Cuban Rum Diaries

Bacardi and Arechabala, or Cuba and Ricard? Who truly owns the name Havana Club Rum?

Bacardi, now the largest privately owned liquor company in the world, actually started out as a Cuban company. One of Bacardi’s signature bottles, Havana Club Rum, has actually been involved in a legitimacy war for years, and with Cuban boarders opening to the U.S., tourists are dieing to know the truth behind Havana Club Rum and the rightful owner of the brand name.

That story goes that Bacardi was actually a competitor  with one of the wealthiest families in Cuba prior to the revolution, Arechabala. However,in 1959 the Arechabala families company was confiscated along with hundreds of other Cuban companies at the time of Fidel Castro’s revolution. Bacardi, however,  managed to remain unaffected by the confiscation.

Bacardi, unlike the Arechabala family, had assets outside of Cuba and could continue production. The Arechabala family, sadly forced out of Cuba with nothing left to their names, eventually sold the recipe to their rival Bacardi. With the Arechabala recipe, Bacardi re-set up shop in Puerto Rico and went to work.

Clearly, this piece of the story isn’t the complex one, its the competitor Bacardi acquired after setting up their distillery in Puerto Rico that raises the war on who truly holds the name of Havana Club Rum. This competitor being the Cuban Government itself in joint with French beverage giant, Pernod Ricard.

The Cuban Government and Pernod Ricard started their partnership in 1993, and the war has waged not only on the market but also in court. Bacardi argues that Ricard and the Cuban government do not legally own the rights to the name Havana Club Rum due to the fact that the name was confiscated during the revolution, where as Bacardi actually was offered, paid for, and use the original recipe of the Havana Club name.

Pernod Ricard argue that although their rum is not made with the original Arechabala family recipe, their Havana Club Rum is the true Havana Club Rum solely because it is still made in Cuba, unlike Bacardi who have to make theirs in Puerto Rico. Ricard claims that without the Cuban climate to be distilled in, it cant be true Cuban rum.

The rum war ultimately comes down to morals and authenticity? or culture and tradition? According to Amparo Arechabala, the joint company likes to claim the Arechabala family abandoned their company and recipe, where as she and Bacradi argue they didn’t abandon Cuba, they were forced out along with everyone else. Its saddening to see something thats supposed to bring people together cause such heartbreak for one family, but also warming to hear Bacardi argue their fight for the name isnt just for authenticity and marketing, but for moral justice to the founders of the name and recipe, of course with high hopes this is true of Bacardi.