On February 4th 1862, Don Facundo Bacardí Massó purchased the first BACARDI rum distillery for the price of 3,500 pesos and forever changed the production of rum. The distillery was situated on El Matadero Street in the colonial town of Santiago de Cuba. Today the headquarters for the Bacardi Company resides in Hamilton, Bermuda. Its building is a testament to the superior quality of the world’s great rum - BACARDI.
The symbol of the Bacardi Company, the Bat Device, was coined in 1862 when Don Facundo’s wife suggested its adoption as the trademark for his new rums. During this time a graphic mark was essential for his rums to become identifiable and sell. In Cuba, bats had great local significance. They were thought to bring good health, fortune and familyunity. Don Facundo’s rums quickly became known as ‘El Ron del Murcielago’ or the ‘Rum of the Bat.’
Successive generations of his descendants have continued in Don Facundo’s innovative spirit. New expressions of his formula have been blended to create new products. From dark aged sipping rums to flavoured rums, the versatility of Don Facundo’s creations have propelled his mark to the most awarded rum brand in the world. It is founder Don Facundo Bacardí Massó who invented the spirits category of rum as we know it today.
After more than ninety-eight years operating as a Cuban company with distilleries in Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico, Company Chairman José ‘Pepín’ Bosch, fearing the intervention by Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista, created a successor company to Compañía Ron Bacardi S.A., in Nassau, the Bahamas. Then, on October 14th 1960, 22 months after the triumph of the Cuban revolution, the Company’s Cuban assets were illegally confiscated by Cuba’s totalitarian regime. With the successor company in the Bahamas, Pepín Bosch communicated to the Company’s distributors: “the assets of Compañía Ron Bacardi have been confiscated. But only in Cuba… We are not finished elsewhere. We are still alive.”
Operating as five different companies, Bacardi y Compañía S.A. de C.V. (Mexico), Bacardi Corporation (Puerto Rico), Bacardi Imports, Inc. (United States of America), Bacardi & Company Limited and Bacardi International Limited (the Bahamas), the Company for the next thirty years continued to expand. Bacardi International Limited was responsible for opening the Company’s first subsidiary in Recife, Brazil in 1961.
In 1965, under the direction of Joaquín Bacardí, Bacardi International Limited moved from the Bahamas to Bermuda. Bermuda became the hub for Pepín Bosch’s rapid expansion of the Company. With its production unit in Brazil, Bacardi International Limited opened offices in London and Sydney and routed rum produced from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil and the Bahamas to more than 100 different countries and territories.
With the growth of the Company came the need for a permanent home. World-renowned Bauhaus Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe originally conceived plans for the new offices for Bacardi International Limited in Hamilton, Bermuda in Santiago de Cuba in 1957. These plans were originally intended for a building that was to mark the centennial anniversary of the Cuban company. Construction was suspended due to the Cuban revolution. After two years of work on the centennial building, Mies van der Rohe submitted his drawings to Pepín Bosch. The building was to have glass on all four sides, with the office set in a single, ground level platform, and the roof was to overhang the building and appear to be floating.
The building design won wide acclaim and was hailed in several architectural journals around the world, including Architectural Forum. When it came time to start planning the Bermuda building, Mies van der Rohe was in poor health so the commission to build the building was given to Ricardo Eguilior, an exiled Cuban architect who had been associated with Bacardi for more than 25 years. Eguilior’s original design called for a five-story office building. However, Pepín Bosch decided that he could fulfill his desire to build a unique one level office that was open and spacious. “Bacardi hopes that the building they have produced is something worthwhile to Bermuda and its friends all over the world,” Pepín Bosch said.
In 1972 construction finished and the building was inaugurated in grand Bacardi style. More than 300 guests including both family and executives flew in from forty-six different countries. What they found was a building with international flavour. Each office represented each one of the areas of the world where BACARDI rum was based with custom hand-woven carpets by Lord & Adams / V’Soske in Puerto Rico suggesting a design indigenous to that area.
