G’day guys. Mitch here, I’ve got one more rum post to bring us round to summer, before we go back to whiskey. And apparently, we’re all in a nautical theme anyway this week (Caribbean and a rum this is, Broads of Bourbon are still one step ahead of me, go check that one out). So this week I’m writing on another pub hero label, that famous Puerto Rican label of white rum; Bacardi.
The Caribbean inherently occupies a theme of a tropical holiday. That group of countries clustered between Central America and the Gulf Coast, that grew to fame on the stigma of pirates and sailors. I think I hardly need mention the cinema franchise that encapsulates all the old clichés of the area, fictional and non. Nowadays it’s known for the holiday destinations and activities in the area – Big game fishing, surfing, diving, spear fishing, windsurfing, kayaking, having cocktails on the beach. A fertile medium to cement the foundation of tropical drinks, in which a rich population of rums are made. Cuba’s Havana Club, Jamaica’s Coruba, Trinidad’s Angostura. And the most famous of all the Caribbean rums – Bacardi of Puerto Rico. Not only probably the most famous of all the rums in the world, but also the largest family owned spirits label in the world. Bacardi Limited owning over two hundred labels of spirits including Angel’s Envy bourbon, French Goose vodka, Patrón tequila, Martini vermouth, Bombay Sapphire gin, and Dewar’s blended Scotch. The company, founded by the Barcelona-born wine merchant Facundo Bacardi Massó. Born in eighteen-fourteen, and migrated to the island nation of Cuba in eighteen-thirty. Rum, at this point in history was an unrefined and harsh drink. From speculation I can assume that this was this the context from which we now know pirates to drink rum in. The Spaniard’s equivalent of the French’s eaux-de-vie, or the Irish’s poitin. An unrefined, rough drink of strong potency, drunk by sailors as a substitute for water. As such, rum was never portrayed as a top-shelf liquor. From here, Bacardi began to tinker. To make a rum that would and could be drunk without endurance. And experiment crafting rums with different strains of yeast until he zeroed in on the strain that the label used to this day. In so doing created the first white rum in the world. After experimenting and then perfecting the base formula of his rum, Facundo Bacardi Massó, and his brother José, purchased and established the Santiago de Cuba distillery in eighteen-sixty-two. A key steppingstone in the legacy of Bacardi rum, as inhabited above in the rafters of the distillery lived Leaf-nosed bats. The bats, became the logo of Bacardi. The bats, served an essential role in the success of the label, by portrayal on the bottles. As at this time in Cuba the illiteracy rate was unfortunately high, and the bat, was always identifiable as being Bacardi rum. The label proceeded onwards despite the advent of the Cuban War of Independence, during which time Bacardi’s son and all the women in the family was exiled. Immediately afterwards, the drinks, the Cuba Libre and the Daiquiri were invented, both using Bacardi rum. The upswing in business caused Bacardi to open bottling plants in his birthplace of Barcelona and New York. The New York bottling plant, was then promptly shut down by the advent of the Prohibition, of course. During which time, Cuba, as well Mexico and other countries known for making spirits, free of the stranglehold of the Prohibition, became huge tourist attractions for the American drinkers. The real fight in the family of Bacardi, came from inside Cuba itself. During the Cuban revolution, before the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis originally the Bacardi family were supporters of the new revolutionary – Fidel Castro. The then acting C.E.O. of the Bacardi family, José “Pepin” Bosch, donated tens of thousands of dollars to Castro’s campaign. But ultimately opposed when Castro, and Che Guevara (that Soviet-Cuban rebel guy you see the same picture of) turned against their interests. Leading the Bacardi family to abandon Cuba as the nation became communist and abolished private property, thereby confiscating theirs. Falling back on their plants housed in Puerto Rico and Mexico, which they had shipped their trademark assets and formula prior to the communist takeover for protection. Moving their headquarters to Bermuda. Their Puerto Rican plant, eventually became the main distillery from which the rums we drink today are produced. The original Santiago de Cuba distillery, after the abandonment of Bacardi was taken over by the new Cuban label of government-nationalized rum – Havana Club. Havana Club, ultimately was bought out by Bacardi Limited nonetheless. As if to reclaim their stolen property.
So, this Cuban-Puerto Rican rum label of trouble background, born of Spanish sailors, run out of town by the Soviets, but adopted only so graciously by their customers of America. The grandfather of all modern rums. Today’s bottle – their Bacardi Gran Reserva, eight year old rum. Perfected in eighteen-sixty-two as the private reserve of the Bacardi family, now released for the public to enjoy too. And apart from the specified age of eight years in, presumably American oak barrels, nothing more is specified of it. So let’s find out for ourselves.
The bottle is short and stout, a small thick body, widened slightly at the shoulders. The trademark logo of the familiar Bacardi bat, contrasted by the tan matte paper of the label. And the reddish-brown mahogany colour of the distillate housed within, inviting with promises of fruity flavors and rich taste. The nose is thick and fruity, full of syrupy smells of molasses, and raisins. The taste is surprisingly light and sweet, not a strong, aggressive flavor of Bundaberg rum. The palette enters with flavors of sweet, fresh honey, easing through to brown sugar, and finally into a character more expected of the spirit. A spicy, dark palette. Entering first with a creamy, and lighthearted at first, then intensifying.
In summary: As a Queensland boy, I can’t honestly tell you this bottle is better than Bundaberg rum. But modern rum wouldn’t be where it is today were it not for Bacardi. But I’m not about to say this is not a great rum either. It is one. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to just the one label. This is another one of those great rums that have earned itself a prestigious spot amongst the representatives of it’s field. A well indulged tipple, cheers