William M. Dowd. Albany Times Union. Jun. 2, 2005 12:00 AM.
The island nation of Cuba remains an enigma to most Americans.
Blocked off from the one-time Caribbean playground by a U.S. political and economic embargo that is nearly a half-century old, we're more familiar with its athletes, its cigars and rum, and the iconic face of Fidel Castro than any other aspects of Cuban culture.
St. Martin, Antigua and Puerto Rico have better resort facilities. Honduras produces cigars many aficionados say are just as good. And rum comes from so many places you may not think of Cuba first .= But that has not stopped producers of Cuban-"style" rum from building their latest consumer marketing plans around the legendary old mystique.
Grand Havana and Marti in particular are taking on the likes of such established brands as Bacardi and Captain Morgan (Puerto Rico), Angostura (Trinidad), Myers's (Jamaica), Gosling's (Bermuda), Demerara (Guyana), Pyrat (Anguilla), Cruzan (Virgin Islands), Malibu and Mt. Gay (Barbados), Montecristo (Guatemala) and numerous others.
Since rum is made from molasses, a derivative of sugar cane juice, it usually is produced in sugar-growing countries. However, respectable brands also come from such non-Latin American countries as Australia (Inner Circle, Bundaberg), Canada (Lamb's), France (Rhum Chauvet) and Nigeria (Rhum Nigeria)
Grand Havana has a strong, legitimate Cuban link. Although it is being made on the Caribbean isle of Grenada by Cuban-Americans from Miami, they are descendants of Don Tirso Arregui, a Cuban businessman whose rum distillery operated on the outskirts of Havana in the late 1800s. The Arregui family, who fled to the U.S. after Castro came to power, set out to create small-batch offerings under the Grand Havana name...