Imbibe Ice Awards 2008 - Rum


The last 12 months have been a busy time for rum in the UK, with a host of new arrivals and innovations, particularly at the golden and dark end of the spectrum.

When it comes to tapping into the luxury sector, however, rum has faced some problems, not least with regard to its fun-loving, easy-going image, which for many consumers is at odds with a luxury price tag. A confusing system of age-statements has also been a hurdle for brands trying to communicate their more premium expressions to consumers.

However the quality of the liquid remains high, as the Imbibe Club Elite line-up of 11 golden and dark rums (all priced over RRP £30) proved. Complex and refined, rums such as the overall winner Havana Club Gran Reserva could easily have given some top whiskies and brandies a run for their money.

Likewise, some of the impressive, decanter-style packaging on offer pointed to a category that is keen to be taken seriously in the after-dinner sipping market. This was something that pleased the panel, many of whom felt that the rum category was in danger of depending too heavily on a few key cocktails for success in the UK market.

But the younger 20- and 30-something consumers should not be forgotten, argued one judge, who felt that this group were the ones most likely to experiment with luxury brands. With this in mind, the more contemporary, white spirit-style of packaging shown by the likes of Elements 8 could also help take rum to a new audience in 2008.

The Judges

Richard Wynne – general manager, Loungelover,Rikki Brodrick – general manager, Trailer Happiness, Ben Reed – director, IP Bartenders, Charles Vexenat – bartender, Lonsdale, Richard Woods – manager, Floridita

ICE winner

Havana Club gran Reserva

A blend of selected aged rums from the Havana Club distillery in Cuba. This rich, fruity rum had the judges waxing lyrical – a rounded, subtle milk chocolate nose was followed by a complex palate full of morello cherries, almonds, star anise spice, liquorice and a pleasingly structured, dry finish. The packaging, while not marked quite as highly, still achieved a lot of points for character and heritage – big pluses for a super-premium rum.

Pernod Ricard, 020 8538 4484

ICE runners-up

2ND Appleton 21 year old

A rum that performed well on taste, with aromas of crystalised fruit, well-balanced coffee and dark chocolate flavours and a dry finish. The tactile bottle design in the old style was also judged to have strong appeal for more traditional rum fans.

J Wray & Nephew, 020 7378 8858

3RD Pusser’s 15 year old

This popular rum from the British Virgin Islands was distinguished by some seductively musky woodsmoke aromas, followed by a dry, nutty palate full of spice, leather and a touch of marzipan. A complex rum for grown-ups.

Cellar Trends, 01283 217703

4TH Santa Teresa 1796

A very moreish rum with creamy chocolate aromas and a palate full of spiced, dried fruit, apricots, pears and lively orange zest. The elegant packaging, which gave nods to other dark spirits including cognac, also just missed out on the top five.

Coe Vintners, 020 8551 4966

5TH Elements 8 Gold

The clean, modern look of this bottle was praised for pioneering a new image for super-premium rum, and being strong on luxury cues. Meanwhile the liquid also scored highly for a smooth, delicate palate with elements of brown sugar, peppercorns and aniseed.

Elements Eight Rum Company, 01753 518156

Best by taste

1 Havana Club Gran Reserva
2 Pusser’s 15 Year Old
3= Appleton 21 Year Old
3= Santa Teresa 1796
5 Elements 8 Gold

Best by design

1 El Dorado
2 Elements 8 Gold
3 Appleton 21 Year Old
4= Angostura 1824
4= Flor de Caña 18 Year Old Centenario Gold

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine - January / February 2008

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