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I Technical Scientific Colloquium on Rum 2013


Olga Portuondo Zúñiga


In one of the inventive propaganda employed by the Bacardi Rum Company in the mid-twentieth century, it said that Santiago de Cuba was known in the world by being the birthplace of Antonio Maceo, being close to the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre and for its rum. As a historian of this city, I do not entirely share that view; because I know the richness of its evolution since its establishment as a town in 1515 and to the present. The judgment is valid, if what is meant is the importance of early industrial development of rum in Cuba's second city.

During the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Caribbean eau-de-vie circulated through trade or clandestine ships and consumed in abundance. Spain banned the production of wines in their colonies and further export to the metropolis or the rest of Europe. However, in small sugar refineries (mills) of this extended period, rudimentary alembics distilled sugar cane molasses. Surely this is the cause of the high consumption of the drink since then.

You cannot begin to discern when the rum manufacturing formula began to be used, although it had to get to Cuba from neighboring Jamaica or from Saint-Domingue with settlers who came fleeing the slave revolution. French Pedro B. Moreau and Antonio Thomas, owners respectively of the Santa Maria and San Ildefonso mills (with more than 150 slaves between them) of the Party of Santa Catalina in the jurisdiction of Cuba, produced 70 rum barrels already in 1823. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the mills of the Santiago region mostly produced molasses without refining and then exported to the US market. Stills were very common in the mills for the distillation of molasses and manufacturing cañambril, a rustic rum, not soft to the palate, very popular among farmers. The English painter Walter Goodman in his book An Artist in Cuba, acknowledged the consumption of rum in one day of carnival in the early 60s of the nineteenth century, even in the parade ground or the nearest cafe.

A newspaper, El Redactor, 1862, published these verses that were recited at night in the neighborhood of Hoyos where black people played tombs, drunk hard liquor and sang the following:

Parado sobre un barril
Con precautoria medida
Dios nos libre en esta vida
Del sumo del cañambril2

Certainly, in the middle of the nineteenth century, and following the development in rural areas of a number of distilleries in the mills to process molasses, the brandy and rum consumption quickly spread. This one came to be exported. The rum consumption increased in the late nineteenth century with the increasing practice of mixing it with water, on the pretext that it prevented the entry of yellow fever into the body. During the wars of independence, the consumption of brandy and rum spread between Spanish troops and the Liberation Army, adducing it served as medicine for various diseases.


During the first decades of the nineteenth century many Catalans came with some capital and business experience to the Gran Antilles. The Bacardí family, from Sitges near Barcelona, was in the business of wine in Catalonia. The first commercial references of Masó Bacardí family in Santiago de Cuba refer to February 1841. For these years Facundo Bacardí Masó married Victoria Lucia Moreau. It is particularly interest that she was the natural daughter of Mary Magdalene Moreau whose parents were Pedro Benjamin Moreau and Maria Luisa Gogue, natives of Jeremiah in Saint-Domingue.4 Lucia Victoria was in the care of his maternal grandparents, whose occupation and sugar producer and rum manufacturing tradition there is not doubted. Bacardi-Moreau marriage gave birth to Emilio, Juan, Facundo Miguel Hilario, Maria Magdalena Marina, Juan Jose and Amalia Lucía 5. Magin and Facundo Bacardi Masó associated with other Catalan merchants (Sitges) setteled here, being incorporated later José, another brother from the Bacardí Masó family. They would be registered in the registration book for this purpose. The situation of capitalist economic crisis affected the local businesses of the Bacardíes in the late 50s of the nineteenth century. It seemed that José got over, while Facundo and Magin broke to never appear in the list of local merchants in a long time.

It is often said that a British subject, John Nunes time –maybe a Jamaican mestizo, began in 1838 to promote the industrialization of rum with some success for 24 years, without being able to expand given the scarcity of capital though. It is shown that until 1860, there were four distilleries in the city: one owned by Manuel and Luisa Idral Nouchet; and another owned by José León Boutellier.

It isn´t until 17 February 18626 when Joseph and Facundo Bacardi with Jose Leon Boutellier are constituted as limited partners for two years to form a liquor wholesale and retail thought to overcome the crisis and progress successfully. The biggest capital ($ 3,000) was Joseph´s, while the others put their personal work. The factory, located originally in Matadero Viejo, between San Ricardo and San Antonio, began to assert its colonial product on the market. In 1874 the society is rebuilt, and with more capital, where Facundo and his wife Lucia Moreau, his sons Emilio and Facundo and José León Boutellier are present, with a total capital of $ 5,500, although they still dedicated to the production of spirits, liqueurs and sweets.

They were climbing slowly because of the Ten Years' War and the devastating fire of 1880.

