Cuba and Bacardi: A Complicated History

Bacardi rum
Bacardi rum | © Ed Ivanushkin / Flickr
Jack Guy

One of the most iconic alcohol brands in the world was founded in Cuba, but soon ran into a set of fascinating problems that led to its relocation. Read on to discover more about Cuba’s complicated relationship with Bacardi.

Bacardi products are sold all over the world today

An iconic brand with roots in Cuba

Everyone has heard of Bacardi, the brand is one of the most recognizable around the globe. However it hasn’t always had things so good. Bacardi Limited might now be the biggest privately held, family-run spirits company in the world, but it had to overcome an inauspicious start to reach these heights.

In 1862 Don Facundo Bacardi Masso set up a rum distillery in the city of Santiago de Cuba, in the east of the island. Far from churning out low quality spirits as the locals had been used to, Bacardi set about refining rum for more sophisticated palates.

The bat logo helped illiterate customers recognize Bacardi products

Political machinations and exile for Emilio

His business proved to be a roaring success, and things were going well until Emilio, his eldest son, was repeatedly arrested for having fought for Cuban independence against the Spanish. Forced into exile, Emilio left his father and other family members to sustain the business.

There were tough times but the company continued to grow, opening bottling plants in Barcelona and New York in the early 20th century. Despite this new international reach, Cuba remained the base for the brand until the revolution turned things upside down.

Bacardi leaves Cuba after assets are confiscated

While the Bacardi family supported the rebels and donated money to the cause at first, they then opposed developments as the revolutionaries went against the interests of the company. Luckily for them, significant trademarks and operations had been transferred out of Cuba by the time Fidel Castro confiscated the company assets without compensation after he took power.

You’ll most likely be served Havana Club in Cuba today

The falling out between these one-time allies has had far-reaching consequences, including a near total lack of Bacardi products in Cuba. These days, rum drinkers are more than likely to be offered the national rum, Havana Club, as well as other international brands in some privately run bars and restaurants.

If you want to find out more about the fascinating history of Bacardi and Cuba, read “Bacardi, The Hidden War” by Hernando Calvo Ospina.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.