BACARDÍ is one of the most iconic spirits brands in the world.

The rum house has been around for more than 150 years, and it continues to push innovation with each passing decade. To learn more about how BACARDÍ celebrates its heritage and history, we chatted with Lisa Pfenning, the Vice President Americas, BACARDÍ Rum Portfolio. Pfenning shares insight about how the company got started, how they’ve adapted to modern times and how they are leading the spirits industry in sustainability initiatives.

Lisa Pfenning of BACARDÍ

Lisa Pfenning of BACARDÍ

Could you talk a bit about how the Bacardi family started making rum for those people who aren’t familiar with the history?

BACARDÍ is a family owned business founded by Don Facundo Bacardi in 1862, who created a new style of smooth, drinkable rum. His innovative methods of crafting rum revolutionized the spirits industry in the 1800s and are still used by the Maestros de Ron of BACARDÍ today.

Don Facundo pioneered key rum-making techniques, including the isolation of a single strain of yeast from nearby sugarcane fields. The new BACARDÍ blends were a delight to Cuban residents who had known only the harsh and fiery local “ron.” They welcomed the taste of smooth, mixable rums branded with an elegant and intriguing black bat on the label. The rum soon became popular outside of Cuba with visitors coming from the United States and eventually [experienced] worldwide popularity.

What are some of the things that BACARDÍ as a company has done in the same way for years? What are some ways they are building on their heritage and adapting processes for modern times?

BACARDÍ remains a family-owned business and takes pride in its deep heritage and history as innovative rum makers for generations. Each bottle of BACARDÍ Superior is still created using the same strain of yeast that Don Facundo isolated many years ago. Our Maestros de Ron are carefully chosen and trained in seven generations of rum-making expertise to ultimately have the honor of shaping and crafting our products. With their uncompromising pursuit of quality, our rums have been expertly blended for a smooth, drinkable product for many years.

Although BACARDÍ is rooted and guided by its strong heritage, the company also embraces a bold entrepreneurial spirit inspired by Don Facundo. The brand is always looking to innovate and launch new products. Most recently, BACARDÍ launched its most refreshing flavor innovation yet, BACARDÍ Lime, this past spring. We’re pleased that the newest flavor is doing well on the market, as consumers continue to seek out more high-quality, natural flavors.

Are there any expressions BACARDÍ has released to celebrate its heritage? What was the inspiration behind them?

A few years ago in 2012, BACARDÍ celebrated 150 years of history and success. That year, to commemorate the rum-making standards created by Don Facundo, several of our Maestros de Ron combined their extraordinary talents to create a very special and rare limited-edition BACARDÍ rum—Ron BACARDÍ, de Maestros de Ron, Vintage, MMXII, a blend of the finest BACARDÍ rums laid to rest in oak barrels during the past 20 years.

More recently, as part of the brand’s commitment to innovate the rum industry, BACARDÍ launched two new premium products, BACARDÍ Añejo Cuatro and BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Diez, along with a new repackaging of BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho to complete the phenomenal portfolio. The launch and focus on premium aged rums are a celebration of the brand’s deep heritage that hope to inspire a new generation of rum drinkers. Although the launch of the premium products is more recent, the Bacardi family has enjoyed sipping rums for years, including BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho, which was originally created as a personal reserve for seven generations. BACARDÍ remains a family owned business and is thrilled to share its family traditions with other spirits enthusiasts around the globe.

BACARDÍ is leading the way in the spirits industry when it comes to sustainability initiatives. Has this always been a priority for the brand, or was it a recent choice to be more eco-conscious?

BACARDÍ has been focused on sustainability efforts for a number of years. We began tracking global impact on the environment in 2006 and have since made notable improvements in several areas, including water use efficiency and reduced GHG intensity. Building on current programs and efficiencies that reduce its environmental impacts, the Bacardi Limited “Good Spirited” environmental sustainability program sets specific goals in Responsible Sourcing, Global Packaging and Operational Efficiencies in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water use to help the company reach its vision of a net zero impact.

Last year, Bacardi Limited and Lonely Whale joined forces to help rid the environment of single-use plastic, including the goal to eliminate one billion single-use plastic straws by 2020. Through a series of corporate and brand collaborations, events, and calls-to-action around the world, the brand has encouraged consumers to join the campaign entitled #TheFutureDoesntSuck.

This fall, BACARDÍ launched the newest component of the partnership, the Straw Vinyl program, through which we are collecting single-use plastic straws from 55 bars across the country to upcycle them into limited-edition vinyl records. The final upcycled limited-edition vinyl records will become available for purchase on Giving Tuesday, December 3, exclusively on LonelyWhale.com. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the straw vinyl will go back to Lonely Whale.

Additionally, on a local level, our BACARDÍ ambassadors host beach clean-ups in their cities, the most recent happening in September. As a company, we’re so proud to support efforts like these on both a national and local scale!