Bacardi: Heritage in every sip
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Posted: 27 March 2023 | Grace Galler | No comments yet
Rachel Guerin talks to New Food’s Grace Galler about the journey Bacardi has been on and how the founder’s legacy is present in the rum it sells today.
Bacardi is a family-owned alcohol company that is known globally for its wide variety of rums. Founded back in 1862 in Cuba, the company is now available all over the world. But what makes it stand out on supermarket shelves, bar menus and social media advertising? Importantly, how has Bacardi stood the test of time in a fast-paced, ever-changing alcohol market?
Who better to speak to find out more about the company’s journey to success than Rachel Guerin, a Bacardi Heritage Curator who is also a sixth generation Bacardi family member.
The origins of Bacardi
The beginning is often a good place to start when it comes to understanding a brand, and Guerin agreed, stating that so much of what Bacardi does in the 21st century is influenced by its 19th century creation.
“Bacardi was founded more than 161 years ago with the vision to make the world’s first light body and premium mixable rums. In the founder Don Facundo’s Day, rums were very crude and unrefined, they had a lot of flavour but they were not mixable and certainly not really fit for all to enjoy.”
Aiming to fill a gap in the market all those years ago, Guerin explained that consumers at the time were looking for a premium quality drink option and, as a result, Don Facundo was “inspired to develop a rum that everyone could enjoy that really encapsulated all the beauties and flavours of the Caribbean and his home in Cuba”.
The experimentation process reportedly took 10 years. During this time he outlined a variety of methods that Guerin claims “set his rums aside from all the others”.
Setting itself apart from the rest
One of the methods Dan Facundo established was harvesting his own proprietary yeast strain, meaning he was able to create a rum that had “discernible and key flavour characteristics”.
Guerin went on to explain that he also introduced a parallel distillation process to his rum making process which allowed him to remove undesirable flavours and increase the effective ones.
“He created two unique distillates, one that was quite flavourful and very robust, and one that was a little bit more delicate and refined. He could blend those two together and actually create a variety of different rums that suited a bunch of different flavour pellets that he was looking to capture.”
Turning her attention to one of Bacardi’s most famous offerings, Guerin said: “He finally established what we know today as Bacardi Carta Blanca and he was able to start selling those in Cuba and build up a little bit of local success”. Following that, on 4 February 1862 he purchased the original Bacardi distiller distillery, where he began producing his rums commercially for the first time.
A bottle full of heritage
Of the numerous methods Don Facundo created, Guerin was excited to tell New Food that all of them are still in use today.
“Don Facundo used these methods to create a line of rums that he was really proud of that he passed down to his sons in later generations that we now call our master blenders. It’s very much an artisanal craft that takes many years of dedication to master but by utilising these methods and making tweaks when necessary our flavours and formulas are still all original to Don Facundo, which I think is a really cool testament to him.”
Noting that Bacardi’s Cuban heritage plays a pivotal part in the brand, Guerin explained that Bacardi has seven generations of family that have been “instrumental” to establishing a culture of “making exception drinks experiences”.
“We use [our heritage] as our guiding light. We still display our story on our bottle, a little image of the original distillery because we had such humble beginnings.”
Not wanting to get stuck in the past, Guerin explained that the brand is constantly keeping its eye on the alcohol sector, creating new products but still incorporating heritage in their innovation processes.
“I also think that people view Bacardi as a lifestyle brand that [consumers] wanted to be included in,” continued Guerin.
“While consumers come back for our authentic story there is also the awards that Bacardi has won. If you look at a bottle of Bacardi Carta de Blanca today, you’ll see these awards on the front. They’re a symbol for consumers to understand that this is a true quality product.”
Explaining that the company is “constantly looking at new flavour trends”, Guerin told New Food that people all over the world are constantly looking to engage in new flavour trends and drink experiences.
“We take this into consideration when we develop new products. We partner with Future Laboratory and each year we put out a Bacardi Trends Report which is used by the brand to “hone in on some of the key trends that it thinks will be the most popular worldwide”.
“Change in the spirts industry is cyclical so sometimes we can look to the past to see what kind of drinks and experiences were around a hundred years ago, like prohibition for example. That helps us a lot to inspire what we think will happen in the coming decades across the spirits business.”
New products for a new generation
Not limiting itself to its original product line, since the 19th Century Bacardi has innovated many new drinks for a variety of different occasions.
“We launched the Bacardi Premium Rum line in 2019, but it was inspired by a family recipe that Don Facundo created that was unchanged.”
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As well as its Premium Line, Bacardi offers pre-mixed cocktail drinks in cans that consumers can drink on-the-go with “very little effort but to pop the can open”.
“Whether you’re a new drinker and you’re experiencing drinking rum for the first time or a seasoned rum drinker”, Guerin explained that she thinks there is a Bacardi drink for every occasion.
“Perhaps you’re looking for something fast and on the go, we’ve got our ready to drink cocktail cans, you know, something that you can take with you pre-mixed amazing premium cocktails that taste fantastic and are, you know, require very little effort, but to pop the can open.”
“There’s something for every kind of season of [a consumer’s] life or every moment of drinking experiences that they’re looking for, because rum is such a versatile spirit in its essence”.
Getting in the innovative spirit
While old stereotypes of rum drinking evoke images of men sipping it with a cigar on a leather couch, Guerin highlighted that in the 21st Century rum is not for one type of person.
“It can be fun and versatile and fits into a lot of different drinks. We want to capture the desires of the next generation of rum drinkers as they enter the rum world”.
With new products on the horizon for Bacardi, including its Caribbean Spiced rum that is now available in the UK and select markets in Europe, the spirt sector could be looking to the company to see what types of alcoholic beverages consumers want in today’s world.
Whether it’s being sipped on the rocks in a bar or being consumed from a can with friends, Bacardi has evolved from “humble beginnings” to being a globally recognised alcohol brand. All the while it has seemingly kept heritage in mind every step of the way and allows consumers to get a taste of Cuba wherever they are in the world.
As sixth generation Bacardi family member, Rachel Guerin oversees The Bacardi Archives, a collection of over 18,000 historical artefacts that showcases the 161-year history of the Bacardi company, brand and family. Rachel spends her days entrenched in the legacy of the world’s most awarded rum brand, connecting past to present by sharing the remarkable stories of the company’s early days Cuba, the cocktail culture created along the way, and the people who built Bacardi for more than seven generations.
Beverages, Packaging & Labelling, Quality analysis & quality control (QA/QC), retail, Trade & Economy