Bottle #58: Bacardi O

Oh, boy, it’s a tiny bottle of Bacardi! And not just any Bacardi, but a flavored one. Bottle #58 is Bacardi O, an orange flavored rum. Now, if you’ve followed me to My Tiny Bottles from my cocktail class business, Tammy’s Tastings, then you will probably know that I am — to put it politely — not a fan of Bacardi Rum. At least the basic white rum; there’s just something about its flavor that doesn’t work for me. And I think it doesn’t work for a lot of others. Many people think they don’t like rum because they’ve only had that one.

But while I might not appreciate their product, I do appreciate their story. As a company owned by the same family for seven-generation, they have escaped being bought by a giant multi-national organization by becoming their own giant multi-national organization. Today they are one of the largest spirits companies in the world, and their portfolio includes 200 different labels across a few dozen brands.

Read the rest of the story

Their story starts in Cuba. When we think about Cuban rum today, we think about Havana Club. But before the Cuban Revolution, Cuban rum was mostly all about Bacardi. That’s because they introduced a number of innovations to rum distilling that really changed what rum looked and tasted like.

Bacardi was started by Facundo Bacardí Massó in 1862. At the time, rum was considered pretty down market in Cuba, and Facundo wanted to raise its profile. He experimented with different local yeast strains, eventually isolating and cultivating one that is still used by Bacardi today. He created his rums by blending a robustly flavored distillate called aguardiente with a more refined and delicate distillate called redestillado, which allowed him to create a more balanced rum with a flavorful but light body. And most importantly, Bacardi was the first company to produce white rum by charcoal filtering an aged rum. Before then, white rums were just straight off the still and unaged, and were generally much harsher.

All of this meant that, compared to many other rums on the market, Bacardi’s clear color and light-bodied style was a revelation. And because it was so much better tasting than other brands, many cocktail recipes would specify it by name. This included the eponymous Bacardi Cocktail, invented in 1917, which was a daiquiri made with Bacardi rum, usually with a little grenadine added, but sometimes not.

In the 1930s the company took two New York City establishments to court for making Bacardi Cocktails with other rums, and in 1936 the New York Supreme Court ruled that Bacardi rum was “unique and uncopyable” and was the only rum that could legally be used in the drink. (Check out an amazing article all about the case here.)

Despite struggles to stay in business through the series of wars that rocked Cuba in the late 1800s, by the 1920s they’d opened a second distillery. They began expanding to other countries in the 1930s, first into Mexico, then Puerto Rico, and the United States in 1944. The 1950s were a time of massive political corruption under Batista, leading the company to move its assets, including the formulas and proprietary trademarks, to the Bahamas.

Then along came the Cuban Revolution. Originally, the Bacardi family supported Castro and his comrades, but as the politics and leadership of the revolution changed, the Bacardi family soon found themselves fiercely opposing it. In 1960, after successfully overthrowing Batista and in keeping with Communist ideals, Castro moved to nationalize private industry in Cuba, seizing the Bacardi property and assets without any compensation.

The same thing happened to Havana Club, which is why that rum brand is owned by the Cuban government today. But thanks to Bacardi’s international expansion decades before and their forethought moving the trademarks, the company was able to survive and rebound. Today, the company has locations in several countries, although its flagship Casa Bacardi is located in Puerto Rico.

Their innovations didn’t stop there. In 1995, they were the first rum company to release a flavored rum. Now, it wasn’t much of an innovation, since flavored vodka had been around since the 1980s. But Bacardi Limon was hailed as “the most successful spirits launch of all time,” which included a business section cover story and two-page spread in the Miami Herald.

Perhaps they should have stopped there. They didn’t, of course, and today Bacardi boasts a lineup of nine flavored rums on their website. Notably, none of them are orange. Or even “O.” The product in my tiny bottle appears to have been launched in 2002, mostly drunk as “O bombs” in the early 2000s, and seems to have disappeared altogether by the early 20-teens. Since grandma stopped collecting in 2006, that would put the date of this one from between 2002 and 2006.

Edited to add: Or it should have! But less than 24 hours after I recorded the episode for this bottle, I was showing the bottle to a friend. She flipped it over and discovered some numbers printed on the bottom that look suspiciously like years. 2018 and 2017, specifically. Manufactured on and sell by dates? I don’t know for sure. But it sure seems like it was acquired after Grandma’s original collection had been packed up and put into storage, then added to one of the boxes at some point before it got to me.

