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by matt stewart | September 3, 2014 | People
At the helm of the world’s largest privately held spirit company, Facundo L. Bacardi looks to expand Bacardi’s new upper-tier rums from Miami to the world.
Facundo L. Bacardi, great-great-grandson of founder Don Facundo Bacardi, carries on the family tradition of top-shelf rums.
Bacardi is a juggernaut of the spirit industry. In 2013, the brand enjoyed sales of more than 19 million nine-liter cases, making it the premier rum globally. Combining this with the company’s additional holdings, including stalwart brands such as Dewar’s, Grey Goose, and Martini & Rossi, Bacardi is the largest privately held spirits enterprise in the world. Steering this rather massive ship into the 21st century is Facundo L. Bacardi, great-great-grandson to Don Facundo Bacardi, the founder of the company.
When speaking to Facundo L. Bacardi, it becomes immediately apparent that family and its Cuban heritage are always front of mind. As the man who chairs this global endeavor, there is a deep respect for the legacy of his namesake, who began the business in 1862 from a small rum distillery in Santiago, Cuba, and the family enterprise that grew from that rich, Cuban soil. “When I was growing up, it was Cuba, Cuba, Cuba,” says Bacardi. “There was a sense of trying to imbue what Cuba was about and what Bacardi was in Cuba. It’s funny because you would think that it would be about the family business first, but for us it was about the love for Cuba, and that’s because of the dispossession of [our] homeland.”
The iconic Bacardi Building, now home of the YoungArts Foundation.
The family and its rum have survived colonial rule by both the Spanish and Americans and then the revolution that swept Castro into power, prompting the family and business to eventually settle in Miami, where they established headquarters in 1964. “Miamians embraced exiles that fled the chaos and bloodshed of the Cuban Revolution,” Bacardi explains. “My family was among them—Miami felt very warm to them, like a place where they could stay for a long time. We are Miamians, but we’ll always be Cubans.”
Facundo Bacardi’s introduction to the family business began at a young age under the tutelage of his grandfather, who instilled in him the idea that each generation is the product of those who came before, and they are the stewards of the family business for future generations. “Growing up, I was very close with my grandfather,” Bacardi remembers. “There was a 70-year difference between us, and although he passed away when I was 16, I downloaded many stories and much information from him during that short time.”
The Bacardi Cup, an annual sailing race in Coconut Grove, began as El Trofeo Bacardi in 1920s Havana.
One of Bacardi’s key memories involved a drink that represented a great deal to the Cuban people and defined rum drinking for countless millions around the world—the Cuba libre (“free Cuba”). This drink of Bacardi and Coke came about as the US freed Cuba from the Spanish at the end of the Spanish-American War. “He told me the story about Bacardi and Coke, and no matter where we would go, he would point out Cuba libre,” Bacardi continues. “That taught me about the family and the things that Cuba went through and still goes through today. It taught me about the troubles of Cuba, the intersection of Bacardi product and what it meant to my grandfather.”
Heritage has always been a major influence, and these are heady times for the family brand—an apt moment, perhaps, to launch one of Facundo’s most beloved projects. This month, Bacardi rolls out the upper-tier Facundo Collection—four rare blends of what they call their finest aged sipping rum, leveraging some of the rarest available reserves—nationally after successful runs in test markets of Miami and New York. “I will tell you that right now we are most proud of the Facundo Collection because it is the ultimate tribute to Don Facundo Bacardi,” Bacardi says of this labor of love. “When you think about where we launched the collection, what better place than in our home city, Miami? It’s just coincidental that Miami has become the world’s most sophisticated rum market, but for us, it is just home.”
Facundo L. Bacardi holding one of the oldest known bottles of Bacardi rum in the company’s archive, from the United States’ pre-Prohibition era of 1909.
Working closely with Bacardi brand master David Cid and master blender Manny Oliver, Facundo Bacardi has attempted to honor 152 years of distilling. “Collaboration is the key to unlocking the best of everyone and everything,” he enthuses. “It has played a role in the development of the Facundo Collection. It started with me, senior family members, and Manny as the rum maestro, and even the liquids themselves that were made long ago. So in a way, the collection represents a generational level of collaboration. To me it’s always about a team effort, and when you can put together a group of people who share the same vision and the same passion and the same desire, the end result is always going to be better than that of what any one single person can do.”
photography by nick garcia; greg clark photography (youngarts)