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First Cuban rum production joint venture in 20 years agreed

Cuban state-owned sugar producer Azcuba and Island Brands, a subsidiary of The Island Rum Company, have signed Cuba’s first fully integrated rum production joint venture in more than 20 years.

Tore Villard, co-founder of The Island Rum Company, and Fransisco Lleon, Azcuba Group

The joint venture, called Ron Vigia, was signed on 7 November. It is Azcuba’s first rum joint venture and Cuba’s first fully integrated rum production venture since Havana Club International was established in the 1990s.

Azcuba is Cuba’s main producer and supplier of sugar and alcohol. The joint venture will be split 50-50 and will be valid for 30 years.

Ron Vigia’s production will focus on the Ciego de Ávila province. The joint venture will own “very significant maturing stocks” of local rum, enabling The Island Rum Company to distribute its brands globally.

Enrique Arías, Ron Vigia president, said: “A small independent business with a passion for great rum, The Island Rum Company aims to make wonderful, crafted rums from the stocks it now part-owns available around the world.

“We look forward to investing in real assets in Cuba and expanding our long-term relationship with Azcuba’s experienced team.”

The Island Rum Company will distribute Ron Vigia’s spirits portfolio, which will include: Black Tears by Vigia, the “first” dry spiced spirit made with Cuban rum, which is already available in 20 markets; La Progressiva 13 by Vigia, a dry spiced sipping rum that launched in October; and La Progressiva 500 by Vigia, a limited edition expression created to celebrate Havana’s 500th anniversary this month (November).

Adéle Robberstad, Island Rum Company CEO, said: “The joint venture gives us an opportunity to move forward and share our passion for Cuba in every way – from new spirits to environmental initiatives. Watch this space.”

The European subsidiary of Diageo created a joint venture with the state-run Cuban distiller that produces Pernod Ricard’s Havana Club brand for the international distribution of Santiago de Cuba rum. The Spirits Business recently analysed what this could mean for competitor Pernod Ricard and the rest of the rum category.

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