Skip to comments.Bacardi to re-launch Havana Club rum label
Posted on 08/08/2006 10:14:41 AM PDT by PJ-Comix
Havana Club, the rum that evokes memories of toasts at glittery hot spots in pre-Castro Cuba, is coming this week to Florida bars, liquor stores and hotels.
Coming on the heels of a favorable ruling in a decade-long legal battle with French liquor giant Pernod Ricard and the Cuban government, Miami-based Bacardi U.S.A. is relaunching the Havana Club brand as a super-premium rum selling for $19.99 a bottle.
Thursday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deemed the Havana Club trademark held by Cubaexport ``cancelled/expired.''
Bringing Havana Club back to the United States is particularly gratifying for Ramon Arechabala. His family created the rum in 1935, and exported it to the United States and other countries until Jan. 1, 1960, when Fidel Castro's government seized the family's plant and trademark.
Arechabala, former sales manager of the family company, said Monday he vividly remembers the day the bodyguard of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto ''Che'' Guevara placed a gun to his head and took over the Havana Club distillery in Cardenas.
In recent years, Havana Club has been marketed by a joint venture involving Cubaexport, a Cuban government company, and Pernod Ricard. Because of the embargo on Cuba, it was not available in the United States.
Although that Havana Club is popular in both Cuba and Europe, Arechabala declared it ``not drinkable.''
''Fidel lacks the formula of the right Havana Club,'' said Arechabala, 70, who has lived in Miami for 38 years. ``That's the only thing Fidel couldn't take from me.''
In the mid 1990s, Bacardi cut a deal with the Arechabalas for the rights to the family's recipe and the name Havana Club. The brand was introduced in the United States, but pulled from the shelves when the rum war ignited.
At least for now, however, here will be two versions of Havana Club for sale, one from Bacardi and the other from the Cuban/French joint venture.
Bacardi's new Havana Club will be bottled at the company's rum facilities in Puerto Rico. For now it will be available only in Florida because of limited supply.
But Bacardi executives said Monday that based on response, it will likely be rolled out to other key U.S. markets.
The timing of the Havana Club launch has nothing to do with any recent Cuba interest sparked by Castro's health issues, company executives said. And the U.S. Patent Office ruling was just coincidental with their plans to introduce the brand, they said.
Instead, executive said, it's all about capitalizing on strong consumer demand for super-premium liquor brands and the return of classic cocktails such as the daiquiri and mojito. The rum category, where Bacardi is already the top-selling brand in the world, has also been growing.
''We've been planning this for many years,'' said John Gomez, vice president and group marketing director for Bacardi U.S.A. ``We always owned the brand. There was no issue in our minds. It was only a question of when it was commercially appropriate for the relaunch.''
Cubaexport has claimed it obtained the rights to the Havana Club name in 1976 after José Arechabala S.A. allowed the trademark to lapse with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Cubaexport registered the trademark in 1976, but no compensation was ever provided to the Arechabala family.
U.S. courts have consistently ruled that Havana Club Holdings, the name of the French/Cuban joint venture, has no right to the trademark in the United States.
But the issue of who held the trademark remained unresolved until last week's decision.
Executives from Pernod Ricard were unavailable late Monday afternoon.
Unlike most countries, the United States typically gives priority to the first entity to utilize a brand, not the first to register it, said Miami attorney Jim Gale, whose firm Feldman Gale specializes in trademark and patent law.
But a trademark in one country has no impact on operations in another country, Gale said.
BUILDING NEW BUZZ
Bacardi plans to market Havana Club as a super-premium brand, along the lines of Grey Goose vodka, which the company also owns.
It will introduce the brand with trendsetters in South Florida and hopes the buzz will spread.
The product will start appearing locally this week.
Most other premium rums made by Bacardi or other companies are dark rums meant to be sipped, but Havana Club is a clear liquid that mixes well in cocktails.
I'm a big fan of Barbancourt...it makes the best rum and coke.
According to the article, the Havana Club now in Cuba isn't using the right forumula. I've heard good things about Barbancourt. From Haiti. Distilled directly from sugar cane juice rather than mollasses like the other rums. I'll have to try it and see how it compares with Flor de Caña which is my current favorite.
Flor de Cana is very good. Too bad I can't get it around here. I like Gosling's (Bermuda) just as much.
I'm usually OK with just some vodka with cranapple juice poured in, maybe a key lime.
Will have to try this Havana Club, though, this news has kind of a happy feel to it.
I like Bacardi better than Flor de Cana, which I think is a little perfumy in flavor. Bacardi is harsher, but somehow that pleases me. OTOH, I'm getting too old to drink much anymore.
US Admiralty law is the same way. Goes against the rest of the "International" approach to maritime laws by other nations. Gotta love the U.S. of A.!
Put me down for a fifth.
You should try Westerhall Plantation if you find a bottle; it's "estate bottled" in the US Virgin Islands, and has a distinct cane taste.
It's a clear sipping rum, and NOT hideously expensive, but it's hard to find.
Try the clear 4 year old Flor de Caña?
Seems like a good time to suggest that all you rum lovers try El Dorado from Guyana.
They better have a sit with Hyman Roth, make sure this is okay.
A friend of mine's family is from Cuba. They left in 1961. They have two unopened bottles of the original Havana Club in their liquor closet. Yes I did say closet. They will only open them when they have a confirmed report of Castro's death, to celebrate it.
(I had my first shots of rum when just eight years old.)
Hmmm... I think I'll go with... Bacardi!
Not the 4 year old, I don't think. I'll give it a try.
I've developed a taste for aged rums. What is good about Flor de Caña is that it is naturally aged. They don't use chemicals to hasten the process.
I remember when Flor de Cana came out, made by a Nicaraguan family IIRC. I seem to remember the guy saying he was going to go head to head with Bacardi, and do it better. That was such a bold and endearing statement that I went out and got a bottle.
Venezuelan Rum is the best. Particularly Ron Pompero Anniversaro.