Havana Club rum is back

Kai Ryssdal Aug 8, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: Ahhh summertime. Perfect season for one of those fancy rum drinks. A daquiri maybe. Or a mojito. Starting this week, Americans will be able to mix those drinks with a brand of Cuban rum that’s been off the shelves since 1960. It’s called Havana Club, and Barcadi is the company bringing it to the United States. But Havana Club’s not made in Cuba. In fact, Havana makes its own version of Havana Club. Elaine Walker’s a reporter for the Miami Herald.

ELAINE WALKER: It started in the ’30s. These were the days when Havana was a glorious hot night spot and this was the chic drink that was consumed by all the fashionable and elite people.

RYSSDAL: And how did it come to pass now that Bacardi’s going to wind up selling it in the States?

WALKER: Well Bacardi did a deal with the Arechabala family. They were the original owners of the brand. They lost everything in Cuba, so they made this deal with Bacardi in the mid-’90s and gave Bacardi their recipe and they claim the rights to produce the rum in the United States.

RYSSDAL: But you’ve been able to get Havana Club outside the United States for 35 or 40 years.

WALKER: Correct. I mean Havana Club is sold widely in Europe and obviously in Cuba and other countries. Now, the Havana Club that is sold there is a totally different Havana Club than the Havana Club that Bacardi is now putting out. Bacardi has the Arechabala family recipe and Ramon Arechabala says that the Havana Club that is produced by the Cuban government and Pernod Ricard is awful as far as he’s concerned and not drinkable. These are two entirely different products just being marketed under the same name.

RYSSDAL: Taking sort of a longer view. This is a problem quite a few companies who want to do business with Cuba going forward might wind up having, don’t you think?

WALKER: Well clearly, there’s trademark issues on both sides relative to Cuba. The Cuban government has tried to trademark things in the United States so that after the embargo is over they can do business in the United States, which is clearly what was the case here with this trademark. Now also at the same time, US companies want to do business in Cuba as well after the embargo is lifted and supposedly many US companies have filed at least some preliminary registration in Cuba to protect their trademarks so that they can do business down there.

RYSSDAL: And all of this is happening despite the nominal US embargo?

WALKER: Correct, I mean this is basically positioning so that they can do business when the embargo is lifted.

RYSSDAL: Elaine Walker is with the Miami Herald. Ms. Walker thanks for your time.

WALKER: Thank you.

RYSSDAL: Still nothing new on Fidel, by the way. Resting comfortably, we’re told.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.