Cuban Rum can be carried into the U.S. — is it worth it?

Havana ClubWith President Obama’s loosening of the Cuban trade embargo, every Hemingway wanna-be is going to want to go to Havana and bring back some Cuban cigars and rum. Yes, you know who you are. I’m talking to you. Getting those nice Cuban cigars won’t be too difficult. You can usually find real Cubans in places where the clientele will know the difference, and fakes where they won’t know the difference. Hence, most cigar stores within a bus tour’s distance of a cruise ship port in the Caribbean will be selling fakes for the tourists.  I am sure lots of pasty white gringos stuffed their wife’s tampon box with fake cigars and feeling like they are ripping off the man. Real Cuban cigars are available all over the world (except the U.S.) at the finer tobacconist stores. There is no reason to go to Cuba to get them.

Cuban Cigar Store

Cuban Cigar Store

American walking into a cigar store in London, Berlin, or Amsterdam:  “Do you sell Cuban cigars?”

Store Clerk: “Sir, ALL of our cigars are from Cuba.”

Rum, on the other hand, is more complicated. Havana Club is about the only Cuban rum that anyone recommends. However, there is apparently a whopping business in counterfeit Cuban rum, especially in overseas airport stores and tourist areas. I’m pretty sure this is what I found and drank in a third-world airport bar:

Havana Club

What did it taste like? It did not taste like any seven-year aged rum I’ve tried. It had no flavor, burned all the way down, and had none of the smoothness I usually associate with a good rum, and I have a fairly large collection of rum, rhum, and cachaca. It tasted like shit rum. In fact, it tasted like a bad glass of Bacardi, which is ironic because Bacardi owns the U.S. trademark for Havana Club. That is why Cuba (Pernod Ricard) can’t sell Havana Club as Havana Club in the U.S. if the trade embargo completely lifts some day.  So, Hemingway, good luck with that bottle of Havana Club.

Selection of Havana Club

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