A new push for industrial upgrading was needed. This was provided by Enrique Schueg Cassin7, the youngest of the society, who joined it by his marriage to Amalia Bacardi Moreau8 with his capital and management skills. In 1909 the partners form a regular commercial company and ten years later, signed the deed of incorporation in commercial and industrial joint-stock company with. Its president was Emilio Bacardi Moreau 9, illustrious patron, patriot and intellectual santiaguero. At his death, Enrique Schueg Chassin replaced him as president, in August 1922.

The success laid in the exclusive distillation of molasses from sugar cane - unlike traditional liquor that was processed without debug components- after a long aging in barrels, and mixed with other suitable distillate was subjected to a second aging term. The fame of the quality of these rums reached beyond the borders of the Cuban archipelago.

Myths and legends

It's good to dwell on some issues of obligatory reference when it comes to Bacardi and its industrial production. I mean, for example, its trademark: a bat with open wings. It has always been said, there were many of these animals in the original factory, being this the reason why Facundo adopted this animal as the emblem of the company. Pedro E. Lay, a member of the company, assured this in a letter:

Facundo Bacardi was a recipient of a brand of Italian oil that had a bat as logo. Bacardi rum was sold in gallon as well as its oil, and on the top sealing of the Chevrons they put a sealing wax on which a stamp was printed –a bat-10

This way, consumers got used to request –the bat rum ? till it got imposed as a trademark of the house.

There also rumors of a secret formula of Bacardi family, thanks to which the quality of rum remained. Indeed, they were the Masters of Rums of Santiago de Cuba who from the year of 1862 until today have maintained an unbroken thread that has enabled the transmission of knowledge and experiences in a way of delivery and donation to achieve the lofty goal of maintaining the genuine and authentic quality of rum made in Santiago de Cuba for more than 150 years.

Much has been said that if the waters of the Santiago region or the sugar canes of the Algodonal old sugar mill (now Salvador Rosales), or the proximity to rails provide quality rum. We believe, as some specialists, that is the combination of all these factors and climate which give the peculiar quality to the rum from eastern Cuba. There is therefore no original secret formula.

More about Santiago rums

Bacardi rum is not the only one industrialized since the nineteenth century in Santiago de Cuba and it multiple production corroborates what is said about natural and cultural conditions that provide a quality guarantee.

There were up to 15 different brands among which four were distinguished, with the peculiarity that their owners were of Catalan origin. In addition to Bacardí, also highlighted Castillo, Albuerne, Alvarez Camps and Palau. We add the exceptional quality of Matusalem rum and the one of a less refined, but also very appreciated, rum Paticruzado (The Marines). Some of the best Dominican rums had their productive starting point in Santiago de Cuba, as in the case of rums from the Brugal and Barceló brands.

After the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, nationalization and abandonment of factories by their owners, new brands of premium rums were imposed in the Cuban market by the work of specialists, technicians and tasters. The Cuba Ron SA Corporation produces the Havana Club, Santiago de Cuba and Cubay, brands and the Caney and Varadero brands for CIMEX; the Soft drink and beverages Company produces Legendario, Arecha, Paticruzado Palmas, Caribe and Bocoy brands; Tecnoazucar Company produces the Santero, Mulata, Vigía, Conde de Cuba and Relicario brands; which are the among the best known.

Santiago de Cuba, a museum of Ron

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the American historian Irene Wright referred to the Bacardi distillery for its economic importance for Santiago de Cuba and another traveler Basil Woon Dillon in his work When it's cocktail time in Cuba who stops to explain how Americans residents of Santiago de Cuba gathered twice a day on their favorites bars, Casa Granada and Venus. In the latter the first drink of rum with water was drunk at 9: 00 am

Woon adds a curious fact for the history of mixed drinks:

It was in this hotel, as story tells, that Jenninges S. Cox and others gave the name of Daiquiri to this cocktail.

Years later Regino Pedroso concerned to know at what time people drank in Santiago. The answer was radical: at any time, but as in Havana, the best time was at sunset, the most vivacious hours in Las Novedades, Nubiola, Palais Paris and the Caracolillo cafes. There, the peasantry gathered to enjoy spirits and the walk of the women from Santiago.

Certainly, as Pedroso himself said in the 40s of the twentieth century, it is at carnivals during congas parades and at folk festivals and Trocha and Martí kiosks where the rum and beer enliven the popular festival of this city. Also, in serenades, the troubadours were generally rewarded with some toast that gave an atmosphere to street interpretation of songs and boleros.

Nicolas Guillen, who visited Santiago de Cuba during the carnival of 1959, testified how the common people feel:

¡Hace tanto tiempo que aquí no podíamos darnos un trago tranquilo, señor!

