Bacardi: Cuba's legendary Liquor brand and its remarkable growth

It is near to impossible that someone has not heard about the legendary Bacardi brand. It deals in various other products like Grey Goose vodka, Cazadores tequila, Bombay Sapphire and Martini vermouth and makes the drinker remember the taste when they get to taste the solid potion. Bacardi has got a rich and long history and heritage attached to it since it was founded.

Bacardi Limited is the largest American, family-owned spirits company in the world. Anciently known for its Bacardi white rum, now has a portfolio of more than 200 brands and labels.

Here we are discussing about the history of one of the greatest rum distilleries in the world, Bacardi. It's story begins way back in the early 19th century in Cuba. Initially, it was only limited to the regions of Cuba and its people, now The rum generates volume sales of 17.8 million 9-liter cases worldwide.

Bacardi, which also makes Bombay Sapphire gin and Grey Goose vodka, is the Third Largest International Company in India. Ranking after Diageo and Pernod Ricard. It reported 22% growth in revenue to Rs 837 crore.

Bacardi Highlights

Company Name Bacardi
Founder Facundo Bacardi
Founded 4 February, 1862
Headquarters Hamilton, Bermuda

History and Establishment of Bacardi

Back when Cuba was still a Spanish colony, that was exactly when Facundo Bacardi came to Cuba in 1830. He was then just 16 years old tryin to make something for the survival. He was originally from Sitges, a port city in Northeastern Spain.. He landed in Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city, and found work at a local distillery.

The distillery was owned by John Nunes and it was literally one of the city’s first rum distilleries.

The Spanish Crown had originally banned the production of rum in its colonies in order to protect its expensive wine industry. The ban had only been reversed in 1796 and John Nunes was one of the first rum producers to get back in on the action. Although, the rum made back then didn't have the common taste with the rum we drink today. It had been produced the same way since the 16th century and the people of Cuba called it aguardiente, which literally means fiery water in Spanish.

The history and evolution of Bacardi

The spirit was made by mixing water with molasses and of refining sugarcane. The resulting mixture would be left to ferment and it would later be boiled off into an alembic and condensed, producing a dark liquid that was 85% alcohol. Aguardiente was so harsh that most Cubans didn’t actually drink it but used it as medicine, soaking it in towels to alleviate headaches and to treat wounds.

Facundo spent many years producing aguardiente in John’s distillery, but he dreamed of creating a more refined beverage. His first step to fulfill his dream came when he married Amalia Moreau, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner who had served in Napoleon’s army. Using his wife’s capital, Facundo was able to buy John Nunes’ distillery for $3,500 in 1862. It soon gave birth to the Bacardi distillery.

The property Facundo bought came along with a colony of bats, which are symbols of good fortune in Cuba and would later come to symbolize the Bacardi brand. To perfect his way of production and make the Rum more favorable, he tried various strains of yeast, different concentrations of molasses and water. The fermentation of molasses produces several different alcohols, each with its own unique chemical composition, taste and boiling point.

Facundo had no idea about the chemistry behind the thing he was experimenting, after months of trying he finally figured out which liquor he wanted to keep. The end result was rum of exceptionally high quality, the liquid was very light, almost transparent and was free from the foul odors of aguardiente. At first people would come to his distillery to fill up their jugs and barrels, but once Facundo saw just how much demand there was for his drink, he started selling it in bottles instead. The Bacardi rum spread like wildfire, and by 1868 it was sold across all of Cuba. It gave birth to the one of the legendary liquors in the history.


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The tremendous growth of Bacardi

Facundo was a humble man and had no plans for international expansion, but after he died in 1886, his son Emilio took over and he had much greater ambitions.

During his early years, he transformed Bacardi into one of Cuba’s biggest companies, which now owned plantations and distilleries across the island. The Bacardi brand spread internationally in 1910, when Emilio started a bottling facility in Barcelona, near his father’s birthplace. Bacardi’s obvious international target was the US, but in 1919 the States ratified the Prohibition amendment.

Prohibition wasn’t actually bad for Bacardi. Although the company couldn’t export its drinks to the US, nothing stopped the American drinkers from flying to Cuba to buy them. After the 18th Amendment got repealed, Bacardi sold over 80,000 cases of liquor in the US. They got around America’s expensive import duty by opening a facility in Puerto Rico. The reason behind Bacardi’s biggest hit in the US are- the Daiquiri and the Cuba Libre. These two cocktails were among the first to showcase Bacardi’s excellent use as a mixer, and they are still exceedingly popular to this day.

In 1959, the Batista regime crumbled under the socialist revolution of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Despite losing their assets in Cuban Revolution, Bacardi was recorded to touch heights. In 1964, Bacardi sold 1 million cases of liquor and almost 2 million in 1968. By 1980 it had replaced Smirnoff as the number one liquor brand in the US with annual sales approaching 8 million cases. In 1993, it was wildly successful with Bacardi Breezer too.

Sales Volume of Bacardi over the years
Sales Volume of Bacardi over the years

Currently, Bacardi is the fast growing market for tequila by acquiring Patron Spirits International AG in a deal valuing the company at $5.1 billion.

Adding Patron to the Bacardi portfolio creates a enormous opportunity for the brand outside of the United States as Bacardi’s international distribution network will help grow Patron around the world, increasing scale in the global world,” by CEO Mahesh Madhavan.

In 2019, revenue generated by the Bacardi rum brand in the United States amounted to some 180 million USD.


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Some of the Bacardi Acquisitions:

  • In 1993, Bacardi merged with Martini & Rossi creating the Bacardi-Martini group.
  • Dewar's scotch, Royal Brackla and Bombay Sapphire gin from Diageo for $2 billion.
  • Cazadores tequila brand in 2002 and in 2004 purchased Grey Goose, a French-made vodka for $2 billion.
  • In 2006, New Zealand vodka brand 42 Below was purchased.
  • Bacardi also merged with Bourbon: Angel's Envy.

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