Using discursive analysis of a range of historical sources, this presentation discusses the emergence of novel cultural and aesthetic categories of classification in Havana during a moment of profound transformations in nineteenth century Cuban society. Since the early 19th century a growing class of free urban blacks and mulatos/as gained influence in a range of fields claimed by white creoles, such as painting, European music, dress and dance. In response, white creoles developed strategies to reinforce their social distinction as a class vis a vis this bourgeoning urban class of color. These strategies included cultivating and appropriating new, highly embodied practices of distinction such as “good manners” and taste. By the second half of the century, the widespread popularity among white creoles of an African-influenced music and dance genre, the danzón, disrupted their efforts to culturally distance themselves from everything black. In this context emerged the new category of sabor, an embodied discernment quality of appreciating, feeling and performing African influenced Cuban music and dance. As white creoles incorporated sabor into their systems of taste on the verge of Cuban independence late in the century, they helped construct and incorporate a kind of eroticized (white bourgeois) dancing body into the national imaginary.