Rum has rightfully earned its reputation as the party animal of the spirits world. It’s the drink that likes to mix; the ingredient that puts the punch into the punchbowl; the glass of sunshine that evokes the warmth and personality of the countries in which it is produced.
But, as the category has matured over the years, so rum has developed a more serious side and, while it still loves nothing more than to socialise with mixers at parties, it has started to find its loner side – that aspect of its being which is more introspective and thoughtful.
This is the rum that has dared to captivate a whole new audience with its claims to connoisseurship, and there’s no doubt that it is enticing ‘serious’ spirits drinkers who are more often associated with whiskies and Cognacs.
There’s plenty of evidence to support its audacity, with IWSR data showing dark rum’s compound annual growth rate to September 2011 (the latest available figures) up 6.2%, ahead of total rum’s 4.8%.
In terms of countries, the IWSR data shows India leading the global volume consumption figures with 45 million of the global total 96 million 9-litre cases, up 21%, followed by the Philippines (15 million cases), US (5 million) and Spain (4 million).
If more proof were needed of rum’s surging popularity, look no further than Drinks International’s Millionaires’ Club 2013, which shows most million-case brands in growth – some double-digit – while league table leader Bacardi is fighting off aggressive 5% growth from nearest rival Tanduay, which is just 200,000 cases short of toppling the giant.
But that could soon change. As Drinks International went to press news was emerging online of four new rums from Bacardi, although the company said it had no comment to make at this time.
It seems no geographic region remains untouched by rum’s allure even Antarctica, from which self-styled global rum ambassador Ian Burrell has just returned from introducing Pusser’s to the penguins.
He is excited by the turn aged rums are taking as production techniques improve and producers look to cask management and ageing to draw in more discerning consumers. “The target audience is becoming more discerning and calling for rum brands by name. Brands are creating great awareness within the category and we are seeing growth in the premium sector with more sipping rums being called for.
“There’s also a rise in rum-focused bars. When I started out you were lucky to see four rums on the back bar, now there might be 20.
“Dark and golden rums are definitely going down the same route as whisky and cognac. Cognac is for sipping after dinner, warmed by a hand around the glass. There are rums that are being promoted and pushed and sipped straight in this way. Or rum served with just a couple of ice cubes.