Rum is hitting the high notes

Innovation has driven a new wave of interest in the spirit

As consumers experiment with new flavours and products, rum is well placed to capitalise

CONNOISSEURS of the dark spirits world who have been eagerly awaiting a shift in attention towards rum could be in for a treat this year as a push in premiumisation and innovation from brands has led to a surge in consumer curiosity.

And as customers demonstrate more of an appetite to be educated by bartenders and experiment with complex flavours in the category, drinks firms told SLTN that catering to this interest and thinking outside the box is crucial for operators looking to tap into the ever-evolving rum sector.

“Research shows that after a decade-long ‘ginaissance’, discerning drinkers are now exploring the mysterious world of dark spirits and are looking to mixologists to help them experiment with more complex flavour profiles,” said Amy Burgess of Coca-Cola European Partners, whose Signature Mixers range is designed for dark spirits like rum.

“The UK dark spirits and liqueurs market was estimated at £6 billion in 2018 and a key factor behind this resurgence is the wide variety of rums now available on the market.

“While heritage remains an important aspect of the cocktail experience, consumers are developing an increasingly experienced, globalised palate, and are looking to mixologists for guidance on new ways to play with dark flavours.”

Not only are consumers keen to broaden their horizons when it comes to serves but they are also looking beyond the bottle to the origins and backstory of brands, according to Ellie Jones of Love Drinks, which distributes Goslings rum.

There are innumerable variants in flavour and character which makes rum such a versatile spirit.

“Whether it’s a new small craft distiller based out of their parents’ garden shed or a 200-year-old artisan producer with vast heritage, absolute authenticity and provenance is vital within the spirts market,” said Jones.

“UK consumers are definitely more experimental but they are also becoming more discerning so brands will need the full package to succeed in 2020. Yes, they want something visually stimulating and great tasting but we’re also seeing a real appetite for the background, people and story behind the drink – where it’s from, how it is made and what makes it special.”

And whilst the white and spiced varieties remain a popular choice among all ages it is younger generations that are driving interest in other categories, according to the experts.

Bacardi brand ambassador, Metinee Kongsrivilai, said: “Gen Y and Z consumers are travelling more, they are becoming more savvy with what they eat and drink (as the recent boom of cocktail culture has shown), they are experimenting with new flavours and developing a keen interest in the craft that goes into making quality spirits.”

European brand ambassador for Banks Rums, Alison Bartrop, echoed this message and said: “The increase in rum specialist bars such as Trailer Happiness, Laki Kane and Punch Rooms at The Edition Hotel has seen a surge in educated and discerning consumers who enjoy the sociable, convivial side of rum, while the ‘less but better’ attitude of millennials is seeing guests seek out high-end, experience-led occasions.”

As new dark spirit brands make their way into the Scottish market, operators should embrace the complexity of the spirit and take advantage of its many forms, said Kongsrivilai at Bacardi.

She said: “Rum is a truly versatile spirit. The complexities of its production are where it all starts, from the raw materials to the way it’s distilled and aged, this is what makes the category so interesting and diverse.

“It allows for a lot of creativity; white and light rums have a milder flavour and lighter body, so are great for simple serves and well known classics such as the Daiquiri or Mojito; slightly older rums get their amber hue from ageing for longer in barrels giving them a stronger flavour and a more complex profile, such as gold rums, which are perfect for serving on the rocks or even for desserts too; premium aged rums also attain their deeper tones and sophisticated profiles from longer ageing processes such as our Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez.

“The list of variants is extensive yet distinctive, which makes rum such an exciting category for bartenders to continually grow their creativity and experiment with new and delicious serves.”

And figures outlined by Bartrop at Banks Rum highlight the value in stocking such a wide rum range.

“We’ve seen promising signs for rum in the UK on-trade, with category sales up 4.5% in value with premium rums growing at an even more impressive 6.5% in value,” she said.

“There are innumerable variants in flavour and character within categories, which is part of what makes rum such an intriguing, complex and versatile spirit.”