The language of rum

23 July, 2020

Distillers of agricole rhum in Martinique, meanwhile, have benefited from the protection of an AOC since the mid-90s. French drinks group La Martiniquaise-Bardinet owns four Martinique agricole brands, with additional production sites on Reunion and Guadeloupe. Martinique-made Saint James is the group’s bestselling rhum.

According to head of global corporate communication William PloquinMaurell, Martinique’s AOC for agricole rhum “represents an even more particular segment in an already very precise segment”, and is recognised globally. He believes this strict regulatory environment gives consumers confidence that they are purchasing a unique and high-quality product. “We can really say that our rhum respects the traditional and ancestral processes of Martinique because we control each stage of the process,” he says.


For TWE’s Davies, more global regulation is needed to allow the broad spectrum of rum to reach the same level of respect and recognition as whisky. “I think at the moment, the way the rum industry stands, being incredibly fragmented with very few laws in place, they will never achieve what whisky has achieved, because whisky is so much more regulated. That’s where the rum industry needs to wake up and smell the coffee.”

Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell explains that rum was the world’s most revered spirit back in the 18th century, but since it is mainly produced in developing nations, it has not benefited from the political and economic powers thrust behind spirits such as scotch whisky. He also notes that while there are a number of official regional classifications for rum, these are often not given the global recognition they need.

“There are a lot of rums out there that have rules and regulations where they are made. It’s where they are sold into, that’s where the problem is; it’s the interpretation or the enforcement of those rules,” he says. Burrell adds that the US is a prime example of a market that does not adequately recognise regional rum classifications. To help combat this, he says, brands need to work together to promote their own regions, and the nuances within them. “It’s up to the brands to, together, elevate their own region, their own status, their own style of rum, and then promote that equally.”

For Peter Holland, the key to rum’s future success lies in the open distinction flavoured, heavily sweetened rum and “authentic” rum. As such, he would like to see the creation of a “universal way of indicating that sugar has been added” to rum. “We really can get back to the levels of recognition we had centuries ago if we stick to our guns,” says Holland. “[If we] make sure the sugared, flavoured stuff is classified as such, and allow the real, authentic rum to stand separate, then yes, absolutely, rum will regain the widespread recognition it deserves.”

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