The Founder of the World's Favorite Vacation Spirit Gives Back

May 9, 2019

The man at the helm of the world’s largest privately-owned spirits company, Facundo L. Bacardi balances his professional life with his charitable foundation, as well as personal downtime. Growing up, Facundo L. Bacardi learned the importance of giving to his community. After all, his family—whose name is synonymous with rum— has been recognized for generations for its altruism and compassion.

“Long before philanthropy was fashionable, the Bacardi family would offer support in Santiago and Havana, Cuba, that eased the everyday burdens Cubans faced,” says Bacardi, chairman of the board of Bacardi Limited, the world’s largest privately held spirits company, still family-owned. “Those values have been handed down from generation to generation.”

In addition to his duties as chairman, Facundo L. Bacardi serves as executive director of the Facundo and Amalia Bacardi Foundation, named for the company’s founder, Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, and his wife. “The foundation is an extension of the family’s core belief of providing for the general well-being of citizens in our communities,” Bacardi says. “It was my great-great grandparents who initiated the development of the philanthropic values we still hold true today.”

Don Facundo distributed food after a devastating earthquake in Cuba in 1852, and he was quick to loan money to his friends to help pay for reconstruction. Bacardi family members in a number of countries have established foundations that reflect their forbearers’ values. The Facundo and Amalia Bacardi Foundation focuses on bettering the lives of less fortunate residents of Florida through assistance in food and housing, education, medical research and health, environment and historical preservation. “Witnessing the deep impact one can make in the lives of others,” Bacardi says, “makes everything else pale in comparison.”

The roots of the family’s philanthropic culture go back to Santiago de Cuba, where Don Facundo, the son of a Catalonian bricklayer, immigrated in 1830. He became a wine merchant and purchased a small distillery with bats in the rafters. Pioneering an innovative rum-making process, he opened the Bacardi company in 1862. Nearly a century later, after surviving war, earthquakes, epidemic diseases and Prohibition in the United States, Bacardi lost all its Cuban assets to Cuban revolutionary government forces.

Subsequently, the company established its headquarters in Hamilton, Bermuda. Today, Bacardi has 27 manufacturing facilities worldwide, and its portfolio boasts some of the most ubiquitous and iconic brands behind the bar, including Bacardi rum, Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s Blended Scotch whisky, Martini vermouth and sparkling wines and Bombay Sapphire gin. Bacardi says he takes a personal pride in the popularity of the drinks. “We continue to receive awards for the quality, taste and innovations,” he says, “by pursing the same philosophy as my ancestors’.”

Although Bermuda is the company’s adopted home, he says the Bacardi heritage and roots are proudly Cuban. The company’s offices in Hamilton are located in a building designed by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which was originally intended for Cuba but is now a landmark in Bermuda. 

Naturally, Bacardi and members of his family understand how a quality product can help create a memorable experience, whether it’s a celebration with friends or a vacation with loved ones. “Everyone wants to experience the best in life, and it is high-end brands—representing the very best in quality—which help achieve this by delivering the very best experience,” he says. He describes a luxury brand as one that can be trusted to consistently deliver top quality. “That can only be achieved through exceptional care, attention to detail and a drive to perfection,” he says.

“For us at Bacardi, it’s about the best ingredients, a process meticulously crafted 150 years ago and the complete experience of that perfect sip.” So what does the complete experience of a quality vacation entail for a man who knows quality when he sees it? “Consumer expectations have risen, leading to a greater demand for a heightened experience,” Bacardi says, noting that vacations are no longer simply two people relaxing in a one-bedroom unit. “The vacation experience is about spending time with family and friends. And in the world we live in today, security is an integral part of any vacation. The destinations that can capitalize on these components will be leaders of the industry.”

Bacardi’s most memorable vacations are often at beaches, with ocean-side accommodations and a stand-up paddleboard ready to hit the water. He’s a big fan of Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Australian beaches, St. Barts, the Dominican Republic and Hawaii’s Big Island. With a hectic schedule at home, he savors every moment of a low-key, relaxing getaway. “My typical schedule is too activity-filled,” he says. “I need some downtime.”

And of course, what’s a vacation without his favorite cocktails? “Without a doubt my favorite beach cocktail is the Original Bacardi Cuba Libre—Bacardi rum, cola and freshly squeezed lime over ice.” And as an aperitif? Grey Goose vodka dry martini, he says. With two olives.