Gjelten has chosen an excellent angle into Cuban history. In this very engaging book, he has interwoven the stories of the Bacardi family and company with the history of Cuba, particularly the rise of Fidel Castro. Unlike other efforts at these kinds of non-fiction narratives, these two stories actually matter to each other. The Bacardi family was very involved in Cuban politics. They saw it as their social responsibility and when thngs with Castro did not turn out as expected, they saw it as political, patriotic, and – to the chagrin of those charged with attending to the bottom line – personal. And the Castro brothers & Che also became very interested in the production of rum (and everything else).

Cuba’s place in the world is changing these days. And to understand its present and future, one must understand the past. I’m sure there are other histories of Cuba. I’m not sure there are any that are more engaging.