Light, Cuban-style rum


An amazing thing about the Cocktail Renaissance: so many things that were long gone have since returned. But not everything. My white whale is what I have come to call light, Cuban-style rum, by which I mean the complex, nuanced, delicious, yet filtered rum that Bacardí more or less commercialized, and produced vast quantities of up until around the Cuban revolution of 1959. Basically, the stuff behind the Daiquiri and a zillion lesser drinks. I’ve had the privilege of sampling product from the 1950s both alone and in cocktails, so I have some frame of reference; others have far more vintage rum experience to draw upon.

In recent years, we’ve experimented with Bacardi 1909 Superior Limited Edition, Havana Club 3 Year, Caña Brava, Denizen, Plantation 3 Stars, Banks 5 Island, Flor de Caña 4 Year Extra Seco, El Dorado 3 Year, and more. We’ve had some bad drinks and some good drinks, but none of the good ones have quite rung the bell, in my opinion.

Any history, news and insights are greatly appreciated. (By me, at any rate.)

Meanwhile, we have something new to experiment with:

Hamilton White ’Stache is a blend of aged Trinidadian rum with a little unaged Guyanese and unaged Dominican rums, bottled at 43.5º. Here are some notes from the producer. I just got a bottle today, and just finished my first Daiquiri made with it. All I will say, for now, is that it’s clearly worth checking out.


All the best things about the cocktail renaissance have been reclamations. The return of lost drinks, lost spirits, lost bartending skills, lost books. That’s the whole ball of wax. And the main reason why it was worth the effort.

Look forward to trying Hamilton White Stache.

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Chatting with Ed Hamilton the other day, he hypothesized one reason none of our light, filtered rums today resemble the old Bacardi is changes in fermentation practice. This quickly gets above my pay grade, but the idea is that fermentation has been sped up drastically over the last sixty years. The efficiency is good for profits, but the rum may lose some attributes. I believe this is @Bostonapothecary territory.


I’ve never actually had an older Bacardi, but I did just translate a fascinating chapter of Kervegant’s text (1946) where he describes the rums of the world. Cuban rums of the 1930’s were known for distillation parameters, and then filtration, that would make them fairly neutral no matter the potential of the ferment. The rums were also known to be adulterated and probably very skillfully.

When I recently corresponded with one of the top Cuban rum researchers, he was not aware of Arroyo’s works, and one of their recent published papers was on a new method for artificial aging.

A problem with part of the chapter is that pretty much all knowledge of quite a few of the rums comes only from a large 1937 IRS survey. Kervegant certainly knew the rums of Martinique and Guadeloupe, but likely never tasted any of the others.

Elsewhere, Kervegant mentions a trend at the time (since the beginning of the 20th century) to dramatically speed up fermentations. There are no real fermentation additives we have now that they didn’t have them. They even had antiseptics. We seem to have lost a lot of information since then and gained very little.

The big thing that used to be more common that the industry seems to have lost all knowledge of is Schizosaccharomyces Pombe ferments and the use of symbiotic bacteria. We are nearly 80 years after the work of Arroyo and no one can do it outside of Jamaica.

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I’m not sure sped up fermentation is something that happened only post 1959, and I’m inclined to follow our Boston friend regarding the 30’s. This being said, Cuban aguardiente today is far from neutral.

It’s also important to note that the whole Cuban rum industry has been basically rebuilt from scratch in the early 70’s so obviously today’s Cuban rum is going to be very different from 50’s Cuban rum. I have more info on this, and I’m hoping to share it after Tales.


I will be interested to hear more. Meanwhile, today I shouldered the terrible burden of an A:B test of the Latitude 29 Daiquiri with both the 44.5º Bacardi and Hamilton White ’Stache. That’s 2 oz rum, 1 oz lime juice (shared blend of two Persian limes) and two level teaspoons of a 4:1 blend of standard Domino granulated sugar and “organic” Domino cane sugar.

Verdict: the results were quite similar. The Bacardi drink had a slightly sharper citrus edge, which I suppose some folks might prefer. Meanwhile, the Hamilton drink actually tasted like it had a little rum in it. Slightly rounder, slightly richer, slightly rummier. I’ll take the Hamilton, thank you, by a smidge.

Next up: a similar test with the El Presidente!