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A "very good wine of sugar"

Bacardí Puerto Rico | © Cynthia Silversides
Bacardí Puerto Rico | © Cynthia Silversides

It is believed that during the 14th century, Marco Polo was offered a “very good wine of sugar” in the country that is now Iran. This fermented drink known as Brum in China and India during ancient times was supposedly made from sugarcane juice. In the 17th century several Caribbean islands began making rum, also known as ron or rhum, from a byproduct of the sugar industry - molasses.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Casa Bacardí Visitor Center in Cataño, Puerto Rico, the largest premium rum distillery in the world. The center puts on an incredible tour including a short film on the Bacardí family history. Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, originally a wine merchant and importer in Santiago de Cuba, experimented with fermentation and distillation for years to create his secret rum formula before establishing Compañia Bacardí with his brother José there in 1862.

Casa Bacardí Casa Bacardí

Casa Bacardí

Throughout the tour there were lots of historical artifacts and interactive displays about Bacardí and rum production to check out at your own pace. We learned about the company’s sustainability efforts including their wind turbine project that has been creating renewable energy for the center since 2010, and were entertained in their executive bar by a bartender who demonstrated how to mix drinks including the famous Cuba Libre which originated in 1900 at the American Bar in Havana (pour 1 part Bacardí rum into a tall glass with ice, add 3 parts Coca Cola and a wedge of lime). This drink was named after a toast, “Por Cuba Libre” (for Cuba’s freedom).

Bacardí Executive Bar Bacardí Executive Bar

Bacardí Executive Bar

Lead by an engaging and informative guide, this tour was first-rate from the time we boarded the tram that takes you for a short ride around their compound dropping you off at the tour building, to when we were dropped off back at the outside bar for drinks, complimentary for visitors. An impressive experience, especially for lovers of rum and Bacardí!

A few things to know when you visit: Public transportation to Bacardí is easy and inexpensive from San Juan. Take the ferry from Pier 2 to Cataño, $0.50 each way. Then take a taxi to Bacardí and back to the pier which will cost around $3.00 each way. Make sure to bring cash in U.S. dollars for the transportation. The whole excursion will take you about 2-3 hours.

In Oakville this month: The Oakville Wine Enthusiasts Club meetings resume after a summer break. Tre Amici is presenting on Friday, September 26th at 7:30 p.m.