We’ve previously reviewed the Bacardi Superior White Rum, to (surprisingly) good results. Not amazing results, but certainly solid and better than we expected. Which begs the question: what happens if you put a ‘pretty good’ rum into some barrels for a while? With a normal whiskey, it usually turns out delicious… but is the same going to happen with this rum?
Don Facundo Bacardi Masso was born on October 14th, 1814 in Barcelona, Spain as the son of a bricklayer. While he was growing up, his older brothers left home and traveled to Cuba seeking a better life and found success opening a small mercantile shop in Santiago. In 1830, Facundo followed his brothers and started working in their store, saving up enough money by 1843 to open his own shop and marry his wife Amalia.
Things went well initially — Facundo and Amalia had four children in Cuba before a massive earthquake and a cholera epidemic in 1852 killed two of his children and devastated the local economy. He moved the family back home to Spain and upon returning to the island later, he found his business in shambles. Sugar was one of the primary industries on the island, and a slump in the price of sugar had kicked off a recession.
But where most people saw disaster, Facundo saw opportunity. Rum had long been considered a crude and low quality spirit, but with the price of sugar so dramatically low, there was an opening for someone to create a desirable rum product and make a fortune. And that’s what Facundo set out to do, enlisting the help of local José León Boutellier and settling on a process using a unique proprietary strain of yeast, charcoal filtration, and maturing the end result in oak barrels to create a superior tasting rum.
The first bottles of Bacardi rum were sold through Facundo’s brothers’ store (which was still standing after the earthquake), but soon the product was successful enough that on February 4th, 1862, he was able to purchase a distillery and start mass production. He not only emphasized the importance of a good product, but also good branding — his wife recommended using the fruit bats that inhabited the rafters of the distillery as their logo, and it has stuck ever since. Bats in their culture are a symbol of family, good fortune, and health.
Throughout the years, the Bacardi company has remained a privately owned business, passed down from one generation of the Bacardi family to the next.
Facundo retired in 1877 leaving the business to his son Emilio. The Bacardi family agitated in the 1880’s and 1890’s for Cuban independence, which twice saw Emilio imprisoned for his activities and running the business from jail. When independence was finally achieved with the help of the United States, the Cuba Libre and Daquiri cocktails were invented specifically with Bacardi rum. Emilio would eventually become the first democratically elected mayor of Santiago in the 1890s.
In the 1920’s, the company started to branch out, investing in a beer for the first time in 1927. In 1936, after prohibition ended in the US, they opened a distillery in Puerto Rico to service the American market. During the Cuban Revolution, the family had backed the rebels, but they resisted the rise of Castro and once the country had turned towards communism in 1965, they moved their headquarters to Bermuda.
Bacardi would merge in 1993 with the Italian Martini & Rossi beverage company to create the Bacardi-Martini group, which continued to branch out and acquire more brands. Today, the business produces everything from rum to tequila to scotch to cognac, and pretty much everything in between.
- Learn More: What Is Rum?
This is truly an international process, which makes sense for such an international brand.
The rum starts at their distillery in Puerto Rico, where Bacardi uses blackstrap molasses (a viscous, sugary liquid that’s the byproduct of sugar production) as the raw ingredients for its rum. Going back to its 1850s roots, this was the absolute cheapest sugar product available, and remains a cheap source of distillate to this day. The molasses is added to a vat of water, and a strain of yeast that has been cultivated since the original batches in the 1860s is added to ferment the mixture and create alcohol.
From here, Bacardi uses a process called “parallel distillation” to create their raw rum spirit. The fermented liquid is distilled in a process where two different versions of the spirit is created. On one side, half the liquid is distilled in one single run in a column still to produce what is called the “aguardiente” spirit. On the other side, the liquid is processed through a series of column stills to produce a lighter “redestilado” spirit.
Once produced, the spirits are shipped to their Jacksonville, Florida location for aging, blending, and bottling.
For this Black version of their rum, the spirit is aged in heavily charred oak barrels (the same process used for bourbon) for an undisclosed period of time (reportedly up to four years). Once aged, the rum is passed through a charcoal filtration process as pioneered by Fecundo, potentially colored with some caramel coloring, and then blended and bottled for sale.
There’s not a whole lot to the design of this bottle.
Overall, it’s a pretty standard shape: straight walls, round body, and a sharp taper at the shoulder to a medium length neck. The bottle is topped off with a metal screw-on cap.
As for the label, it’s the ‘photo negative’ coloring of their Superior white rum’s label — here, we have a black background with silver lettering and the Bacardi name on the front. There’s the famous fruit bat logo front and center, a small strip below that has some more details about the product, and that’s about it. To be honest, I’m okay with this. I think it’s the right approach for this level of rum, and the smaller size of the label allows more of that dark rum to shine through the bottle.
This smells like an enhanced version of the standard white rum. There are the same aromas in the glass here: specifically the vanilla, toasted sugar, and marshmallows that I saw from the white version, but then you also start getting more of the tropical fruit notes (banana, mango, and pineapple specifically). Those fruit notes only came out in the white rum when you added some ice but here they are clear and present in the aroma from the start. Add in some vanilla, toffee, and baking spices and that rounds out the picture.
That fruit transfers pretty well into the flavor of the spirit, which starts out with some tropical fruit — pineapple, mango, apple — before some of the barrel aging flavors like brown sugar and vanilla start to kick in. It all seemed to be going very well until near the finish, when there’s a good bit of bitterness and sulfur that sneaks into the picture. These components on the finish almost completely ruin the experience.
One final note: the texture of the liquid is a little thicker than expected, which makes me suspect that there’s probably a bit of added sugar in here as well.
There’s a darn good reason that people add ice to their spirits: it tends to reduce or eliminate any unpleasant characteristics that you might see. For example, bitterness and unpleasantness on the finish of a spirit when taken neat (as we just saw in this rum). And that’s exactly what we see here.
At this point, the flavor profile is a bit watered down and the fruity notes very subdued — to the point where I can really only get a flash of the mango and pineapple before they fade away. But the barrel aging components have a bit more staying power, with some of the raw sugar notes, vanilla, and caramel sticking around to make this taste like a pretty standard aged rum.
Fizz (Dark and Stormy)
So, I wasn’t a big fan of this neat… but in a cocktail, it actually works pretty nicely. All of the components come together in this instance to make something that has some depth and complexity to balance out the bright ginger beer, and even some of the tropical fruit notes make themselves known through all the strong flavors of the mixer.
This isn’t the best Dark & Stormy I’ve ever had, though. I think this would probably need more noticeable spices coming through in the flavor and some coffee-like components to really make it sing… but as-is, it’s not half bad.
Now, I’m a sucker for aged spirits and aged rum is no exception, especially with the sugary sweetness that comes in the flavor profile and the added interesting fruity components that you sometimes see.
But even as a fan of aged rum, I was a bit disappointed with this offering from Bacardi — especially compared to other dark or black rums I’ve tried. The bitterness and strange flavor components when taken neat are a big derogatory mark, but with some ice or in a cocktail this seems to do acceptably well.
I don’t think this is something I’ll be buying again in the future, but I wouldn’t necessarily turn it down if all I had while stranded on a desert island was this, some ginger beer, and an endless supply of plantain chips.
Puerto Rico, United States
Classification: Black Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $12.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
Fruity flavors combined with barrel aging aspects that does well in a cocktail, but might not be so great on its own.