It should be expected that a distiller named after Matusalem, a 969-year-old man in the Bible, would be concerned with age.
Ron Matusalem’s Gran Reserva 23 follows 18-year, 15-year, 10-year, and 7-year editions of dark rum that were blended through the solera process first developed on the Iberian peninsula. This fractional blending is a labor-intensive, record-keeping headache of a process. It relies on rum barrels stacked with the oldest on the bottom, second oldest atop that, third oldest atop that, etc. Matusalem’s Santiago Master Blender, a single family member assigned through the generations dating to 1872, chooses rum from the bottom barrels for bottling, then replaces that amount with rum from the second oldest barrels, which is then replaced by rum from the third oldest barrels, etc., resulting in a blending of the ages. The company says it produces rum with “a matchless flavor.” It is also required to keep records of the age of the rum in its barrels, averaging in the years through a complex formula that takes into consideration the fractional amount replaced in each barrel with rum that in itself is fractionally aged. The exercise is a bookkeeper’s nightmare.
Matusalem is owned by Claudio Alvarez Salazar III, the great-grandson of one of the founders, who opened operations in Santiago, Cuba, 151 years ago as “pioneers in the pleasure of tasting, expressing and sharing natural good taste.” Matusalem took its family recipes and fled the island after the revolution, relocating to the Dominican Republic, where it found a micro-climate much like the one they left.
With the rum averaging 23 years of age through the complicated formula, Gran Reserva 23 isn’t the oldest rum on the shelf. A bottle of Appleton 50-year-old is being offered online for a penny under $6,000. And in January, a 250-year-old bottle of Harewood Rum sold at auction for $29,999.
But if, like Matusalem, you plan to live to 969 years of age, you could spend many of those years trying to figure out the average age of the many bottles of Gran Reserva 23 you could sip in that time.
– Pairing by: Erik Calviño
The rum shows off a beautiful dark amber color in the glass with a nose of maple, nutmeg, nuts, and tobacco. On the palate, the Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 23 is silky with a complex assortment of flavors highlighted by caramel, vanilla, and spice accompanied by a touch of honey and tropical fruit. Cooling this rum with a large, clear cube brings out a wonderfully sweet cocoa note.
Cigar Pairing: Liga Privada H99
The cigar opens with an ultra-flavorful blend of pepper, roasted nuts, sweet cedar, and cinnamon held together by a smooth earthy background – this plays beautifully into the rum’s profile. The Matusalem coats your palate with tons of creamy, rich caramel, which seamlessly incorporates itself with the cigar’s flavors to create a nearly magical combination.