The lighting in the building was a mixture of contemporary and traditional. The most striking examples are the two three-tier “Dutch” chandeliers, finished in old brass and featuring 36 lights. However, the lighting field for the ceiling of the general office was of modern concept and contemporary design expressing a historic theme.
Superimposed over the ceiling light field were several “Plexiglas crystal Luna cubes” that look like stars amid a field of blue. These “Luna cubes” were placed in position to recreate the position of the constellations as they appeared in the skies over Santiago de Cuba on the night of February 4th, 1862, the date upon which Bacardi was founded by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó. At the front of the building was a huge hand-painted mural of a typical Cuban landscape by exiled Cuban artist Felix Ramos. The mural measures 37 feet by 16 feet 6 inches and was enclosed in a frame of white Italian marble.
The building itself employed a highly sophisticated method of constructing sidewalls of solid glass; the Bacardi Building was rectangular in shape with each of its four straight-line structural walls of clear glass. It was one of the earliest buildings in the world to have four walls made from tempered glass.
Support for the roof, which overhangs a terrace that surrounds the building, came from eight columns and 28 foot steel trusses cantilevered out from the building core. Of the 79,000 square feet of the building site, 44,500 was left unoccupied, to be devoted to gardens and lawn. A fountain was also designed as a visual gift to the people and visitors to Bermuda. The main feature of the fountain was a 50-foot cascade that formed a backdrop for the reflecting pool.
Eguilior, believed; “Bermuda is a place of blue skies, beautiful flowers, bright sunshine and attractive people. Most buildings in Bermuda have small windows, thick walls and low ceilings that close out much of the outside. But this building, with 20 foot side walls of clear glass, puts Bermuda on display, the way it should always be.”
The design for the Bacardi headquarters building was used for the National Gallery in Berlin. “Structurally and spatially the museum bears an obvious resemblance to the Bacardi office building that was never built in Santiago de Cuba. Although the museum’s structure is larger, and of steel versus reinforced concrete for the Bacardi building, both have square plans.”
For the next twenty years the Company continued to expand and opened distilleries in Canada, Spain, Panama, Venezuela and Martinique, acquired a distribution company in Germany and opened a joint venture in the United Kingdom.
Then, in 1992, the Company took one of the most momentous steps in its history. The five separate Bacardi companies were consolidated into Bacardi International Limited and the Company was renamed Bacardi Limited. After more than thirty years as an exiled corporation the Bacardi company had a new home. The building in Bermuda, intended for the Company’s headquarters in Santiago, became the centrepiece for the Company’s most momentous decision.
Shortly after consolidation the Company decided to purchase the remaining stake in the Martini & Rossi Group of companies. Instantly the Bacardi Limited world organization doubled in size by adding more than 200 brands and labels to its one brand portfolio. In addition to regional brands such as ERISTOFF vodka, WILLIAM LAWSON’S Scotch whisky, NOILLY PRAT vermouth and BÉNÉDICTINE liqueur, the Company added MARTINI vermouth, the world-leader in vermouth, to its portfolio. Later other brands such as DEWAR’S Scotch whisky, the top-selling blended Scotch whisky in the United States; BOMBAY SAPPHIRE gin, the top valued and fastest-growing premium gin in the world; CAZADORES tequila, the #1 premium tequila in Mexico and top selling premium tequila in U.S.; and GREY GOOSE vodka, the world-leader in super premium vodka, were added to the Company.
While the Bacardi building has undergone two major renovations since its inauguration in 1972, its essential character remains the same. From the building’s symmetry to its majestic fountain intended as a visual gift to the people of Bermuda, the building remains the Company’s most enduring link to its heritage and birthplace of Santiago de Cuba. Its trademark, today proudly displayed in its entrance hall, is a symbol of the Bacardí family’s long-standing commitment to the people of Bermuda who more than 45 years ago welcomed this corporation to their pristine shores.