Pocket Flask: Havana Club Smoky an instant ticket to a Cuba that remains nothing less than fascinating

    1 of 4 2 of 4

      As a valuable public service, we crack open spirits from B.C. to Bahrain and beyond, and then give you a highly opinionated, pocket-flask-sized review.

      Today’s free pour

      Havana Club Cuban Smoky

      Their words

      “Cuban Smoky is well-balanced and light on the nose, with notes of dried fruit and a delicate smokiness. Then in the mouth, its smoky flavour comes through more intensely with a gentle sweetness and cocoa flavours too. The finish is balanced and elegant with a lingering dry spiciness.”

      Tasting notes

      Let’s be honest about something: to those that live there, Havana is a bit of a gong-show at the moment, that reality driven home by the daily protests we see on the news each night. As photogenic as the city’s vintage cars and crumbling buildings might be to outsiders, it can’t be easy living in a city where decades of Communist rule have led to chronic shortages of, well, almost everything except for cigars and rum. A year and a half of no tourists thanks to COVID-19 hasn’t helped given how dependent the Cuban economy is on tourism dollars. But despite all that, you’ll find fewer cities more exotically frozen in time than Havana.

      It’s a place that’s as gritty as it is magical, where you set out to flag a taxi, and then end up riding in the back of a 1944 Packard where the floor boards have partially rusted out. Because the locals you’re crammed into the car with don’t seem to mind, the exhaust fumes wafting up from below improbably only add to the surreal trippiness of it all.

      A major part of the Cuban experience is Havana rum. Tasting strongly of green sugar cane, Havana Club Añejo 3 is the backbone of the great Mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio and potent Daiquiris at El Floridita. Because Ernest Hemingway was a regular at both spots, don’t forget to bring a copy of The Old Man and the Sea when settling in for an afternoon at the bar. Havana Club Añejo 7, meanwhile, is for sipping neat while kicking back on the lawn of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, watching the ’57 Chevys roll by.

      Havana Club is billing Cuban Smoky as the more intense brother of Añejo 7, which is a heads up you’re getting an amber rum with 7’s smoothness but with considerably more drama. Expect layers of Santiago bougainvillea honey, Baracoa cocoa, and lightly charred mamey and cherimoya.

      But the true game-changer here for Havana Club is—as advertised on the bottle—the smoky complexity normally associated with higher-end scotch whiskies. For that, you can thank partial aging of Cuban Smoky in Islay whisky barrels. Fire up a Cohiba Behike, pour a finger or four of Smoky, then drift back to magical memories of Havana. Like every place in the world it has its problems, but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating.

      Cocktail time

      As per above, all you really need to get the most of Havana Club Cuban Smoky is a cigar and a glass. Pour neat—either straight from the shelf, or after an hour or two in the freezer—and you’re instantly transported to the Malecón seawall or a table at the fabled Tropicana. But if you insist on introducing your inner cocktail nerd to Havana Club Cuban Smoky, no one will judge you for whipping up either of the following drinks.

      Smoky Pineapple

      1.5 ounces Havana Club Cuban Smoky
      .5 ounces pineapple juice
      In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine Cuban Smoky and pineapple juice and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice, top with 3 to 4 ounces of soda, and garnish with a pineapple wedge.

      Smoky Cocktail

      2 ounces Cuban Smoky
      1 ounce pineapple juice
      Small splash of maple syrup
      Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and then add Cuban Smoky, pineapple juice and maple syrup. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.