Havana Club set to enter U.S. market the minute the embargo disappears

Cuba’s Havana Club rum is set to enter the U.S. market “even if it were to open tomorrow,” according to executives of the firm that exports 75 percent of its production.

“We’re well prepared. We’ve spent 16 years waiting for the opening of that market, which is the world’s biggest for rum,” master rum distiller Jose Navarro told a press conference in Havana, to which he presented the new image of the iconic firm’s rum that is aged for seven years.

Early this year, the mixed Cuban-French company that markets Havana Club worldwide – made up of France’s Pernod Ricard and Cuba Ron – won the legal battle it has fought for more than 20 years with Bacardi for brand rights in the United States.

Until that litigation was resolved, Bacardi sold the brand in the U.S., while Pernod Ricard has marketed it in the rest of the world since the mixed company was formed in 1993.

Havana Club International CEO Jerome Cottin-Bizonne said Monday that the company is preparing to open new markets, “including the U.S.,” which will only be accessible to a Cuban product once the embargo is lifted that the United States has imposed on the island for the last 50 years.

Though the two countries announced the beginning of a diplomatic thaw almost two years ago after five decades at daggers drawn, the embargo remains in place and its elimination is the chief demand of the Cuban government within the new relations.

Havana Club currently sells some 50 million bottles of rum annually in 125 markets, according to figures of local Cuban media.

One of the star products the company has ready for the United States has been aged for seven years and its presentation has been revamped, above all to “repair the injustice” committed against the image of “the biggest selling extra-aged rum in the world,” Cottin-Bizonne said.

The product, which sells 4 million bottles a year, has a redesigned bottle that keeps its traditional amber color and evokes an era when the Caribbean island’s first rums went on the market.

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