Rum: Join the Dark Side

17 August, 2015

The dark rum category is benefiting from some tender loving care. Dominic Roskrow looks at how it’s targeting whisky and brandy as a premium spirit


TEN YEARS AGO BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKY WAS STILL BEING DESCRIBED AS AN OLD MAN'S DRINK and it was viewed with a mix of suspicion and contempt by the glitterati. Now it’s so fashionable that even David Beckham is associating himself with it.

Ten years ago cognac was going downhill faster than Chris Froome in the Pyrenees. Now it’s down with the kids in the hood, Lord of the Bling and a rapper’s delight, know wha’ I’m saying?

And 10 years ago the only rum deal to be done was for light or white rums. Now, big bold dark rums are back in vogue.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but a decade after Macallan was introducing its light coloured Fine Oak range of single malt whiskies and telling everyone that that’s what consumers wanted, it’s all change. We’re not quite back in black, but nevertheless darkness isn’t just on the edge of town any more, it’s now in every city centre high street too.

And of all spirits categories, the most surprising renaissance is that of dark rums. Rum is in a unique position in that, while other spirits are overwhelmingly dark, light or white, rum can be all three. 

Throw in category distractions such as spiced rums and you’re looking at one very versatile spirit drink. Trouble is though, you can’t please all the people all the time and if one category is catching the public imagination more than another, inevitably there will be a straggler.

Heritage and history

For a long time dark rum was it. Where in most cases heritage and history count for a great deal, for a long time back the heavy imagery associated with dark rum was a millstone round its neck. 

The old British naval associations looked at best quaint and outdated, and at worst hinted at something just a little bit unpleasant, with the faint whiff of grog, sweat and brutality. 

While trendy partygoers turned to white rums, lighter rums and spiced rums, dark rum just seemed to sit there, festering, and metaphorically dreaming of better days when there would always be an England.

Something, though, has changed, as Matthieu Delassus of West Indian rum distributor Spiridom explains.

“Our view is that the general outlook for rum has never been so good,” he says. “In each of our markets, lights are turning to green, with a surging interest from professionals and individuals, and more especially for premium and super-premium aged rums. 

“Evidence is easy to find for this developing trend simply with the multiplication of rum festivals all over the world. We have recently participated in rum festivals in London, Milan, Madrid, Paris, Copenhagen, Lucerne, Hong Kong, as well as several major cities in the United States such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and one upcoming in San Francisco.” 

Delassus continues: “In each of these places, people gather in rum societies to share their knowledge of and passion for their favourite brands, just as whisky fans do.

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