“We want you to have fun while learning about rum, soak up the beautiful view and to experience everything new we have to offer.”
Puerto Rico is synonymous with rum. From the pirates who plied their trade in the surrounding seas over past centuries, through the once-mighty sugarcane industry and into the pulsing nightlife that marks the modern metropolis, the celebrated spirit runs through the island’s rich history and continues to hold sway to this day.
None more so than Bacardi, the iconic brand and standard-bearer that has conquered the world from its outpost at the western edge of San Juan. Known as the King of Rums and the Rum of Kings, the treasures inside those iconic bat logo bottles found in fine establishments in the far corners of the world took flight at the company’s distillery in the seaside town of Cataño, an up-coming diamond in the rough that proudly proclaims itself home to the globe’s best-selling premium spirit.
Rum is where Caribbean cool meets tropical heat. And while an air of mystery and adventure has always surrounded the spirit, Casa BACARDI pulls the curtain back a bit on the Caribbean’s famed libation and throws open its doors to visitors for a range of tours. Tickets can be purchased online months in advance or on site.
Reaching Casa BACARDI’s 127-acre campus is a breeze. Hop on the ferry in Old San Juan for a quick crossing of the deep water bay that is short on price but long on million-dollar views. Taxi cabs and Uber are also both sure bets and vacationers with rental cars will find the trip out is headache free – an exit here and a turn there and you’ve arrived.
Christened the Cathedral of Rum by former Gov. Luis Muñoz Marin in the middle years of the last century, the sprawling bayside property is the largest premium rum production facility in the world.
Head through the gates and along the palm-lined and pond-fringed drive to the bat-winged visitors Bat Bar Pavilion, a soaring open-air creation of Spanish architect Felix Candela that was built in 1962. With a steady schedule of tours on tap, you won’t have to wait long to get started – although what’s the rush to leave the waterfront bar that serves up a fresh supply of renowned Bacardi-based cocktails including the iconic Cuba Libre, must-have Mojitos, potent rum punch and delicious Daiquiris. Kick back and take in the sights, which include epic views of the Spanish-colonial ramparts of El Morro.
All Casa Bacardi options are fully bilingual, educational and experiential, mixology and rum tasting particularly set for adults-only.
The Historical Tour can be fun for all ages. It starts with a complimentary cocktail for adults before climbing on board an open-air trolley for a guided tour that uncovers the family-owned company’s history of craft and innovation. Out of the trolley and into the air-conditioned Visitor Center is both a step back in time and a glimpse into a cutting-edge future that stays true to the vision of quality established by Don Facundo Bacardi, a Spanish-émigré who after years of experimenting with distilling rum in his adopted hometown of Santiago, Cuba started his first distillery there – producing his signature light and elegant spirit — at the same time the Civil War was raging in the United States.
While rich in history, Bacardi has never been satisfied with resting on its laurels. A clear case in point is the ongoing evolution of its Casa Bacardi, which since its opening in 1961 has continued to tantalize visitors a true rum paradise. The addition of the highly rated mixology and in-depth rum tasting tours are proof positive of Bacardi’s unquenchable thirst to outperform expectations at every turn.
“Casa Bacardi needs to be on your Puerto Rico bucket list. We want you to have fun while learning about rum, soak up the beautiful view and to experience everything new we have to offer. Be our guest and come have a Mojito where rum was created,” said Wesley Cullen, Casa Bacardi’s general manager.
While staying true to Don Facundo’s standards and its Cuban roots, political upheaval and the promise of progress prompted the family to pull up stakes and head to Puerto Rico, the sister island that was, and remains, Bacardi’s springboard to the world.
Visitors can put together the pieces of the rich Bacardi legacy through museum pieces that include century-old copper distilling posts, bills of sale and the very furniture on which the course of the company was charted into its seventh-generation. Follow the evolution of Bacardi’s bottles and branding – all with the bat logo that was adopted early on at the suggestion of Don Facundo’s wife Amalia Moreau as a tribute to the fruit bats, symbols of good fortune that nested in the tin-roofed distillery – into a glamorous art deco bar where guides walk through the company’s growing range of rums.
On the adults-only side of the spectrum is Casa Bacardi’s Rum Tasting Tour, a guided tour that covers the history of the company while also diving deeply into the process behind the creation of Bacardí’s celebrated rums from the fermentation of the molasses, the crafting of its aging barrels and blending of its signature offerings. This is not a look but don’t touch kind of tour as it includes expert tutelage and tastings of five Bacardi rums, including Legacy, another blend available exclusively at Casa Bacardi.
If that’s still not enough of a hands-on experience, opt for the Mixology Tour, a truly interactive thrill that puts visitors behind the bar as a Bacardi specialist pulls, pours and shakes them through the paces of mixing three classic rum cocktails. With cocktail-culture booming, this tour is a must for those looking to unleash their inner bartenders. It also includes the distillery visit to uncover the history and craft that goes into those rum recipes that are being learned – cheers indeed.
The gift shop is packed to the gills with all-things Bacardí – from hats to shirts to Mojito mixing sets. It is there that visitors can take the tour to the next level with a one-of-a-kind experience bottling their own Casa Bacardi Special Reserve complete with name, date and wax seal. Aged in white oak barrels and finished in sherry casks, the sweet aromatic rum with tones of vanilla, fruit, hazelnuts and almonds – can only be found onsite.
In short, the Casa Bacardi tour is a can’t miss trip for any traveler. Think of it as an easily doable microcosm of Puerto Rico itself, which at roughly 100 miles long and 35 miles wide packs a plethora of memories in a relatively small but potent package.
Like Puerto Rico, Casa Bacardi is sun drenched and soaked in history, accessible with an ever-present hit of intrigue.