Photos: Otmaro Rodríguez
The Havana Club Rum Museum celebrates its 20th anniversary on March 31, 2020. Situated at a privileged location on the Avenida del Puerto in Old Havana, it occupies a mansion built in the 18th century that originally belonged to the Count of La Mortera. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, it was used by a shipping company; and in the 1980s, it was the headquarters of the Casa del Joven Creador (House of the Young Creator), until the restoration that led to its current structure.
The Havana Club rum, created in 1878, is considered one of the hundred best rums in the world. Its origins and everything related—its barrels, tastings, pairings, aromas, blends and essences—make up a very attractive philosophy of consumption linked to enjoyment. Many people come to Cuba in search of it, eager to know its history, elaboration process, its secrets. The Museum, the ideal place to enter such an exciting universe, has welcomed many Cuban and foreign visitors throughout these two decades.
At the institution, which is open to the public seven days a week, every step of the process of making the celebrated drink is on view—from an original distillery and its aging vessels, to the tasting of the famous Havana Club rum in a traditional bar from the 1930s.
The tour, offered in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German, begins in the barrel-making workshop where white oak barrels are assembled. It includes explanations of the sowing of sugar cane; the history of mills, factories and the steam train; and the fermentation, distillation, filtration, and aging processes.
The well-trained guides link the origins of Cuban rum to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, something that very few people know about. Visitors experience rum in a unique and personalized way, because in the museum visit, in addition to learning about the production process, they learn to prepare a good mojito or other famous drinks with renowned bartenders, pick out souvenirs in the gift shop, and select cigars (for pairings) and Havana Club rum to their liking. They can also dance to the rhythms of Cuban music at the Bar-Restaurant, and soak up “Havana Cultura,” which supports and showcases contemporary Cuban artists and creators.
The well-known travel site TripAdvisor describes it as a must-see place in the city. “Whether you like rum or not, you must come, because from the cultural and historical point of view, it’s fascinating,” wrote a satisfied Spanish tourist.