This year, Bacardi Limited, the largest privately owned spirits company globally, is celebrating its 150th anniversary since the founding of the company and the Bacardi rum brand in 1862 in Santiago de Cuba. The company’s actual birthday was Feb. 4.
With a year-long calendar of events scheduled—a 600-member family reunion in Puerto Rico, the introduction of a limited edition, super premium blend of Bacardi, Ron Bacardi de Maestros de Ron, Vintage, MMXII, that will retail for $2,000, global celebrations, and much more—Bacardi is looking to get consumers involved in the fun by sharing some of its long history.
“We are trying to do it in a way that is relevant for consumers,” says Toby Whitmoyer vice president, brand managing director for the rum category at Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. “We don’t want to give people a history lesson, but we do want to bring our story to life in a way that they can engage with it.”
Whitmoyer believes that it’s just as much the company’s heritage that consumers are resonating with. “Today’s consumer, particularly the younger consumer, the 21- to 29-year-old, really has an affinity for products that have an underpinning of authenticity,” he says. “So we actually think that the current millennial consumer is a great market for us because what we offer is something they are already looking for.”
On Facebook for example, consumers are invited to view videos that highlight some of the company’s historical milestones for a chance to win a limited edition T-shirt with Bacardi advertising imagery from different time periods. Those videos include the story behind the brand’s bat symbol and the story behind how Bacardi was originally made.
It was Doña Amalia, wife of Bacardi founder Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, who was behind the bat symbol becoming an important part of the brand’s image. She discovered a colony of fruit bats in the rafters of the original Bacardi distillery in Cuba that inspired Don Facundo to use the bat on the brand’s barrels, packaging and bottle. In Spain, where he emigrated from, bats symbolized good health, family unity and good fortune. Bacardi soon became known as “the Rum of the Bat.”
Don Facundo experimented for years before coming up with a way to mellow out his rum and make it mixable, which was instrumental in Bacardi’s cocktail culture throughout history from the Bacardi Daquiri in 1898, to the Cuba Libre in 1900 (made with Bacardi Gold Rum and Coca-Cola at the time) and the Mojito dating back to 1862. He pioneered techniques in rum-making using blackstrap sugarcane molasses, isolating a specific strain of yeast to gain better control of the fermentation process, filtering the liquid and then putting the rum in American white oak barrels that were later blended.
Since 1862, it’s estimated that 365 billion Bacardi cocktails have been consumed worldwide. And it’s the cocktail culture that has helped keep Bacardi top of mind with consumers, notes Whitmoyer. In addition to brand innovation—the company plans to launch two Bacardi flavors, Wolfberry and Black Razz this summer—it also gave bartenders a forum to create the next “legacy cocktail” with its Bacardi Global Legacy Cocktail Competition that culminated last month.
“That’s a key constituency for us, particularly because it’s those bartenders that have helped make Bacardi what it is,” says Whitmoyer.