Origin: Ron Matusalem, Monte Plata, Dominican Republic
Age: 15 years (solera)
Finish: French Limousin
While Ron Matusalem is our first review featuring Dominican rum, the distillery actually has its roots in Cuba. 1872 was the time, and the province of Santiago de Cuba was the place; Benjamín and Eduardo Camp and their business partner Evaristo Álvarez founded the Matusalem brand, naming it after Methuselah, a character from the Bible that was said to have lived for 969 years. It seems the founders wanted to incorporate this longevity into their brand.
During the first half of the 20th century, Ron Matusalem enjoyed a large share of the Cuban rum market, competing with brands such as Bacardi and Havana Club. Similar to Bacardi, the family-run Matusalem company fled Cuba during the 1959 revolution, and eventually restarted distilling operations in the Dominican Republic.
Originally, Álvarez and the Camp brothers came to Cuba from Spain, and carried with them the knowledge of sherry and brandy production; this is why to this day, Matusalem uses the solera system for aging their rums, similar to many other Latin American producers. "Solera" or the "solera system" have become a hot-button topic in the rum world, with claims that brands that utilize this system often have marketing that misrepresents numbers for a true age statement, hindering transparency.
The bottle we're reviewing today has an example of this: a "15" is prominently featured on the front label, another example being a "23", but note that no age unit is present. Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva, then, is not 15 years aged, but the "15" represents that the distillate used in this blend is an average of 15 years old, rather than at least 15 years old.
The rum itself is column-distilled in Matusalem's Monte Plata facility, with blending components having previously aged in French Limousin oak casks for an average of 15 years. There is a light amount of added sugar– 5.7g of sugar per liter, and is bottled at a strength of 40% ABV.
Brown with a touch of gold, high clarity, medium viscosity
Butterscotch, old leather, ethanol, vanilla custard, touch of molasses
Vanilla custard, nutmeg, butterscotch, light roast coffee
Medium length, sweet, moist; custard, some French oak
Matusalem 15 is a decent, no-frills, light-bodied rum, but is really not much more than that.
It's brown with a touch of gold in the glass, with high clarity and medium viscosity.
Matusalem 15's nose is very light, offering butterscotch, old leather, ethanol, vanilla custard, and a touch of molasses. A very sweet nose, but not much going on in the way of complexity; this is what I expect from 80 proof, lighter bodied Latin American-style rum.
The palate produces notes of vanilla custard, nutmeg, butterscotch, and a slight hint of light roast coffee. Again, very little complexity, very sweet, and easy to sip; in the past, I have used this as a column still rum in various Smuggler's Cove cocktails, to good effect. Again, a similar profile I would expect from this style. According to The Fat Rum Pirate's hyrdometer tests, Matusalem 15 has little-to-no detectable additives, though the Matusalem website mentions this expression has 5.7g of sugar per liter; that comes out to about 4.3g in a 750ml bottle. The sweetness is not gratuitous, though I do prefer my rums without additives, if at all possible.
The 15's finish is medium length, sweet, and moist; notes of custard and some spicy French oak are present. Very easy finish, and like the other parts of this experience, very smooth and uncomplex.
My final thoughts are that the Gran Reserva 15 is a decent "everyday sipper" (how many rum enthusiasts refer to easy-sipping, budget-friendly, and readily-available rums), and a nice choice for those who may want to dip their feet into the rum world without going too crazy.
- El Presidente (Cuba, 1900s)