A 150-Year-Old Recipe: How Bacardi Crafts the Most-Awarded Rum in the World

A 150-Year-Old Recipe: How Bacardi Crafts the Most-Awarded Rum in the World

On October 14, 1960, Bacardi lost all of its Cuban assets to an unlawful seizure by the Cuban Revolutionary Government. The newly formed regime illegally took control of all foreign-owned properties in the country, as well as some 400 Cuban companies, offering no compensation and subsequently exiling many of them from Cuba.

Although the Bacardi family had lost its home, business, and personal assets, no one could take the knowledge behind their unique blend of rum. The secrets of BACARDÍ have endured for generations, providing the basis for what is now the world’s most-awarded brand of rum.

The Beginning

After losing his first business to an earthquake in 1852, Don Facundo Bacardí Massó harnessed his determination and began to develop a new business venture. He set out to create a rum far superior to the local variety, a crude blend with a harsh flavor that earned it the name “aguardiente,” or “firewater.” Don Facundo’s sought to create a lighter, more balanced rum, and crafted his own unique recipe to do so.

Today, Bacardi operates distilleries in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and India. The company’s Cataño, Puerto Rico facilities comprise the largest rum distillery in the world and account for 85 percent of the company’s global distillation — a volume of more than 100,000 liters per day. At all of Bacardi’s distilleries, the Maestros De Ron BACARDÍ continue to use the delicate process perfected by Don Facundo over 150 years ago.

Fermentation with La Levadura BACARDÍ

At Bacardi’s Puerto Rico distillery, widely regarded as the Cathedral of Rum, fermentation takes place in 20 50,000-gallon tanks. This process, which many regard as the most crucial step in rum-making, requires a combination of molasses, yeast, and demineralized water called a “mash.” As the yeast feeds on the sugar in the molasses, it turns it into the alcohol that serves as the base of BACARDÍ rum.

To this day, Bacardi uses a particular strain of yeast isolated by Don Facundo in 1862.  La Levadura BACARDÍ possesses fast-fermenting properties that result in a pure mash with a high alcohol content. As a key to BACARDÍ’s consistent flavor, the yeast strain remains one of the company’s most valuable assets.

Bacardi derives its molasses from a variety of global sources, selecting blends with ideal flavors and low water content. As a founding member of global nonprofit Bonsucro, Bacardi is dedicated to achieving sustainability across the sugarcane sector, which produces molasses. As part of its comprehensive sustainability initiative, the company has also committed to sourcing all of its sugarcane products from certified sustainable sources by 2022.

Bacardi allows these ingredients to ferment for a period of 20 to 30 hours while carefully monitoring the process. Its distillers use hydrometers to periodically check the mash’s sugar levels, employing computer systems to main a temperature below 38 degrees Celsius/100 degrees Fahrenheit. When complete, fermentation yields a mash with an ABV between 10 and 12 percent.

The Parallel Process

In creating BACARDÍ rum, Don Facundo pioneered a new method of distillation. His “Parallel Process” involved distilling two rum bases from two separate mashes, aging them individually and then blending them together to create the perfect combination. Bacardi continues to blend his two bases: Redestilado and Aguardiente.

The former is a light, dry rum distilled through five stainless steel columns, while the latter is a fruity, full-bodied rum with more robust flavors. Aguardiente is distilled in a column still made of copper and cast iron and ranges from 70 to 80 percent ABV, while Redestilado is generally between 92.5 and 94.5 percent alcohol.  The Maestros De Ron BACARDÍ carefully blend Redestilado and Aguardiente to create BACARDÍ Superior, but not before both bases undergo the aging process.

Letting the Flavors Mature

Since Don Facundo Bacardi Massó first developed the technique, Bacardi has aged its rum in lightly charred American white oak barrels, which help to develop the color, smoothness, aroma, and flavor of every BACARDÍ rum. Bacardi sources its barrels from whiskey distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee, first washing, soaking, and charring them before beginning the aging process. This removes any lingering whiskey flavor that would overpower the rum, while at the same time opening up the wood’s pores and contributing to a smokier final taste.

Bacardi ages its rums for at least one year, and while whiskey producers usually use each barrel only once, Bacardi recycles them as many as seven times. Due to the tropical climate in the Caribbean, BACARDÍ rum matures two to three times faster than spirits aged in other regions. For this reason, an eight-year-old BACARDÍ rum may have a more mature taste than a Scotch aged for a longer span of time.

Filtering out Imperfections
The final step in Don Facundo’s unique rum production process is filtration. In striving to create a smoother, more refined rum, Don Facundo developed a technique to remove any unwanted flavor notes that might develop during the production process. He found that natural charcoal was an ideal material for filtering out these harsher flavors and crafted a secret charcoal “recipe” that includes coconut shells and at least 13 varieties of tropical wood. Bacardi uses his process to this day, filtering out “rogue notes” to preserve the rum’s subtle flavors at three points: after aging the Redestilado base, and both before and after aging the Aguardiente.

In addition to refining the rum’s flavor, charcoal filtration also removes its color, which is why BACARDÍ Superior — an aged rum — is clear. However, Bacardi uses differing charcoal sizes for separate varieties of rum, with larger-grained charcoals reserved for more mature blends. It is this fact that allows the company’s aged rums, such as BACARDÍ 8 Años, to retain a deep gold or amber color.