On the outskirts of the working class barrios of Cataño, Puerto Rico, lies an oasis for the discerning cocktail sipper, the Casa Bacardí. Inside the giant iron gates, adorned with the distinctive bat emblem, the world’s largest Bacardí distillery looks more like an exclusive country club. The lush manicured lawns and tropical palms, decorated with modern art sculptures, provide the perfect canvas for the beautiful Art Deco “Cathedral of Rum” building.
The journey to the Casa is worthwhile, with tours around the distillery where over 100,000 liters of rum are produced every single day. Beginning at the docks of the old Spanish colonial city of San Juan, the Lancha de Cataño ferry service takes you across the Bahía de San Juan for just 50 cents. Upon disembarking at Cataño docks, you will find an old-school shuttle service to the Casa Bacardí for just three dollars.
Despite being one of the worlds largest brands, Bacardí is still a family-run company. Founder Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, a Spaniard who immigrated to Cuba in 1830, created a unique method of distilling rum that turned it from the drink of choice for Royal Navy tars into a refined spirit. Today, Bacardí is made almost identically according to Don Facundo’s original secret process of fermentation, distillation, and charcoal filtration.
His first distillery in Cuba opened in 1862. The building’s rafters were home to a family of fruit bats, from which he created the distinctive Bacardí logo. Though Don Facundo’s eldest son was imprisoned and eventually exiled from Cuba during the Independence Wars of the 1890s, the postwar introduction of Coca Cola to Cuba by US troops produced one of the world’s simplest and most popular mixed drinks: the Cuba Libre!, or rum and Coke (with a slice of lime). As Bacardí grew more successful, further factories were opened in Mexico and Puerto Rico. But the Cuban unrest of the 1960s saw the Bacardí family leave Cuba for good, bringing their distillery in Puerto Rico to the fore.
Today, tours around the elegant, leafy Casa Bacardí show some aspects of the secret distillation process, and a well-appointed museum features examples of the very first Bacardí bottles, along with some of the hundreds of medals won by the brand. The tour concludes with an outdoor bar where samples of Don Facundo’s historic rums can be enjoyed. The highlight of a visit to the Casa Bacardí, however, is the distilling building itself—one of the most glorious examples of tropical Art Deco architecture to be found anywhere in the Caribbean.
Know Before You Go
The Casa Bacardí is closed on Mondays.