A way of life

19 September, 2014

Dark aged rums are seen as the serious members of the party spirit family. But they’re also the ones spearheading innovation. Christian Davis reports

Rum is more than just a drink – it’s a way of life,” says self-styled global rum ambassador Ian Burrell. Well, he would say that wouldn’t he?

Nevertheless you could argue that rum does represent a way of life, a culture that other spirits do not. That character or culture is probably best summed up as: ‘Caribbean’ – sun, beaches, palm trees and partying.

But for dark, aged rums you need to strike a more serious note if you are to be taken, well, seriously. 

Ian Williams, author of the book: Rum: A Social & Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776, says: “It is a wonderful and greatly under-appreciated drink. For the connoisseurs an aged rum can match and even surpass a single malt scotch or a fine cognac.”

Some would contest that point. However, carefully crafted, aged rums do deserve to be taken seriously in the same way other dark spirits are enjoyed and evaluated.

Euromonitor alcoholic drinks senior analyst Spiros Malandrakis, commenting on the rum market at the end of last year, said: “Dark was the colour of the segment that spearheaded innovation, fuelling premiumisation.”

With India’s shift away from lower-end dark rum, global volume growth figures – India accounting for 402 million of a total 1,474 million litres of rum sold globally in 2012 – looked a deceptively pessimistic picture. Malandrakis says rum’s western bastions turned out to be its main engine of growth.

Jeremy Cunnington, another Euromonitor senior alcoholic drinks analyst, tells Drinks International: “The global category is a mixture of products. Cheap, locally produced rums are dominant in volume terms, especially in dark rum, with India and the Philippines being the large volume producers with brands such as Tanduay and McDowell’s, but also a number of Latin American markets such as Venezuela. White rum in many senses is the Bacardi category as the brand accounts for a third of all global white rum volumes.”

Opportunities and challenges

As to the opportunities and challenges for the dark rum sector Cunnington says: “Challenge: developing the super-premium and premium categories in both dark and white rum categories, but primarily dark rum. 

“Aged products can certainly play a part and, as a head start, the age of a product in spirits has a premium connotation in the minds of consumers. 

“As can be seen with brands such as Kraken and Sailor Jerry, it doesn’t necessarily have to just be aged.

“Opportunity: spiced rum in many developed markets – it accounts for more than 50% of the US dark rum market.”

Botran managing director Frank Quiñones says: “The role of dark aged rums is highly relevant in a category that has been known for years as the low-price/quality party drink. Dark aged rums bring a message of sophistication, quality and versatility hard to find in other dark spirit categories and still remain young, hip and fun.”

Keywords: dark rum

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