Even the most casual rum drinker knows that Cuba is one of the most revered countries when it comes to rum (and of course cigars) and while many rum heads such as myself seek full bodied, nose killing ester rums that can give your breath the fragrance of a Caribbean distillery, sometimes something easier and balanced is more than welcomed. I’ve first experienced the Santiago De Cuba range properly at the UK Rumfest last year and I enjoyed it enough to have a closer look at it.
The brand Ron Santiago was born in 1970 with the launch of their Carta Blanca and “De Cuba” was added to the name in 1999 to accentuate its provenance – same time when they added an Anejo to the range. Ron Santiago De Cuba is made in Oriente, South East of the Island of Cuba, an area known as “La Cuna Del Ron Ligero” or The Cradle Of Light Rum – a name you’ll see very often in Ron Santiago’s marketing. They use the molasses made from the sugar cane grown here, as the area is very good for that given its microclimate and hot temperatures.
Ron Santiago De Cuba is distilled at Rum Factories of Santiago De Cuba Distillery, owned by Corporacion Cuba S.A. – which was established in November 1993. They oversee all the Cuban rum production on the island and makes sure they conform to the Cuba Denominacion de Origen Protegida (Protected Designation of Origin) which was introduced in 2010 to ensure all Cuban rums are made following the same standards.
Corporacion Cuba owns the brand Ron Santiago De Cuba, but the distribution rights are owned by Ron Santiago S.A. which is a joint venture between them and Diageo Europe. The venture was signed on August 2019 and it gives Diageo the right to distribute the brand internationally, except for the U.S. due to the embargo.
In June 2021 the Santiago De Cuba brand was given a re-design and was re-launched with the addition of the 8 year old. The rum is aged in both old and new white oak barrels, and as all Cuban rums, it undergoes at least a second maturation after being charcoal filtered and blended.
In this review I will have a look at most of the expressions in their core range, except the 12 YO, and I will also tease a little surprise at the end. Now let’s get started.
Santiago De Cuba Carta Blanca
The Carta Blanca is molasses based, muti-column still distilled and aged for at least 3 years in white oak barrels before filtering to remove the colour. Bottled at 38% ABV and free of additives as far as I know.
On the nose it feels light and citrusy. Lemon sorbet, milk chocolate, coconut cream and sour candies. Beeswax, coriander and vanilla. Has a pleasant sharpness to it. Some sour cream and passion fruit as well.
On the palate once again it seems quite light. White chocolate, ripe pears. white pepper, apricot and lemon custard. Liquorice, banana foams and some peach. It’s surprisingly fruity. White grapes and vanilla. The finish is short to medium with liquorice and white chocolate.
This is an interesting Carta Blanca and I enjoy it. My only complaint is that I wish it was 40% ABV, but I really enjoy the sharp, aromatic, fruity layers, even if more on the softer side. Someone pass me the Cola!
Santiago De Cuba 8 Year Old Anejo
The 8YO is molasses based, multi-column distilled and aged for 8 years in oak barrels in Cuba’s tropical climate – most likely former whisky barrels. Bottled at 40% ABV and free of sweeteners.
On the nose it feels aromatic with a touch of spice. Fanta Orange, tobacco, allspice and new leather. Orgeat, red apples, black pepper and oak staves. It’s quite orangey! Raspberries and creole bitters.
On the palate it tastes fruity and spicy. Red apples, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne pepper and marmalade. Some cacao nibs and tobacco as well. Almonds, walnuts and passion fruit puree. It’s both bright and dark in taste. Fresh ginger, pineapple and cola. The finish is medium with tropical fruits and wood spices.
Yes, spices and bright fruits, this is great, I would happily use it in both an Old Fashioned or a Daiquiri. Seems to have a good balance between wood influence and the rum, neither being too overpowered or faint.
Santiago De Cuba 11 Year Old Extra Anejo
The 11YO is also molasses based, multi-column distilled and aged for at least 11 years in oak barrels in Cuba. Bottled at 40% ABV and unsweetened.
On the nose it seems more woody than the rest – no surprise given the extra ageing. Dark tobacco, old leather, cacao nibs, cinnamon and raisins. Treacle, brown sugar and stout. It’s nice and dark! Canned plums, ripe bananas and pistachios. A hefty cup of cappuccino as well!
On the palate the fruitiness is back. Red apples, dried figs, raisins and prunes. Cocoa powder, cinnamon and rich tobacco. Maple syrup, black pepper and cloves. I much prefer the darker notes that the extra time in the barrel provided. Ripe bananas, triple sec and stout. The finish is medium to long with prunes and chocolate.
I can safely say that I’m into this, I would very much like to just sip it or enjoy it in a Sweet Manhattan. The chocolate-fruits combo works very well.
The Santiago De Cuba Rums are great examples of good Cuban rum at an accessible price. If you ever get bored by the occasionally sweetened Havana range just grab some Santiago and enjoy it in your favourite cocktail or paired with a decent cigar. The prices for the range are as it follows:
- Carta Blanca – £21 – Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange;
- 8 Year Old Anejo – £28 – Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange;
- 11 Year Old Extra Anejo – £40-£41 – Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange.
Now if what I wrote about Santiago made you drool just a little bit, just follow my Instagram as I’m planning to do a giveaway there soon with all these rums I just reviewed – all three of them for one lucky winner, stay tuned!
Santiago De Cuba Carta Blanca score:
Value for money: 15/15
Santiago De Cuba 8 Year Old Anejo score:
Value for money: 15/15
Santiago De Cuba 11 Year Old Extra Anejo score:
Value for money: 14/15