In his 14th century memoirs, legendary merchant traveler Marco Polo mentioned being offered a very good wine of sugar during his stay in Persia. One of the earliest references to the libation we now know as rum, the drink Mr. Polo described was likely crude and potent. It wasnt until some 500 years later, clear on the other side of the globe, that a young, Spanish wine merchant trying to make a go of it in Cuba turned Mr. Polos potion into something truly transcendent.
In 1862, Facundo Bacardí Massó opened the first Bacardí distillery in Santiago de Cuba, determined to bring artistry to rum making. Its a mission thats remained alive among his descendants ever since, and one being channeled in an unprecedented manner this month with the launch of the Facundo Rum Collection. A four-bottle, limited-edition collection (only 1,500 bottles will be produced the first year) from the Bacardí familys private rum reserves, each blend has a distinct flavor and stylethe NEO is aged yet light; the 10-year-old Eximo is blended before maturing rather than after, as is customary; and the Exquisito rests in sherry casks for noticeably fruitier notes. But its the Paraiso, aged up to 23 years and masterfully blended in cognac casks, that is the collections crown jewel. Pour it into a snifter. Serve it neat. Enjoy it slowly. Do anything but mix it into a cocktail. After all, its the ultimate sipping rum, courtesy of the ultimate rum family. (Paraiso, $250. Top Hat Wine & Spirits, 5749 SW 40th Street, Miami; 305-662-9898; facundorum.com.)