In the 1830s, not many thought highly of rum. It was cheap to make and cheaper to drink, and one usually had to forego the classier establishments in order to find the stuff, typically in haunts surrounded by sailors. Then Don Facundo Bacardí Massó immigrated to Cuba from Spain and started down the road to making his family name synonymous with refined sugarcane-based spirits. He isolated a specific yeast for making his own rum (which would come to define Bacardí flavor) and cleaned up the drink. He filtered his rum through charcoal and aged it in white oak barrels, producing a more mellow, clear spirit. His experiments went into full commercial production with the opening of his first distillery in 1862. After surviving the Cuban War of Independence, Massó’s company expanded and positioned itself hand in hand with Cuba; when Prohibition hit North America, Facundo’s grandson invited thirsty Americans to “Come to Cuba and bathe in Bacardí rum”. And bathe they did. Bacardí is now the largest privately held, family-owned spirits company in the world.
And over 150 years later, Bacardí is yet again boosting rum to a higher class of spirit. For most of us, rum (often, Bacardí) is most likely served mixed into a mojito or blended into a margarita or simply with Coca-Cola. When it is served alone, it’s in a shot glass, accompanied by a Hawaiian shirt and chased with a grimace. Bacardí’s Facundo line, named after their original innovator, rebuffs this stigma. The entire line is made from the Bacardí family’s private reserves, with blends ranging from one to 23 years old. And of this line, Exquisito is the both a premier and accessible sipping rum.
At over $100 a bottle, it’s not an easy sell to rum drinkers; all the stops need be pulled out for that price tag. The bottle is loud, with gold leaf used to depict the music and fashion from when Cuba reigned supreme as America’s southernmost party scene. Inside the bottle is a smoothness that comes from marrying rums aged 7 to 23 years in sherry casks for at least another month. The 23-year-old portion has been sitting in the Caribbean sun and sea air for so long that in some cases only 5 percent of the original barrel remains, meaning these aren’t rums you can reproduce on a large scale.
After pouring a few fingers of Exquisito, recommended either neat or over an ice sphere, you’ll immediately notice the smell of vanilla and walnut, along with the sweet sherry imparted by the barrel. During sipping, the young, 7-year rums lend butterscotch, dried raisins and apricots, while the wiser, 23-year rums add a smoky black pepper bite. The light cherrywood drink finishes as mellow and as smooth as it starts, asking to be drunk alongside a Cuban cigar on the beaches of Havana. Whatever you do, keep this refined gem away from Coca-Cola, novelty drink umbrellas or a blender.
Series: Bacardí Facundo
Age of Blends: 7-23 years
Secondary Aging: a month in sherry casks
Serve: neat or over a sphere of ice
Aroma: vanilla, walnut, and sweet sherry notes on a toasted oak base
Palate: a rich and mellow with notes of vanilla, dried raisins and apricots, and a hint of butterscotch
Color: light cherrywood
Finish: full and toasty mellow oak