Bacardi is a name synonymous with rum, and its iconic bat logo is recognized worldwide. However, many people do not know the history of the company and how Bacardi Cuba came into being.
Don Facundo Bacardi Masso
Don Facundo Bacardi Masso was born in 1815 and, at the age of 15, emigrated to Santiago de Cuba. He set up a business as a wine merchant and importer but began experimenting with rum distillation. In 1862, he established Campnia Bacardi, creating a rum that delighted kings and independent thinkers throughout the world. At the age of 18, his son, Facundo Bacardi, began working in the distillery, spending long hours using modern methods to improve on his father’s secret formula. It was the younger Bacardi’s job to secure the yeast his father isolated in 1862 that sets Bacardi rum apart from others and continues to be used for the production of Bacardi rum. The Bacardi family transformed rum into an internationally consumed spirit rather than a local Caribbean beverage.
The First Distillery
Don Facundo Bacardi and his brother, Jose, purchased a rum-making operation known as the First Distillery for 3,500 pesos. The purchase price included a copper-cast iron still with the capability of distilling 35 barrels of fermented molasses in one day. When he opened the first distillery, Don Facundo planted a coconut palm sapling. As the distillery was updated and new buildings were added, all construction was done around the sapling, which was known as “El Coco.”
When the Bacardi family first arrived in Cuba, it was a Spanish colony with a strict class system that left Spanish rulers among the elite. The Bacaridis were originally Catalan but quickly identified themselves as Cuban in support of reformist causes. After the sinking of the USS Maine, the Bacardi family welcomed them as liberators, and when a Cuban bartender added light Bacardi rum to Coca-Cola, the favorite drink of American soldiers, it became known as the “Cuba libre,” or “free Cuba.” When Castro rose to power, the company was under the leadership of Pepin Bosch, the great-grandson-in-law of Don Facundo. Concerned about political unrest, he transferred the company’s trademarks and patents to the Bahamas in the late 1950s. This action helped keep the family going after Castro took over the company in the fall of 1960. Within two years, the majority of the Bacardi family had left Cuba. Luckily, Don Bosch had overseen the construction of a distillery in Puerto Rico from the 1930s through the 1950s in an effort to get rum to the United States on a tax-advantaged basis.
In Cuban and Spanish folklore, the bat symbolizes good health, good fortune and family unity. Don Facundo’s wife, Amalia, suggested using a bat for the logo to represent what the company stood for. Soon, Bacardi became known as “the rum of the bat.” The coconut palm planted at the entrance to the distillery in Cuba also became a symbol of the company, and there is a legend that the founders said, “The Bacardi company will survive in Cuba so long as the coconut palm lives.” The coconut palm planted at the distillery died not long after Castro took over ownership of the company.
The history of the Bacardi company is steeped in activism, innovation and a strong desire to succeed regardless of the obstacles faced. The company is considered one of the largest spirit companies in the world, offering more than 200 brands with a focus on six core products.