Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva

by Matt Robold on December 11, 2008

Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva is billed as being the “Spirit of Cuba.”  The frequent gold medal-winning rum has a long and storied past that stretches back to 19th Century Spain and Cuba.

Founded in 1872, the Matusalem company has been made by the same family for generations.  The company originally took root in Santiago de Cuba, where it eventually became one of the most successful Cuban rum producers.  Of course, in 1959, Castro’s little revolution upset the apple cart, and Matusalem was forced to leave Cuba for the Dominican Republic.  The company currently produces its rum in the city of San Diego in the Dominican Republic.

Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva is a molasses-based rum produced using a formula crafted by Doctor Claudio Alvarez Salazar and other master blenders – all of whom are descended from the original founders of the company.  The rum is aged using the solera process for aging spirits, in which barrels containing older spirits are “topped off” and married with younger spirit from other barrels as the angel’s share takes its toll.  By the time the rum is bottled, Gran Reserva 15 is a blend of rums which have been aged for an average of 15 years.


Poured into the glass, the rum is a deep, gold color.  Sitting perfectly still in the glass it is reminiscent of honey.  Giving the glass a swirl reveals legs that are thick, heavy, and slow moving.


The first notes that strike the nose are those of toasted sugar and banana.  The nose begins very cool and seems to actually warm as you inhale.  A second sniff around the glass finds notes of oak and vanilla – the effect of so many years spent in oak casks.  The nose is simply splendid.  It is deep, rich, and inviting.


A sip from the glass reveals a sweet, smooth entry.  There is a lot of vanilla at the front, followed by toffee and banana notes on the mid-palate.  The finish is clean, with just a slight touch of fruitiness, an almost cherry-like flavor combined with faint woody notes.

The body is smooth and silky on the tongue, giving the rum an incredibly pleasant mouth-feel.  The entire experience is smooth and rich and there is almost no burn in the throat.  This is a rum that can easily be enjoyed neat or with a single ice cube for hours on end.  In fact, this is not only one of my favorite sippers, but a rum that I frequently use to convert people to the True Path of Spirits (the rum path).


While the Matusalem Gran Reserva is a wonderful sipping rum, it is not a rum I’d consider so sacrosanct that mixing it would be considered a sin.  In fact even the makers of Matusalem would encourage you to try it in a Cuba Libre (in which it is PERFECT) or any one of various other cocktail recipes.

One of my favorite cocktails is the Old Fashioned, which is actually a whiskey cocktail.  Of course, I like to shake things up a bit and often make Rum Old Fashioneds – simply substituting rum for the whiskey.  Matusalem is usually my rum of choice for this endeavor, but lately I’ve been toying with the recipe a bit to make it something a little more “rummy”.

Mas Viejo

3 oz Matusalem Gran Reserva 15
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp water (unless using syrup instead of sugar)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 dash Peychaud Bitters
1 chunk pineapple
1 lime wheel

In an Old Fashioned glass, add sugar, water (if not using syrup), and bitters.  Add fruit and muddle well.  Add ice.  Add rum and stir, garnish with lemon peel.

This isn’t a vast departure from the basic Old Fashioned (assuming you’re a person that appreciates the “garbage” in your cocktail).  I wanted to use fruit that was more frequently associated with rum and the Caribbean, so I went with pineapple and lime.  Be sure not to use too much pineapple as it will oversweeten the drink.  If you want to use more pineapple, you’ll probably want to drop the sugar/syrup from the mix.

The name comes from the story behind the rum’s own name.  Matusalem’s name – so the story goes – comes from the old Spanish saying “mas viejo de Matusalem” or “Older than Methusela”.

The Long & The Short Of It

There is good reason for the avalanche of medals that have been hung around the figurative neck of this fine rum.  It is as excellent as it is versatile – one of the few rums that excels in the realms of both sipping and mixing.  When you consider that Gran Reserva retails for around $35 in the US, it becomes an absolute “must-have” for any rum or cocktail enthusiast.

Dood’s Rating: 4 Barrels of Rum Out of 5

For another perspective on Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva, be sure to check out Silvio’s review at Refined Vices

Dood’s Other Rum Reviews

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AK December 13, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Yep, it is very good rum. Very close to HC if you ask me.

Silvio December 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm

While I have not tasted the HC15 I’ve tasted most other rums from the HC range and I don’t find Matusalem Gran Reserva close to them at all.

Which HC are you refering to, AK?

AK December 19, 2008 at 12:59 am

I believe it smells and tastes a lot like Anejo Reserva. It might be my personal opinion, but Cuban heritage definetly shows in Matusalem.

Don’t take me wrong, I think it is a great rum. One of my favorites.

stewfnrocker January 30, 2009 at 2:36 am

HC15 does not even touch this rum!
Matusalem is probably one of the smoothest rums I have had.

Irina February 12, 2010 at 6:28 am

Maybe it is because of the memories that brings to me of happier times, but for me this is “the rum” you can not compare its taste with any other one maybe pricier … I’m not Cuban, buy I do love Cuba, and you can definitely find lots of Cuba in it.

Capn Jimbo's Rum Project August 10, 2010 at 5:57 am

… Hi Dood… long time, no sea. Here at The Rum Project (link above) the Gran Reserva is not only our reference standard for the Cuban style of rum, but it is soooooo good that it’s actually dangerous to open the bottle. Santa Teresa Anejo is another of our “dangerous” rums.
… Of the 120 or so reviews we have published, Gran Reserva is one of the best. Don’t hesitate to buy one, and an open invitation to all to stop by The Rum Project…

Ray September 23, 2010 at 7:48 am

Hi, I got this rum on the weekend and did not have as good as experience with it as the rest of you. I found that it was harsh in the mouth, and burned all the way down. Did I get a bad bottle?

C Gains March 7, 2011 at 12:22 am

I found this crap. I have drunk about 5%. It’s bittersweet with no trace of molasses. The nose passes the test -not that rum stands out -soft oak and a cherry. Immediate when pored in glass i felt this was whisky. I’m getting angey with this already. There is no Rummy taste or smell to it. there is this yeasty and alcohole taste and smell in glass like a bad blended whisky. Why even the dark bottle. Its gold inside. not rich . just crap and another purchase wasted. I cant even afford to waste this money. There are i few comments on web stated this is more like whisky. Take those comments litrally and say away if spending this $ means something to you. .

Ford June 13, 2011 at 11:25 am

Hi all,
Where can I buy few bottles of Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 Yr old? Any help will greatly appreciate. I live in Washington DC area, but I could not find it around here.

SonnyB September 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I love this stuff! The local ABC Liquor Store carries it for about $27 per 750ml. I think its a steal and probably the best bargain you can find now for a quality rum. Goes down almost like a fine cognac straight and makes excellent mixed drinks, if that’s your thing.

Jupiter82 February 5, 2012 at 10:37 am

I agree with CGains, this tastes more like a whisky than a rum, better mixed than sipped.

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