He killed some of Coke’s most beloved brands. And he’d do it all over again

The owner of Bacardi, and a ‘lionfish in the bucket’ on the wane, once again wants to push Tiger liquor in the UK

He killed some of Coke’s most beloved brands. And he’d do it all over again

He killed some of Coke’s most beloved brands. And he’d do it all over again

It’s Friday, but if you work in the drinks industry you probably know that it’s also widely assumed to be the end of the week.

So it was with great interest that I read about the latest move in the rum wars.

What is Bacardi’s version of Tiger?

Yes, the rum made famous by the horse racing enthusiast and new owner of the troubled Cayman Islands economy, Trafigura, has pledged to support the revival of the racist-sounding name.

With no particular reference to its Rasta owner, the Dartiguan rum maker has said it is considering a name change.

But, Bacardi says, the rum’s history and marketing are tied to a secret history of slavery. And as humans – including the founder of the rum – treated it as “full of misery”, it has always carried a troubling connection to its awful past.

So, is Bacardi supportive of racism? Or is it racist? If it means anything at all, it means: maybe. “To let history be history will be racist,” said Professor Paul Lopez-Calabria, chairman of the comparative and systematic world literature department at Northwestern University in Illinois. “It’s fine to mention him and by and large take as much of his ideas and beliefs as you want,” added another expert. “But that doesn’t mean it’s something we should support. History can have holes in it.”

That the virtues of the secret past are beyond dispute. Yet, a direct refusal to embrace them (e.g. when drinking local Bacardi in Jamaica and describing the rum as “tastes like pure silver” – by the inventor) makes them appear altogether less acceptable.

Perhaps not, but that someone who has a hand in the brands that Caesar really liked would make such a statement appears to misunderstand the political history of the Caribbean and the island Bacardi (the original Cayman Islands rum – and the one made today).

And, as it turns out, the rum-makers insist they are committed to repackaging the brand as a gentler, gentler rum.

What really matters, however, is the product itself. I know that is wishful thinking.

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