Listen Now

Watch Now

Bottle #58: Bacardi O

|

Oh, boy, it’s a tiny bottle of Bacardi! And not just any Bacardi, but a flavored one. Bottle #58 is Bacardi O, an orange flavored rum. Now, if you’ve followed me to My Tiny Bottles from my cocktail class business, Tammy’s Tastings, then you will probably know that I am — to put it politely — not a fan of Bacardi Rum. At least the basic white rum; there’s just something about its flavor that doesn’t work for me. And I think it doesn’t work for a lot of others. Many people think they don’t like rum because they’ve only had that one.

But while I might not appreciate their product, I do appreciate their story. As a company owned by the same family for seven-generation, they have escaped being bought by a giant multi-national organization by becoming their own giant multi-national organization. Today they are one of the largest spirits companies in the world, and their portfolio includes 200 different labels across a few dozen brands.

Their story starts in Cuba. When we think about Cuban rum today, we think about Havana Club. But before the Cuban Revolution, Cuban rum was mostly all about Bacardi. That’s because they introduced a number of innovations to rum distilling that really changed what rum looked and tasted like.

Bacardi was started by Facundo Bacardí Massó in 1862. At the time, rum was considered pretty down market in Cuba, and Facundo wanted to raise its profile. He experimented with different local yeast strains, eventually isolating and cultivating one that is still used by Bacardi today. He created his rums by blending a robustly flavored distillate called aguardiente with a more refined and delicate distillate called redestillado, which allowed him to create a more balanced rum with a flavorful but light body. And most importantly, Bacardi was the first company to produce white rum by charcoal filtering an aged rum. Before then, white rums were just straight off the still and unaged, and were generally much harsher.

All of this meant that, compared to many other rums on the market, Bacardi’s clear color and light-bodied style was a revelation. And because it was so much better tasting than other brands, many cocktail recipes would specify it by name. This included the eponymous Bacardi Cocktail, invented in 1917, which was a daiquiri made with Bacardi rum, usually with a little grenadine added, but sometimes not.

In the 1930s the company took two New York City establishments to court for making Bacardi Cocktails with other rums, and in 1936 the New York Supreme Court ruled that Bacardi rum was “unique and uncopyable” and was the only rum that could legally be used in the drink. (Check out an amazing article all about the case here.)

Despite struggles to stay in business through the series of wars that rocked Cuba in the late 1800s, by the 1920s they’d opened a second distillery. They began expanding to other countries in the 1930s, first into Mexico, then Puerto Rico, and the United States in 1944. The 1950s were a time of massive political corruption under Batista, leading the company to move its assets, including the formulas and proprietary trademarks, to the Bahamas.

Then along came the Cuban Revolution. Originally, the Bacardi family supported Castro and his comrades, but as the politics and leadership of the revolution changed, the Bacardi family soon found themselves fiercely opposing it. In 1960, after successfully overthrowing Batista and in keeping with Communist ideals, Castro moved to nationalize private industry in Cuba, seizing the Bacardi property and assets without any compensation.

The same thing happened to Havana Club, which is why that rum brand is owned by the Cuban government today. But thanks to Bacardi’s international expansion decades before and their forethought moving the trademarks, the company was able to survive and rebound. Today, the company has locations in several countries, although its flagship Casa Bacardi is located in Puerto Rico.

Their innovations didn’t stop there. In 1995, they were the first rum company to release a flavored rum. Now, it wasn’t much of an innovation, since flavored vodka had been around since the 1980s. But Bacardi Limon was hailed as “the most successful spirits launch of all time,” which included a business section cover story and two-page spread in the Miami Herald.

Perhaps they should have stopped there. They didn’t, of course, and today Bacardi boasts a lineup of nine flavored rums on their website. Notably, none of them are orange. Or even “O.” The product in my tiny bottle appears to have been launched in 2002, mostly drunk as “O bombs” in the early 2000s, and seems to have disappeared altogether by the early 20-teens. Since grandma stopped collecting in 2006, that would put the date of this one from between 2002 and 2006.

Edited to add: Or it should have! But less than 24 hours after I recorded the episode for this bottle, I was showing the bottle to a friend. She flipped it over and discovered some numbers printed on the bottom that look suspiciously like years. 2018 and 2017, specifically. Manufactured on and sell by dates? I don’t know for sure. But it sure seems like it was acquired after Grandma’s original collection had been packed up and put into storage, then added to one of the boxes at some point before it got to me.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *