14ymedio, Havana, 24 October 2023 — With 2,500 “exclusive” bottles of Tributo rum, which will be sold at a price of 500 euros each, Havana Club International will celebrate its thirty years of creation this November at the Expocuba fairgrounds. The new edition of the drink celebrates the “rescue” of the brand, in the middle of the Special Period, by the French company Pernod Ricard and its partner on the Island, Cuba Ron.
The general director of the French company, Christian Barré, explained to Prensa Latina that, after the coronavirus pandemic and a “complex year,” his company is focused on relaunching several of the brands that did not have enough public attention and with which he now intends to recover their “export markets.”
The director also said that Havana Club has signed more than 50 contracts with micro, small and medium-sized Cuban companies (MSMEs) this year. Although he did not clarify what the company’s plan is when partnering with the Island’s private companies, he did include them – along with tourism and shops in freely convertible currency (MLC) – among those “who buy the product through different traditional channels,” without giving details.
The company wants to offer its rums so that private entrepreneurs can “grow rapidly” and market them
He said that the company wants to offer its rums so that private entrepreneurs can “grow rapidly” and market them. However, the largest market for Havana Club, Barré insisted, is still in Europe, in countries such as Germany, Spain and France, and for other large consumers in Canada and China.
On the Island, the popular consumption of Cuban rum has been partly displaced by drinks that are marketed at cheaper prices, such as vodka and some imported whiskeys that are sold both in foreign exchange stores and in the informal market.
Havana Club had already announced this September its participation in the XIII Varadero Gourmet International Festival to present three new drinks: the Havana Club Smoky, a dark rum with a smoky flavor that is marketed for about 50 euros; the Havana Club Profundo, a clear drink with the same price; and the Havana Club Spiced, with tropical tones and sold for about 30 euros.
In Europe, the different Havana Club lines are among the most expensive drinks available. A drink of the most common of their rums in a bar can cost up to eight euros, a high price when compared to other imported rums. In Cuba, however, the lowest-end rums are barely marketed among the population, such as the Añejo 7 years or the 3 years version, which don’t have the “honeys” that the brand reserves for its exclusive buyers.
Only in hotels, and for a considerable price, is it possible to access a selection of Maestros or a Special. Other editions, such as the Havana Club Máximo Extra Añejo – which is marketed for more than 1,000 euros – are not even displayed in the Island’s shops.
The celebration of the thirty-year agreement between Cuba Ron and Pernod Ricard coincides with the launch in Spain of the book Arechabala, Azúcar y Ron 1878-1959 (Archebala, Sugar and Rum 1878-1959), written by Antonio Santamaría and María Victoria Arechabala.
Nationalized by Fidel Castro in 1960, the original Havana Club brand belonged to the La Vizcaya distillery, founded in Cárdenas (Matanzas) in 1878 by José Arechabala Aldama, a Basque immigrant who grew his industry to become the José Arechabala S.A. group, one of the largest in Republican Cuba, which also managed various businesses in sugar and shipyards.
The Havana Club line, however, did not emerge until the 1930s, when the company was already the reference for Cuban rum of excellence. The new product quickly found its market in the United States, whose population had just come out of Prohibition, a period when the the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages was illegal.
Arechabala was one of the first companies to suffer the plundering of its properties
A few decades later, with the coming to power of the Revolution and the beginning of nationalizations, Arechabala was one of the first companies to suffer the plundering of its properties, which went from being an irreplaceable symbol of Cárdenas and the Island to becoming ruins neglected by the new revolutionary order.
The Arechabala family fled to the United States, where they sold the original recipe to the Bacardí company in 1994, another of the emblematic rum families of the Island, also exiled after the triumph of Castro.
In 1993 the French Pernod Ricard reached an agreement with Havana to market and own 50% of the rights to the rum, which began to be sold in the world under the same name that the Arechabala originally gave to the drink.
The Bacardí brand also began to produce its own Havana Club in Puerto Rico and to market it in the United States. Since then, companies have been in constant dispute about who owns the real Havana Club, whether it is those who keep the original recipe or those who manufacture it in Cuba.
Pernod Ricard has faced several international lawsuits backed by the Helms-Burton Act for marketing “stolen” property, which includes other products in addition to Havana Club rum. The lawsuits, however, are always dismissed for “lack of jurisdiction” or other causes that prevent judges from imposing sanctions on the French company and its business with the regime.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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