Bacardi Re-Releasing Havana Club in US

FILED APRIL 14, 2016

In the midst of its heated battle over the Havana Club rum trademark, Bacardi is preparing to roll out a new iteration of the rum brand from Puerto Rico in the US.

Bacardi declined to comment for the story, but a quick TTB COLA search revealed the range will include an Anejo Blanco and Anejo Clasico. HC Blanco is aged for one year while Clasico is aged for one to three years. WSD has learned it is scheduled to launch regionally in June, followed by a wider rollout later in the year.

WHY IT MATTERS. You'll recall, this is not the first time Bacardi has launched a Havana Club rum in the US. Bacardi first began selling Havana Club in the mid-'90s after purchasing the trademark from Cuba's Arechabala family--though Cuban government entity Cubaexport had already secured the US trademark registration in 1976. This triggered trademark litigation with Cubaexport and its partner Pernod Ricard in 1997. Bacardi won that fight by lobbying for a law called Section 211, which effectively nullified Cubaexport/Pernod's claim on the mark.

By 2006, Bacardi was selling a limited amount of Havana Club in the US and PR USA again took Bacardi to court. This time for false advertising, because Havana Club was made in Puerto Rico. The courts ruled in favor of Bacardi, but the Obama Administration's move to normalize relations with Cuba in 2014 turned the tables. In late 2015, Pernod/Cubaexport renewed its claim on the Havana Club trademark, which is now good through 2026.

Shortly thereafter, Bacardi went on the offensive, and filed a new complaint with the US District Court of DC, claiming the Cuban government illegally seized the trademark and that Bacardi has more right to the mark since they've been selling the product on and off in the US since the '90s [see WSD 03-15-2016]. Obviously the rollout to additional states would help that argument.

We reached out to Pernod Ricard for comment, but they also declined.

To read a complete history of the Havana Club fight, see WSD 02-26-2016, and, of course, keep reading your WSD every day for further developments in the case.

A CLOSER LOOK AT B-F'S NEW BOURBON

Earlier this week we reported Brown-Forman is launching Coopers' Craft, its first new bourbon brand in 20 years. The new brand emphasizes that B-F is the only major spirits company to own its own new-make cooperage, and coincides with the 70th anniversary of its opening. Your editors got Heather Howell, B-F director of innovation, on the horn to discuss more details on the product and how they are positioning it.

You'll recall, Coopers' Craft is a Kentucky straight bourbon bottled at 82 proof. It is technically a non-age statement bourbon, but Heather tells WSD the liquid inside is aged between four to six years in white oak barrels and then put through a "beech and birch charcoal filter finishing process" prior to bottling.

Billed as both "smooth" and "flavorful," and priced at $29 a 750 ml, Coopers' Craft will target whiskey newcomers as well as millennials, says Heather. "When you make your own barrels, and control the entire agricultural supply chain from beginning to end, that's definitely a story worth sharing. I think that millennial mindset is really going to wrap their arms around something like this."

When asked if B-F thinks the bourbon will also tap into the "craft" trend, Heather says, "I think all of our brands for the most part have a craft and authentic story….There's nothing made up here, so we are the epitome of craft."

Coopers' Craft is the "first in the series," says Heather. It is being released on a regional basis and to grow awareness, B-F will take a "grassroots" approach to marketing by leveraging digital assets and its accolades to build a following.

JOE WAGNER ENTERS SPARKLING WINE CATEGORY

Joe Wagner's Copper Cane Wine & Provisions is introducing its first sparkling wine called Steorra. Steorra is made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from the Russian River Valley and stored in French oak barrels.

You'll recall, Joe created Meiomi, one of the hottest wine brands in recent years and then sold it to Constellation Brands last year for $315 million. "I've wanted to create a sparkling wine for a long time, and I think the casual elegance of Steorra is the perfect addition to our portfolio," he says.

Beginning this May, it will be available by-the-glass only at select restaurants in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida, DC, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana.

Steorra joins the portfolio alongside, Carne Humana Red and White Wines from Napa Valley; Beran California, Napa, and Sonoma Zinfandels; and Elouan Pinot Noir and Rose from Oregon.

TN FINALIZES WINE IN GROCERY PROCESS

You may recall, when Tennessee passed its wine-in-grocery bill in 2014, lawmakers ran into a few logistical roadblocks. As written, the bill stated stores could attain licenses and begin to stock shelves July 1, but that process often takes a few months. Realistically, consumers wouldn't be able to purchase alcohol in grocery until September.

On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Haslam rectified the issue by signing a bill (HB 2586) to allow grocery and convenience stores to start the process to obtain permits to sell wine immediately. In Knoxville, more than 50 compliance certificates have been issued so far, with Kroger receiving nine, Wal-mart receiving four, 10 for Food City and 22 Pilot gas stations, reports a local publication.

You may recall, HB 2586 was met with contention due to a provision tucked into the bill that limits the number of liquor store licenses to two per business, essentially keeping out large chains like Total Wine & More [see WSD 03-07-2016].

WSD BRIEFS:

PISCO PORTON LAUNCHES PISCO PORTON ACHOLADO. Pisco Porton Acholado joins the portfolio alongside the flagship Pisco Porton Mosto Verde and La Caravedo. The latest addition is a blend of quebranta, italia and torontel grapes. Pisco Porton Acholado is now available in select US markets at a suggested retail price of $35 a 750 ml.

BOTRAN RUM INKS DISTRIBUTION DEAL WITH SHAW-ROSS INTERNATIONAL, effective April 1, 2016. Shaw-Ross is now responsible for all sales activities for Botran Rum in the US and will focus on the three primary labels, Botran Solera, Botran Reserva and Botran Reserva Blanca, per a release. "We feel that Shaw-Ross has the potential to help our brand reach more premium rum drinkers in the US," says president of parent company Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala Jaime Botran.

Until tomorrow,
Emily

"The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know." -- Barbara Kingsolver

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