CBS hones in on Havana Club dispute

3rd January, 2017 by Tom Bruce-Gardyne

The rumbling trademark feud over the rights to Havana Club rum in the US hit prime time TV last weekend when CBS News’s 60 Minutes programme flew to Cuba to investigate.

Havana-Club

CBS News’ 60 Minutes programme delved into the Pernod Ricard/Bacardi trademark dispute this weekend

Who makes the real Havana Club? asked the American TV channel CBS in The Rum War as part of its influential 60 Minutes news show on New Year’s Day.

Reporter Sharyn Alfonsi travelled to Cuba to tell the 15 million-strong audience the story of the long-running trade mark dispute between Pernod Ricard and Bacardi, who both make a version of ‘Havana Club’. She called it a war “as bitter as the Cold War ever was”

With US-Cuban relations thawing, the French giant and its joint-partner, state-owned Corporación Cuba Ron, are licking their lips at the prospect of access to the giant US market if the 1962 trade embargo is finally lifted. Alfonsi interviewed Pernod’s Jérôme Cottin-Bizonne, CEO of Havana Club International, in one of the firm’s warehouses, and told viewers: “Consumers in the US drink 40% of the world’s rum which explains why they’re stacking barrels sky high in Cuba in preparation.”

Cottin-Bizonne was adamant, saying: “We know that one day we will be able to sell our rum – the true Havana Club made in Cuba, and that US consumers will have the opportunity to enjoy it.” But Rick Wilson, Bacardi’s senior VP for external affairs, was having none of it. “The true Havana Club,” he told Alfonsi, “is made with the recipe of the founders of Havana Club that Bacardi is making and selling in the USA.” The founders were the Arechabala family who fled Cuba after the revolution in 1959 and sold the recipe to Bacardi in the 1990s for a reported US$1.25 million. At some point Bacardi began distilling its Havana Club in Puerto Rico and last year launched a new variant and unveiled plans for a national roll-out in the US.

Because the family were never compensated by the Castro regime, Wilson claimed: “We’re making a moral and legal argument… It’s stolen property, that’s what it comes down to.” But for Pernod Ricard the essence of the brand is the island itself. “It’s very simple,” Cottin-Bizonne told Alfonsi, “to make a Cuban rum you have to make it in Cuba.” The French group only became involved in Havana Club in 1993, twenty years after the original US patent had lapsed.

With volumes up from 5 million bottles in year one to 50 million today, it’s no wonder that Pernod Ricard are so eager to take the US rum market by storm, or that Bacardi are so keen to stop them. The omens for an end to the trade embargo appeared good with diplomatic relations restored and an easing of travel restrictions under President Obama. But as Spirits Business reported in November, president-elect Trump is threatening to undo those moves. Watch this space.

Click here to view the episode in full.

One Response to “CBS hones in on Havana Club dispute”

  1. Kendra says:

    I would love a trip to Cuba and a good rum made local! Interesting story!

Leave a Reply

If that's interesting, how about these?

Bacardi to distribute Ron Santa Teresa rum

Venezuelan rum company Ron Santa Teresa has signed an exclusive international more...

Tales on Tour announces Edinburgh seminars

The organisers of Tales of the Cocktail have released a list of seminars ahead more...

Top 10 biggest spirits stories of 2016

The Spirits Business looks back at the biggest stories to rock the spirits more...

Experts predict top spirits trends in 2017

If you're curious about what the coming year has in store for the global more...

Midleton Distillery gets €10.5m expansion

Irish Distillers is embarking on a €10.5 million (US$11.2m) expansion of its more...

WSTA responds to May's 'hard Brexit' speech

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has reiterated its wish for more...

Cognac exports rebound to pre-crisis levels

Global Cognac exports reached their “highest level” in both volume and more...

Wemyss Malts appoints Asia sales manager

Independent spirits bottler Wemyss Malts has named Jason Pan as Asia Pacific more...

The week in pictures

This week Sipsmith crafted hot gin cocktails at London's Ham Yard hotel, a new more...

Entries open for Wenneker Swizzle Masters 2017

Entries are now open for the revamped 2017 Wenneker Swizzle Masters – in more...

Bacardi marks musical roots with Major Lazer

Bacardi has joined forces with music trio Major Lazer to launch 'The Sound of more...

Bacardi GTR brings rum focus to Malaga

Bacardi Global Travel Retail has teamed up with Dufry-owned World Duty Free to more...

Whisky 'key' to long life, says Britain’s oldest Olympian

Britain's oldest living Olympian, Bill Lucas, has said enjoying a dram of more...

Absolut unveils lime flavour after portfolio cull

Pernod Ricard has released a new lime variant for Absolut Vodka, after last more...

Castro and Patino launch drinks marketing firm

Spirits and bar industry experts Erick Castro and Chris Patino have joined more...

Latin America lifted by 'top-end cachaça renaissance'

With youth on its side and a surging middle class, the Latin America region has more...

London bar hosts first BlackTail residency

The Bloomsbury Club Bar in London is readying to host the "first ever" more...

Unconventional Scotch whiskies for Burns Night

With whisky lovers' favourite night of the year approaching, SB has gathered an more...

42Below recycles cocktail waste into soap

In an effort to curb waste, Bacardi-owned vodka 42Below has launched a free more...

Glenlivet gets 'Reserve and Collect' service in TR

Pernod Ricard Travel Retail EMEA has strengthened its e-commerce offering with more...