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Although “Bacardi is such a huge and powerful company,” says Thomas Pirko, a liquor consultant at New York�based Bevmark LLC, “you pose a threat by having a very special moniker.” He explains that the rum market in the mid-1990s was in the doldrums, outshined by vodka and tequila. Rum was a middling spirit to be thrown into a blender with cheap daiquiri mix; not, like a single malt scotch, to be savored by the discretionary-income class. But a Cuban rum, says Pirko, could fill a profitable upscale niche. And, he adds, “even though Puerto Rico [which Bacardi has on its label] might be nice, Cuba is a lot more romantic. . . . Cuba is hot.” It conjures Ernest Hemingway sipping on “mojitos” and Havana’s fabled history cultivated in movies like The Godfather as the original Las Vegas. Bacardi apparently agreed: In 1994 it applied at the trademark office for six trademarks that included the name “Havana” all of which were rejected because Bacardi can’t make rum in Cuba.

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