One of my trip highlights was taking the Bacardi Rum Factory Tour when staying in Old San Juan. It is being held at the Casa Bacardi, a short ferry ride from Old San Juan.
From here, you are ushered into a cab and driven to the factory, where you can opt between a variety of tours. Among general entry and distillery tour, there is also a Rum Tasting at the end of one and a Mixology class at the end of another tour. I opted for the Mixology class, since I prefer to drink my rum mixed with other yummy ingredients. We were first driven around the plant and got to know a bit of the history of the famous Bacardi. It originated in Cuba but was confiscated in the 1960s, shortly after the Cuban revolution. At one point, there was even a Bacardi Factory in humble New York, but it was shut down during the depression era time of the 1920s. Puerto Rico was found to be a great spot in the Caribbean and production was moved over here in the 20th century. It continues to play an important role due its exposure to Caribbean weather and its location in general.
Bacardi was invented to bring first-class rum to Cuba at first but then the entire world. The founder Facundo Bacardi Masso was not thrilled by how cheaply rum was made in and before the 19th century. In 1830 he moved to Cuba with the goal to create world-class rum. After years of research and error/ trial he finally accomplished it and 150 years later it is among one of the most successful rums in the entire world. The company was founded in 1862 in Cuba – to give you an idea what 30 years can do.
The distillery in San Juan ages rum anywhere from one year to 20 years. You have to keep in mind that 8 years of aging in the Caribbean is equivalent to 20 years in Scotland as the weather matures it faster. Among the most popular types of Bacardi, you have the white, the gold and the reserva limitada (limited edition). Molasses are used when distilling and every warehouse is a mirrored image of what is being aged in the distillery. Among one of the more sought after jobs (at least in my opinion) is that of the Master of Rum – a job that entails quality control and analyzing the product. One of the best ways to tell whether or not the rum is good is by tasting it. It is also able to look at and smell the product in order to gain a full understanding of how far the rum is in the maturing process.
After the intro to distillery and these tidbits of history, we were finally led into the mixology room. Here, our three drinks of choice were:
– Bacardi Coke
The tour guide told us that nowadays 280.000 Bacardi Cokes are served per hour (!). You use the golden Bacardi for this drink, whereas the other two entailed making use of the white Bacardi. A Daiquiri is originally not frozen and it was interesting to mix along when creating this one and the Mojito. You even get a fancy certificate of completion after the mixology class, which makes things official!
Afterwards, we were able to see the gift shop, where you can buy a lot of original things, especially if you’re into bartending or just enjoying a great bottle of rum. I then drank my fourth drink of the day at the bar outside and slowly made my way back to Old San Juan.
How to get here:
From Old San Juan, take the ferry for $1 roundtrip to the island of Catano, where the factory lies. Once you get off the ferry, there will be taxi vans available for everyone, and you will pay $3 to get to the factory. I was in a bus with 12 other people and that seems to be totally normal.
Normal entry is $12. Certain tours, such as the rum tasting and mixology class, are an additional $23, so a total of $35 dollars. I did get a welcome drink and was able to mix 4 more drinks on my own so it ended up not being as expensive as it sounds (less than $10 a drink plus the 1 hour long tour and mixology class).