Rum drinkers show experimental side

Long drinks, such as Bacardi and Coke, remain hugely popular, but consumers are embracing a broader range of serves, according to spirits firms.
Long drinks, such as Bacardi and Coke, remain hugely popular, but consumers are embracing a broader range of serves, according to spirits firms.

Scots consumers show thirst for new styles and serves, as Dave Hunter reports

BARTENDERS’ long-standing affection for rum seems to be rubbing off on consumers.
Spirits producers and distributors say rum drinkers are becoming more experimental when it comes to different styles and ways of drinking the spirit, with interest in simple serves and sipping rums neat said to be growing.
“Rum is changing and the way it is being consumed is more sophisticated than ever before,” said Roy Summers, head of category management at First Drinks, which distributes Mount Gay, OVD, Sailor Jerry and Wood’s Old Navy Rum.
“Scottish drinkers no longer automatically order a rum and Coke, rather a rum and ginger, or rum and apple as a simple serve.
“They are open to trying new variants and mixes and are interested in the premium choices made available to them.”
John Bradbury, sales director at Whyte & Mackay, the UK distributor of Cockspur Spiced, said that while the spirit remains popular in cocktails, consumers are now showing an interest in specific types of rum.
“Rum remains ever popular on the cocktail list but now you can start to see a connoisseurship developing with rum – perhaps due to the number of brands now available – where consumers will ask for a specific rum by name and either drink it neat or with a mixer,” he said.
Drinks companies are looking to exploit this open-minded approach to the category by promoting a wide range of signature serves.
Marblehead, for example, is promoting a ‘Monsters Ink’ serve for Kraken spiced rum, which combines Kraken with energy drink Monster.
“I would say that rum and Coke is still the most popular serve, but some outlets are experimenting with different styles of ginger beer, and of course the Mojito is still as popular as ever,” said Scott McKenzie, who heads up brand development at Marblehead.
From cocktails to long drinks or served neat, there are a range of ways for consumers to drink rum. And it is precisely this variety that is credited with helping the category hold its ground against other spirits, according to Love Drinks communications manager Emily Williamson.
“Obviously gin is the new darling, but rum is still perceived in a really good light, being both fun and delicious,” said Williamson.
“There are also more options – you don’t really get sipping gins.”
Williamson said staff training is crucial if operators are to maximise sales of rum in their outlet.
“Just one keen member of staff with the right tools can bring in extra customers,” she added. “Also, smart point of sale, not just towels or napkins, but eye catching serves will increase customer interest.”
Putting together a strong range of rum products is, of course, key to making the most of the spirit.
According to Bacardi, the majority of bars will organise their rum selection by style (white, gold, dark or navy style and spiced) or country of origin. A spokeswoman for the brand said while type is the most straightforward way to organise the category on the gantry, organising the range by country showcases the diversity of styles and countries of origin available.
“Generally, if you start with a well-chosen selection it will allow you to expand, change or reduce the list dependant on demand,” she added.
Operators should also consider the flavour profile of each rum they introduce, said David Miles of Maxxium UK, distributor of Brugal.
“How suited is it to mixing? How suitable is the price to be a mixing rum or a back bar sipping rum?” said Miles. “From a bartender perspective, it’s not just about a bottle that looks good, but whether it is easy to handle and does it stand out without being too awkward or bulky.”
It is also increasingly important for outlets to offer a selection of premium rums, said Summers at First Drinks.
“Drinkers are now more sophisticated and educated about the range of taste profiles available and bars must meet the demand for variety.
“It is important that bartenders are able to offer premium alternatives when serving customers. They should be knowledgeable about the rums available and be confident to encourage consumers to trade up to a premium grade.”