SPIRITS INDUSTRY

Bacardi launches first collection of aged sipping rums from its private reserves

 

icordle@MiamiHerald.com

When Bacardi family members get together to dine or share after-dinner cigars, they sip exclusive, aged rums poured from their private reserves.

Now, their namesake company is unleashing to the public a collection of four such luxury sipping rums, culled from the company’s 151-year-old history of rum-making.

Priced from $45 to $250, the new Facundo Rum Collection — named for company founder Don Facundo Bacardi Massó — will be sold in limited quantities at select stores and restaurants in Miami and New York, beginning in mid-November. The line represents a significant departure from Bacardi’s popularly priced rums and follows a national trend of spirits aimed at luxury markets.

“Rum aficionados, rum drinkers are going to be surprised with the flavor profiles of these rums,” said Facundo L. Bacardi, great great-grandson of founder Don Facundo and chairman of Bermuda-based Bacardi Limited, whose U.S. headquarters are located in Coral Gables.

The four rums, aged up to 23 years, have been under development secretly for the past few years and were crafted from the Bacardi family’s reserves of 300 variants of rums. Bacardi Master Blender Manny Oliver said he came up with the final blends after numerous variations and tasting sessions.

During a party celebrating the company’s 150th anniversary last year in Puerto Rico, the family decided to launch the collection. Now in its eighth generation, the family counts about 600 members.

“The 150th anniversary celebration was a time of introspection and reflection for family members,” Facundo L. Bacardi said. “There was a consensus that now is the time to share this with our customers.”

Juan del Busto and Robert Burr, local members of the International Rum Expert Panel, participated in tastings as the new products were developed. .

“It was like James Bond rum — it was considered a secret project,” said Burr, who hosts the annual Miami Rum Festival and leads the 37-member panel.

“Rum has always been considered accessible or common, but in the last five or eight years we have seen some of the world’s greatest master blenders suddenly be allowed to create something that is a prestige product,” he said.

Founded in 1862 in Santiago de Cuba, Bacardi ranks as the top rum brand in the world and the second-largest spirits brand after Smirnoff Vodka, according to Adam Rogers, senior analyst at the Beverage Information Group.

The new rums — one light and three dark and named Neo, Eximo, Exquisito, and Paraíso — are designed to be sipped slowly. All are made from three ingredients: sugarcane molasses, water, and yeast — the same proprietary yeast Bacardi has used for the past 151 years, said Oliver, who has been with Bacardi for 37 years.

The rums are encased in heavy glass bottles, each with a different Art Deco motif that “harkens back to the glory days of Cuba” and the company’s heritage, said Toby Whitmoyer, vice president and brand managing director for rum at Bacardi U.S.A.

Even for those familiar with Bacardi rums, the taste of these is distinctive.

“People are going to say ‘Wow, that doesn’t taste like the last Bacardi I tried,’ and it will cause them to reevaluate their perception of the company and what they can do,” Burr said.

Neo, one of the oldest light rums available in the market, aged up to eight years, retails for $45, and has “oaky notes, along with fruity and floral notes,” Oliver said.

Eximo, a blend of medium-to-heavy-bodied rums, is aged 10 years in oak barrels and retails for $60. It is the only one of the collection that was blended before aging. That process allows the blender to tailor the flavor and aroma before it is aged to better marry the blends, but is a potentially riskier proposition because the end result is initially unknown. Oliver describes it as having notes of walnuts and vanilla.

Exquisito, a medium-to-heavy-bodied rum, made with a blend of seven to 23 year-old rums, was aged, blended, and then stored in sherry casks. Its quantity is limited because rum begins to evaporate as it ages and lose as much as 90 percent during a 23-year span. It has additional spicy notes of cinnamon, cloves, and prune, Oliver said. It retails for $90.

Paraíso, the most expensive at $250 a bottle, is a blend of Bacardi’s private reserves’ finest rums, aged 15 to 23 years. After aging, the rums are finished in French cognac barrels. It has a lot of spicy notes, like cloves and cinnamon, Oliver said.

“These rums flow excellently from when you taste it to when you finish,” said del Busto, a retired former regional executive of the Federal Reserve Miami branch. He now counts Exquisito and Paraíso among the top 10 within his collection of 1,500 rums.

Bacardi’s new line is aimed at a sophisticated target market of luxury-goods consumers — “someone who would take the time to savor the rum,” Whitmoyer said. The first year, just 1,500 cases, or 18,000 bottles, of all four types in total, will be released.

In South Florida, the rums will be available at high-end restaurants and hotels, including Juvia, the SLS Hotel South Beach, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, and the Delano South Beach, and certain liquor stores, including Top Hat Wine & Spirits 2 in Southwest Miami-Dade and Portofino Wine Bank in South Beach.

Launching in New York and Miami is fitting: the metropolitan areas rank as the largest and second-largest in rum sales nationwide, Rogers said. In fact, sales of rum in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach reached 987,000 cases last year, representing 3.7 percent of the nation’s total rum sales, he said.

“You want people who are not rum drinkers to discover rum and start drinking it, and these do that,” del Busto said. “I think the public is going to be surprised when they start drinking this entire line. I think the accolades are going to be coming pretty fast.”

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