This phrase summed up the anguish and vexations suffered during the Batista dictatorship. Our national poet spoke of that warm and contagious happiness of the carnivals:

Yesterday night I burst into the street with friends. This time I walked Trocha. That was a shout, a deafening clamor. All bars, all crowded cafes. The vitrolas filled the warm, dense air of mechanical music. But there were also singers with their guitars, and suddenly burst somewhere the authentic bongo peal. 11

On June 24, 1996 the Rum Museum of Santiago de Cuba, whose only precedent in the Caribbean was in the island of Guadalupe, was founded. It is located in San Basilio between butchery and San Felix. This museum is designed to show the characteristics of rum production in past and contemporary times. It exhibits machinery used since colonial times and an explanatory graph of the introduction of sugar cane in Cuba, their manufacture, the obtaining of molasses and the process of aging in rum houses. In one of its rooms old barrels where primary wines were aged are stored; in another bottles of many Cuban rum factories brands are exposed; also the different Cuban rum labels, as well as miniature models of the Caney and Matusalem rum factories.

If you visit the museum, you will be offered a drink of Santiago de Cuba rum as a courtesy. Also, it has a tavern on its basement to taste the different types of Cuban rums, where also such products can be purchased. It is a place where you learn by both, the museum exhibition and the guides.

Now, as we have stated, in fact, the entire city of Santiago de Cuba is a great rum museum, other museums and prominent sites of the urban landscape collect the history of this creole product industries. Many of its workers preserved by family tradition manufacturing techniques, and 11 santiaguero is offered to you. A liquor extracted from sugar cane, according to habits inherited for generations.

Since the last century, different firms closely linked to rum Carnival celebration in July and it is the reason why their propaganda banners and layers of are shown by comparseros. We only need to visit the museum of the carnival to corroborate this.

Architectural expressions, particularly those which were offices, factories and warehouses of old brands like Bacardi, Castle and Albuerne, are left in the animation of the urban landscape and even at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, where graves of the parents of these industries are visited. those that continue to produce excellently the joyful son of sugar cane, as Campoamor used to say, born and consolidated in Santiago de Cuba for 150 years.



1 National Archives of Cuba. Correspondence of the General Captains, leg. 11, no. 1 (out of box) and General Government, leg. 491, No. 25.173.
2 "Cañambril, name given by the fans to the sweet high and fortifying sugar cane juice, that strong and thankless to the palate liquid, when taken in disregard it rises to the head, and according to some people, it refreshes the imagination, gives encouragement and courage to the shy and cowards. Forces are encouraged giving warmth to the stomach and according to others is a bad thing because most of the time it gives weapons to the man to vent his temper against each other. It blocks understanding, and makes that often due to it there would be backbiting, and entanglements and other things that have a fatal outcome. If it brings all these, there is nothing more natural than giving up to it, to the strong emotions and ask for it from the bottom of the heart" El Redactor", August 27, 1862, p. 3.
3 Juan Joseph Anton Bacardi Tudó was born on November 21, 1772, legitimate son of Ramon and Josefa, both of Passanant farmers. Juan Bacardi Tudó married Marina Masó Masó on September 16, 1804, also of Sitges and daughter of Magin and Manuela. Their children were John, Magin, Facundo, Joseph, Lazarus, Manuela and Marina and Maria. Facundo Bacardí Masó emigrated when he was about 14 or 15 years and married Lucía Victoria Moreau, 21, on August 5, 1843 when he was 30 years old. This couple had four children: Joseph, Emilio, Facundo, and Amalia. Facundo Bacardi Masó died on March 9, 1886 and his remains still lie in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery along with Joseph and Magin. Joseph died unmarried, but had a slave daughter, Carmen Bacardí, who gave birth to Rafael and Joaquín Fermoselle.
4 Nicolás Torres Hurtado: Orígenes de la Compañía RonBacardí. Editorial Oriente, Santiago de Cuba, 1982, p. 27 5 Ibídem, p. 28 6 Archivo Histórico Provincial de Santiago de Cuba (AHPSC). Bacardí, Leg. 1
7 Enrique Schueg y Cassin was born on July 15, 1862 in San Luis del Caney, a town near Santiago de Cuba, baptized in the church of St. Thomas the next year. He was taken to France the same year.
He returned to Santiago de Cuba in 1882. He served as honorary consul of Belgium for 37 years and died on April 11, 1950.
8 AHPSC. Bacardi. Leg. 1.
Emilio Bacardi Moreau 9 featured narrator, historian and cultural patronage to the city of Santiago de Cuba. He married in first nuptials with Mary Lay who died on May 13, 1885. Two years later, on July 2, 1887, he married Elvira Cape. Emilio Bacardí died in August 1922.
Bacardi, under Spanish colonial rule was deported twice to North Africa for their conspiratorial activities. During the US intervention he was appointed first mayor of Santiago de Cuba and later elected to the same responsibility, he held this responsibility for some years. His major works include: Via Crucis, Guiomar, Filgranas, and Crónicas of Santiago de Cuba (in 10 volumes)
10 AHPSC. Bacardi Leg. 1, no. 10.

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