The Wine and Spirit Trade Association predicted that 2017 would end with a whopping £1b in sales for the rum industry, echoing the rise of gin as the UK's go-to spirit in 2016. After hitting that impressive figure, and judging by the looks of cocktail menus and product launches, there’s no doubt the spirit is still on the rise in 2018.
Ian Burrell, global rum ambassador and founder of UK RumFest, sees this proliferation as an indication of rum's staying power.
‘Not only is the category driven by some amazing new brands being launched, there are also some amazing serves including tiki cocktails, highballs and punches that are bringing more people to enjoy rums for the first time,’ he remarks.
Indeed, an abundance of new rums are constantly hitting the on-trade, keeping the category’s momentum moving forward. But is the influx of new varieties a sign of the market’s forthcoming oversaturation, in the style of ‘peak gin’?
Burrell’s answer, in short, is no – with one caveat.
‘Premium rums won’t be saturated in the same way as gin has,’ he explains, ‘but I can see it happening with spiced rums. As more and more consumers drink sweet spiced rums or liquors with rum blended with them, new and old companies will look to venture into this lucrative market.’
Whether the market will max out its spiced rum capacity remains to be seen. In the meantime, brands are continuing to build the rum category with a variety of new releases this summer, ensuring there’s a rum for everyone who lines up at your bar.
Dictador 2 Masters Rum
It’s evident that rum is no longer simply the stalwart of a holiday Mojito. It’s being aged, infused, flavoured, treated to elegant steak dinners and pampered like the super-extra-mega premium spirit it is.
Case in point: a new line of rums from Colombian producer Dictador.
The 2 Masters collection sees Dictador partnering with the likes of Hardy Cognac, Glenfarclas Distillery, Champagne Leclerc Briant, Château d'Arche Sauternes, Vignobles Despagne and Laballe Armagnac. Each collaborator has finished a batch of Dictador’s aged rum (minimum 37 years) to create unique flavour profiles.
Labelle Armagnac took a 41yo Dictador rum from a 1976 single vintage cask that was finished in bourbon barrels for 36 months before spending a further four months in the Labelle cellar. The resulting liquid is being described as adopting the prune, walnut and orange aromas of armagnac, taking on notes of caramel, marzipan and maple.
‘We realised that no one ever created a project which married different continents, experiences, knowledge, and heritage,’ explains Marek Szoldrowski, VP of Dictador Global marketing and president of Dictador Europe.
The releases of these limited edition rums will be staggered throughout the year, with dates ranging from June to September 2018.
‘When the products are available in the European and USA markets we will start masterclasses with comparative tasting panels to make people aware of the taste and let them know everything about the partnership,’ reveals Szoldrowski.
Dictador 2 Masters Champagne Leclerc Briant, RRP £550/70cl; Labelle Armagnac, RRP £400/70cl; Vignobles Despagne, RRP £500/70cl; Château d’Arche Sauternes, RRP £650/70cl; Hardy Cognac, RRP £725/70cl; Glenfarclas Distillery, RRP £950/70cl; dictador.com
Even as more high-end expressions hit the scene, the more accessible side of rum is still growing. Enter JAH45, a new brand from Mangrove Global that claims roots in the Jamaican music scene.
JAH45 is launching with a line of five rums: Dark, Gold, Spiced and Silver at 40% abv, and White Overproof at 63% abv, all retailing around the £20 mark.
The brand is the latest from Carl Stephenson, CEO of the Hellshire Club and former J Wray & Nephew executive.
‘The UK rum market could benefit from more competition in the premium/entry rum segment, particularly in the Jamaica arena,’ Stephenson remarks.
‘Our range could add value to bars and clubs who are looking for more of an independent brand offering.’
Described as ‘authentically Jamaican,’ each bottle of JAH45 is a blend of three-year-old pot still and non-aged column still rums.
40% abv, Dark, £19.99/70cl; Gold, £19.99/70cl; Spiced, £21.99/70cl; Silver, £19.99/70cl; 63% abv, White Overproof, £26.99/70cl; masterofmalt.com
Dead Man’s Fingers Coffee Rum and Coconut Rum
In a maverick move, Dead Man’s Fingers is marrying the spiced and flavoured rum categories to produce two new variants – a Coffee Rum and a Coconut Rum.
According to Dead Man’s Fingers, the Caribbean-style rums are aimed at millennials, and their bold new bottle designs are meant to stand out behind the bar.
Dead Man’s Fingers was the brainchild of the team at The Rum & Crab Shack in St. Ives, Cornwall, but Halewood Wines & Spirits acquired the brand back in February. The addition augmented an already-heavy rum portfolio that contains labels like Rum Sixty Six and Liverpool Rum.
37.5% abv, Coffee Rum, RRP £22/70cl; Coconut Rum, RRP £22/70cl; thewhiskyexchange.com
Lyme Bay Winery has also followed the siren song of spice, rounding out this summer’s launches with its new Lugger Rum.
The release is a Caribbean rum aged in bourbon-charred oak barrels at the company’s Devon winery spiced with nutmeg, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla.
Liam Idzikowski, Lyme Bay’s head winemaker, suggests that Lugger Rum’s point of difference is a matter of taste. ‘Our aim was to produce a spiced rum that, unlike many commercial spiced rums, isn’t overpowered by vanilla, but instead displays a full profile of spices,’ he says.
‘It was also important to us to tone down the customary sweetness of spiced rum, increasing the product’s versatility as a high-quality spirit for mixers and cocktails.’
This emphasis on versatility seems to hint at the possibility of spice saturation that rum expert Ian Burrell raised earlier. Could a spiced rum with a wider range of uses have a longer life behind the bar and lend it the endurance of other rums? For now, rum – whether it's spiced, aged, flavoured or massaged lovingly with essential oils crafted from rare snake venom – is a trend that’s just getting started.
40% abv, RRP £38.50/70cl, lymebaywinery.co.uk
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