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Casa Bacardi Distillery Tour

October 17, 2019

  • Carretera 165 KM 6.2
  • Catano, PR 00949
  • (787) 788-8400
  • Website

If you’re going to be a tourist in San Juan, there are certain attractions you just have to hit.  Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal are two obvious ones.   The third can be seen from El Morro across Bajo Tablazo in nearby Catano.

Pretty much everyone knows the name Bacardi.  Heck, when J and I first started dating, her go-to drink was Bacardi and Diet Coke.  I’ve never been a huge rum fan but I do like factory tours so our last full day in San Juan, we grabbed an Uber and headed out to Casa Bacardi.

Desilleria Bacardi is just off of PR-165 in Catano, Puerto Rico.  It’s about a 20 minute drive from San Juan or you can take a ferry across the bay which drops you off about two miles away.  The main gate is guarded but tell them you’re there for the tour and they’ll let you back to a parking lot near the tour check-in.

The gathering area for the tours is all outdoors.  Being a Michigander, things like this are odd to me.  There’s always the question of, what do they do in the winter?  But the Caribbean doesn’t have winter so why would they plan for it.

We purchased tickets online for the 1:00 PM Rum Tasting Tour.  We got to the distillery at about 11:50.  I handed the woman my tickets for check-in and she asked if we’d rather do the noon.  I said yes because I wasn’t looking forward to sitting around for an hour but brunch went quicker than expected and we had nothing else to do.

We were given wristbands and one of those restaurant buzzers that would go off when our tour was ready.  Before we had a chance to sit down, the buzzer went off and we hopped on the trolley which took us to their main distillery building.

If you know much about distilling spirits, you know it’s not a really exciting process.  There’s a lot of large tanks and pipes transferring liquids.  The first place the tour takes you is to the fermentation tanks.  There’s a viewing area up a short flight of stairs where the tour guide explains to us what’s going on inside the massive room on tanks.

That’s really about the only room you see on the tour.  From there, we went to a balcony of the building  which has a birds eye view of the sprawling campus and Old San Juan off in the distance.  The tour guide pointed out some of the older buildings that were used as administrative offices and museums.

To the other direction and you see more of the massive storage tanks and the biodigestor that supplies a big portion of the campus’ electricity.  Our guide said after Hurricane Maria, the plant was back up and running after just five weeks despite this part of the Island not having power for several more months due to the on-site power generation.

So, that’s pretty much it for the tour.  There was a lot of history but not a lot to see.  It wasn’t the end of the day for us though.  I signed us up for the rum tasting tour.  I need to say our tour guide, who is in this picture, was really good.  The tour was mostly English speakers but there were a few Spanish speakers as well.  She flawlessly went back and forth between the two languages answering questions and making sure everyone got the same information.

The rum tasting tour featured six of Bacardi’s rums starting with the all too common Blanco and ending with a Special Reserve.  Each taste was maybe a little less than a shot.  Our guide talked about each rum, how it’s made, what makes them unique, and what flavors you should be able to pick out.  It took maybe a half hour to go through all of them.  Rum has never really been a favorite of mine but I have a little bit more of an appreciation for the flavor difference.  Just FYI, the Ocho Anos was my favorite of the six.

We were done with the guided part of the tour at that point and the guide dropped us off in the gift shop.  In addition to glassware and bottles of their rum, you can also bottle your own bottle of the Special Reserve.  I considered it just for the souvenir but it was pretty pricey so we passed and headed back to the Visitor’s Center.

Part of any tour is a cocktail before heading out.  We didn’t have time to do that before the tour began so we went back to the bar before calling our Uber to head back to San Juan.

The choices here are simple.  It’s essentially Barcadi with a mixer.  Nothing complicated.  I got a Cuba Libre…a rum and Coke with lime juice.  I’d actually never done it with the lime before and was super surprised at how much that lime adds to the drink.  It was really sippable.  J got a simple Mojito which wasn’t quite as good as the Coconut ones she had been drinking all week.

We took a seat and just chilled at the Visitor’s Center for a little while.  It was actually a nice day with just a slight breeze turning the nearby wind turbines that power that area of the plant.

My brother and his wife (then new fiance) did the Casa Barcadi tour several years ago when they visited her family that lived on the Island at that time.  He told me before we left we really should make an effort to visit it.  The history of Bacardi….which, by the way, is actually pronounced BA-car-DI (not buh-cardi), is fascinating and while you don’t see a lot of the process, the massiveness of the plant is pretty impressive…spring for the rum tasting tour though….it’s worth the extra money.



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