Bacardi is the largest spirits brand in the world that is private and family owned. It was founded 1862 in Santiago de Cuba as a rum distillery and today it owns over 200 brands and labels. Little people know that the story of Bacardi actually starts in Spain long before that.
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In 1814, Facundo Bacardí Massó was born in Sitges. Son of a bricklayers’ family, he emigrated to Cuba in 1830 when he was 16 years old, following his older brother. In 1844, Bacardi married Amalia Moreau, a wealthy French lady. After a few months, he opened his own mercantile shop. The couple had 6 children, whom played important roles in the history of the company. After an earthquake hit Santiago in 1852 and a cholera epidemic followed it, the family returned to Sitges to escape the poor conditions. Upon their return to Cuba, the business went bankrupt and Bacardi started attempting distilling rum. Rum was considered to be a cheap, low quality drink, and Bacardi developed a unique process with a type of yeast for fermentation, then filtering through charcoal and aging in white oak barrels, which made the final product transparent and fine, being the first white colored rum in the world. Mrs. Amalia spotted bats in the distillery one day and suggested it became the brands symbol. There were many bats that were scared away with a buzz. The fruit bats were attracted to the smell of the molasses. The bat figure was fundamental for Bacardi’s brand recognition since back then most people in Cuba couldn’t read or write.
When the Cuban War of Independence started, Bacardi’s eldest son was arrested several times for joining the rebels. While the women of the family were exiled in Kingston, Jamaica, the company was run by Emilio’s brothers Jose and Facundo. After the end of the Cuban war, today’s popular drinks Daiquiri and Cuba Libre were both invented using Bacardi Rum. Under the management of Bacardi’s son Facundo M. Bacardi, the company started its first international expansion opening a bottling plant in Barcelona in 1910.
Today, Sitges is home to the Casa Bacardi, a museum that tells more about the Heritage of the brand and the process. Besides that, at the museum there is a lounge bar for Bacardi’s products tasting, a terrace and a bartender school.
Sitges is located 30km south of Barcelona and easily accessible by train. Casa Bacardi is located at the Plaça Ajuntament, right on the city center.
Featured Image: Daniel García Peris cc