OUR STORY

Our story begins in 1862, when a 15-year old boy arrives in Cardenas Cuba from Spain by ship with ambition in his heart, ready to work.

1879 – la vizcaya

Upon arrival from Spain, José Arechabala founds Arechabala Industries as a small distillery and sugar refinery called “La Vizcaya”. Over the next 80 years, it becomes the port town’s largest employer. In addition to producing rum and sugar, it goes on to produce molasses, candy, barrels and liqueurs. Most notably, the Arechabala family pioneers the creation of sustainable fuel for Cuba, which will help satisfy almost half of the island’s needs during WWII. During this time, they also partner with Charms to help the American company continue to make candy, including some of the world’s first lollipops.

The Original Distillery, Cardenas, Cuba, сirca the late 1930s

1934 – INTRODUCING THE REAL HAVANA CLUB RUM

On the heels of Prohibition’s repeal, The Real Havana Club launches with its sights set on the States. As one of the world’s first premium rums – and the first to be double aged – it is among the most respected and requested spirits by locals and American tourists during Cuba’s Golden Age.

1950s – CUBA’S STAR RISES AND A REVOLUTION BREWS

While socialites and tourists enjoy Havana, a rebel group led by Fidel Castro gathers strength in the Sierra Maestra. At the same time, Ramón Arechabala sets his eyes on Amparo Alvaré on the shores of Varadero, Cuba. They fall in love and a union as sweet as rum is made.

Ramón and Amparo Arechabala

As Cuba’s star continues to rise, the revolution bubbles under the surface

1959 – THE YEAR EVERYTHING CHANGES

Ramon and Amparo are set to be wed, but as their lives together begin, life as they know it in Cuba ends. On January 1st, Cuban President Fulencio Batista flees to the Dominican Republic. After conquering town after town across the island, Fidel Castro parades through Havana as the new, undisputed “Comandante” of the armed forces. He begins the political, economic and social transformation of the island, which includes the nationalization of American and Cuban businesses.

Meanwhile in Cardenas, Calixto Lopez, the town messenger boy, seizes Arechabala Industries and Havana Club for the Revolution. He points a machine gun at Ramón and exclaims, “I am Pepe!” – referring to Ramón’s uncle, the then-president of José Arechabala S.A.

1960 – HAVANA CLUB, THE IMPOSTER

The communist government in Cuba continues to produce its own version of Havana Club rum through a proprietary agency called Cubaexport. They steal the name, wipe any mention of the Arechabala family from the brand’s history, and replace the family crest on the bottle with a weathervane.

1963 – FORCED FROM HOME

Against Amparo’s wishes, Ramón remains in Cuba to oversee his distillery. One day he is jailed and given three choices: join the revolution, remain in prison, or leave Cuba altogether.

RAMÓN IS FORCED TO FLEE WITH AMPARO AND HIS SON, LEAVING EVERYTHING HIS FAMILY HAD BUILT BEHIND.

They eventually settle in Miami, where for the rest of his life, Ramón will take on jobs as a mechanic or auto salesman to support Amparo and their two children, never letting go of his dream to relaunch Havana Club Rum.

1973 – A LEGAL OBSTACLE

The Arechabala’s United States trademark for Havana Club lapses in 1973 while the family lawyer, Javier Arechabala, is imprisoned in Cuba. Ramón pursues several opportunities to relaunch the Havana Club brand while in exile, including a trip to Nassau to solicit help from Bacardi. Although he’s initially unsuccessful, Ramon continues to persevere.

1991 – THE PERNOD-CUBA VENTURE

In 1991, the Soviet Union, Cuba’s key economic partner, collapses, leaving the island country in economic shambles. In dire need of financial support, government officials and Cubaexport form a 50/50 venture with Pernod Ricard, one of the largest liquor companies in the world, to form Havana Club International.

Upon hearing this, Ramón writes a letter to Patrick Ricard to let him know his family’s story and their claim to the Havana Club trademark. Ricard sends a lawyer to the Arechabala family in Spain to try and buy the worldwide rights to the Havana Club mark, but the offer is so low, the family turns it down.

1993-1994 – SUPPORT FROM BACARDI

After several meetings and numerous conversations, Ramón and Bacardi make a handshake deal that will ultimately lead to Bacardi producing the original Havana Club recipe, with the transfer of ownership and trademark rights to Bacardi.

1997 – A GLIMMER OF HOPE

By now, Ramón has spent two decades trying to revive his brand and seek justice for his family, despite the numerous obstacles in his way. Then in 1997, things begin to change and justice is in sight.

AFTER YEARS OF FIGHTING TO TELL HIS FAMILY’S STORY, RAMÓN SELLS THE TRADEMARK OF THE ORIGINAL HAVANA CLUB TO BACARDI TO ENSURE HIS LEGACY LIVES ON.

He also sells them the official recipe which had been committed to memory by the family and was the only company remnant they could smuggle out. That same year, the Pernod-Cuban venture sues Bacardi in a New York federal court for trademark infringement of the bottle, the liquid and the Havana Club name – one that was never theirs to take. We win the case but it is only the beginning of a legal battle that continues to this day.

THE TRUE CUBAN SPIRIT, NOW MADE IN EXILE

Today there is one genuine Havana Club Rum rooted in honor, and another rooted in deceit. Though no longer made in Cuba, we still retain our tenacious Cuban spirit; our bottle will always display the crest of the Arechabala family, the true founders of Havana Club, and our liquid is based on the original rum recipe. Any other liquid claiming our name and recipe is an imposter. If there is no tree, then there are no roots. You can take a pen to history and cross things out, but the truth will always float to the surface.

Forced from home. Aged in exile. Forever Cuban.