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The rum war rages on: Bacardi insists its Havana Club is ‘Forever Cuban’ despite criticism from Pernod Ricard


By Minda Smiley, Reporter

January 8, 2018 | 5 min read

Bacardi is fighting back claims that a campaign called ‘Forever Cuban’ for its Havana Club rum is misleading since the liquor is actually made in Puerto Rico.

Snapshot from Havana Club ad

Pernod Ricard has labeled Bacardi's latest ad for its Havana Club rum as 'misleading'

The criticism comes from rival spirits company Pernod Ricard, who also markets a brand of rum under the name Havana Club. The two have been locked in a trademark battle over the name for more than 20 years.

Bacardi claims that its version of Havana Club is the real deal since the company paid the Arechabala family, the original makers of Havana Club in pre-Castro Cuba, for the rights to it in 1994. Meanwhile, Pernod Ricard asserts that its Havana Club is more authentic since it is made in Cuba in partnership with the Cuban government.

Pernod Ricard’s Havana Club is currently not available in the US due to the trade embargo, but is available globally. Bacardi began selling its Havana Club rum nationwide in the US in 2016.

If Pernod Ricard wins the trademark dispute, it plans to sell its rum under the Havana Club name in the US if and when the trade embargo is lifted. According to the Washington Post, it will go by the name of Havanista instead if Bacardi prevails.

In the meantime, the two are caught up in a war of words over the campaign in question, which Pernod Ricard said “contains a number of misleading statements, the most obvious being a false claim to be the original Havana Club rum.” The ad, which stars Cuban-American actor Raul Esparza, was written, produced, and directed by Cuban exiles living in Miami, Florida.

Bacardi defended itself with the following statement:

Pernod Ricard and the Cuban dictatorship have perpetuated a lie since they began their collusion in 1993, and continue to do so today. Since Pernod will not share the true story of Havana Club Rum with their consumers (and with the world), we will.

In 1959, Cuba’s communist revolutionaries confiscated and nationalized the Havana Club distillery and exiled the Arechebala family, who created Havana Club in 1934. While the revolutionaries seized the distillery and trademark by force, they could not steal the recipe or the expertise that it took to produce Havana Club. That expertise left Cuba with the Arechebala family when they were exiled from their homeland. In 1994, Ramon Arechebala passed the Havana Club recipe and production techniques to the Bacardi Family – who are also Cuban exiles – so that they could preserve the legacy and allow the brand to live on.

Cuba’s revolutionaries confiscated and nationalized many family businesses. They imprisoned those who resisted, and tortured those who opposed them. But they did not know how to produce or distribute rum. In 1993, the Cuban regime found a willing partner to help them profit from their stolen trademark - French liquor conglomerate Pernod Ricard. Since then, the Cuban government and Pernod Ricard have generated millions of dollars by selling an imposter rum poured into a bottle and marketed under a stolen name.

Unlike Pernod Ricard, the Bacardi and Arechebala families are not misleading consumers. Our Havana Club Rum is now proudly made in Puerto Rico. It is based on the original recipe and techniques that were used by the Arechebalas to make Havana Club in Cuba prior to the Cuban revolution. Our new marketing campaign affirms that, while our rum is now made in Puerto Rico, our heart and soul will be ‘Forever Cuban.’

This is the story of Havana Club – this is our story. If Pernod Ricard wishes to tell their story, we are listening…

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