Rum: pirates loved it, smugglers sold it and Havana bar in Wellington now imports it direct into Wellington. Havana proprietors Potti Wagstaff and Roger Young decided to import Ron Varadero rum last year when their supplier stopped stocking it.
They have now ordered a third container from Cuba and increased the locations where it can be bought.
“We’ve stocked it for about eight years, but our supplier stopped importing it,” Young said.
“We were the only bar using it at that stage, but decided to run with it. It’s going really well.”
Ron Varadero is from one of the oldest distilleries in Cuba and is considered one of the top three rums produced in the country, Young said.
“It’s an authentic heritage brand. It’s been made the same way for 160 years. It’s handcrafted, pretty much organic because there’s no pesticides in Cuba.”
However, importing any product from Cuba is not straightforward.
“It’s better now there is a Cuban embassy in Wellington, but it was hard at the beginning,” Young said. “Nothing happens fast.”
The pair had to set up a company in Cuba, which took four months.
“They needed all the documentation, but you can’t send large documents by email to Cuba. They can’t open them,” Wagstaff said.
The documents were shipped from Wellington to Auckland to Hawaii to Mexico, then, finally, to Cuba.
It took five weeks to set up a payment route from Wellington to Germany to Spain to Cuba.
Wagstaff said it was hard to find a bank that would help.
“Most are in bed with the Americans, so aren’t interested,” he said. “Westpac were great, though.”
The rum is imported by the container – from Cuba to Panama to Singapore to Auckland or Tauranga and then Wellington.
The round-the-world route is needed because nothing heading to or coming from Cuba can go through the United States.
“It all has to go to Canada, France or the Latin countries in South America,” Wagstaff said.
“But it’s so worth it. We love the music, we love the cigars, we love the rum – we love Cuba.”
– The Wellingtonian