “Mezcla 13” (not “mezcal”, it fooled me once) on the label translates as “Blend 13”. Why, you ask? Well it was literally the 13th blend that made it the cut when La Progresiva was being developed.
Speaking of blends, that’s the base of the Cuban rum making. They distill molasses in multi-column stills setups, but they make a heavy component, the aguardiente, which is distilled between 74% and 78% ABV for more flavour and a lighter component that must be distilled between 94.4% and 96% ABV thus being almost neutral. The aguardiente must be aged for at least 2 years and charcoal filtered before blending with the lighter distillate for further ageing in order to adhere to its Cuban Designation Of Origin for Cuban Ron. These are referred to as ‘ron bases’ which then are blended with aged light distillate and/or other rum bases and potentially aged longer, depending on the recipe of the final blend.
Ron La Progresiva is molasses based, multi-column distilled and is following the blending and ageing process described above. There are three ron bases in the blend, an 11 year old, a 13 year old and a 15 year old all aged in ex-Bourbon casks in Cuba. Bottled at 41% ABV (you’ll struggle to find a Cuban rum above this ABV) and with 5.5 grams of sugar per litre present.
On the nose has a nice woody profile to it. Dried figs, raisins, plums, cocoa butter and walnuts. Powdered cayenne pepper, dusty cardboard and maple syrup. There’s a faded pungency in the background like moth balls and furniture polish. Grapefruit zest, caramel and passion fruit. I was expecting “sweeter” flavours.
On the palate it’s slightly sweeter, but has some sharp notes as well. Pears, passion fruit, prunes, lemon and orange zests, tobacco and red Tabasco. Parma Violets, saffron, tobacco, raisins and cardboard. There’s quite an array of flavours and has a nice spiciness to it. Cinnamon, black pepper, wasabi, nutmeg and vanilla. Milk chocolate, ground coffee, charred oak, toffee, walnuts and blueberries. The finish is medium to long with cayenne pepper, dark chocolate and caramel.
A complex, rich Cuban rum balanced by dry citrus and floral notes with a dash of hot spice. Obviously this would be an orange juice compared with anything from Hampden for example, but Cuban rums rely more on the elegance and subtlety of the flavours. Their law literally doesn’t allow them to produce a rum with an ester count higher than 90g/hlaa and call it Cuban.
This is the only Cuban rum in my collection at the moment and it’s nice change of pace after I went through so many mind-bending ester bombs lately.
Can be found at £44 from Master of Malt, and while it might feel a bit pricey, many ‘premium’ Cuban rums are quite expensive. My only complaint is that little “13” on the label, which out of context, can be read as 13 year old, but given the youngest rum in the blend is 11 years I wouldn’t say it’s a massive misleading feature.
Ron La Progresiva De Vigia Mezcla 13 score:
Value for money: 14/15