Cuban rum master José Navarro died yesterday.
His significance cannot be overstated.
Navarro basically saved the Cuban rum industry. A chemist by trade, he ‘left’ the academic world and was asked to have a look at the rum industry in the early 70s. It had been neglected following the revolution and the distilleries were in pretty bad shape. But the Cuban government needed access to foreign currency and rum was thought (!) to have potential. Navarro set about modernizing the tools and putting together guidelines for the production of rum.
He later created Havana Club 7 yo and became the mentor of a whole generation of master distillers. He was named ‘Primer Maestro del Ron Cuban’, and was the dean of this select and quite unique group (master distillers in Cuba don’t work for brands, they’re collectively responsible for the whole national industry).
A few years ago, I was commissioned to translate a short memoir he had written about his life, but I don’t think my client ever published it. I will ask if I can use the text. One never knows.