If we’re talking about rum, then at some point we need to talk about the 800 pound elephant (or bat, in this case) in the room. Bacardi is a name that is synonymous with rum — and, in some ways, is responsible for the spirit’s current popularity. Their Superior White Rum is something that can be found in most bars around the world, but the question has to be asked — given the current competition on the market, is it good?
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 to open his own shop just a few years later in 1843 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 safety 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 finally 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.
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 the Superior version of their white rum, the spirit comes from batches that have been aged a minimum of one year but no more than two years in previously-used, lightly-charred white oak whiskey barrels. Once aged, the rum is passed through a charcoal filtration process as pioneered by Fecundo, 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 a white background with the Bacardi name on the front. There’s the famous fruit bat logo front and center, a small silver strip below that has some more details about the product, and that’s about it. Which, to be honest, I kinda like. I think it’s the right approach for this level of rum, and the smaller size of the label allows more of that crystal clear rum to shine through the bottle.
This spirit is pretty much as close to crystal clear as I expect you can make a white rum, maybe with just a hint of blue tint here. Pouring a bit in the glass, the first thing I get — in fact, the only thing I get — is a strong aroma of industrial rubbing alcohol. Like you just popped the cap on some Purell.
Thankfully, the flavor has a little more going on than the aroma hinted at. It isn’t quite as terrible as I feared — there’s a good weight to the liquid, and not much of a burn. There’s a sugary sweetness on the front with some vanilla, but that’s about it for the flavor until that industrial alcohol component kicks back in for the finish.
I was dreading this portion of the test, because I figured that the lighter flavors would skedaddle and leave me with nothing more than a sugar-based vodka. Interestingly, though, I think that a bit of ice actually makes this better.
The big change here is that the industrial alcohol component is all but conquered. It isn’t nearly as powerful, and allows the rest of the flavors to take a more prominent role. Specifically, the vanilla is now accompanied by some almonds and just a hint of tropical fruit like mangos and bananas waaaaaay in the background.
This is good, but I think the lime juice is doing most of the heavy lifting here.
Really, this is just a glass full of chilled, diluted, alcoholic lime juice that’s been sweetened. The simple sugar is balancing out the bite from the lime juice, but there’s virtually no assist from the rum. The vanilla and almond flavors we saw before either aren’t strong enough to be noticed, or have simply disappeared.
It isn’t terrible, but when you’d be equally well served using a vodka I’d say you’ve failed the test here.
Fizz (Dark and Stormy)
I make my Dark and Stormy the exact same way I make my Kentucky Mule, only swapping the whiskey for rum. So really what we end up with is a daquiri, minus the simple syrup, but with some ginger beer added. And given how well the daquiri worked, I’m sure you can guess how well this went.
It’s really just a Moscow Mule at this point, with the rum adding alcohol content and nothing else. The cocktail is unbalanced and one note.
As a white rum, we already know that the flavor isn’t going to be very strong. It’s definitely not going to knock your socks off with some strange funk or a bunch of spices. But even then, I think the process being used here has stripped away too much of what could make this a great rum.
That charcoal filtration process was probably a great idea in the late 1800s, when distillation was still more art than science, but these days there really isn’t much reason for it. In fact, it’s probably stripping out a lot of the more interesting and nuanced flavors that could really make this rum shine. I feel like that’s the reason for the more industrial aspect to the alcohol in this spirit, and the reason why it’s performing more like a vodka in some places than a rum.
What hints of flavor I get here, though, I do like. The vanilla and almonds in the spirit are great, and I’d love to see them a bit bolder and with some supporting characters. But I think that charcoal filtration just did a number on this spirit and removed everything that would have made it interesting.
Puerto Rico, United States
Classification: White Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $11.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 1/5
A rum that has made it through the filter of time, but I can’t say the same for the flavors.