Darker drinks can still bring the heat

Even in summer there are likely to be those that opt for spirits like whisky and rum

THERE’S a stereotype that warmer weather steers people towards lighter spirits while cooler, shorter days increase demand for darker drinks. 

While there’s undoubtedly some truth to it, there are plenty summer serves that suit dark spirits just fine. 

And let’s face it, even warmer weather in Scotland isn’t always that much warmer. 

Either way, dark spirits are likely to remain a fixture on drinks lists in the coming months even if a section of the public is shifting to lighter, fruitier flavours. 

“There are certain flavours that just shout summer, no matter the time of year,” said Mariella Romano, global brand ambassador and brand manager for Isle of Arran Distillers. 

“Scotch whiskies are so different and versatile and can pair well in cocktails that highlight certain classic summer flavours.”

Romano pointed to Arran cocktail The Tropical, which combines the distillery’s flagship 10 year old expression with pineapple and raspberry flavours as an example of a dark spirit-based cocktail which can still manage to ‘take your palate on a fruit rollercoaster and leave you on an imaginary beach with the perfect drink in hand’.

Rum is another spirit with the versatility to be included in cocktails year-round, according to Luke Crighton of rum importer Spiribam. 

He said that, while the company’s portfolio includes white, gold and flavoured rums, it’s the dark and spiced rums that are currently seeing the biggest growth in the on-trade. 

“Our stand out performers are in the core range, including dark and spiced rums,” said Crighton. 

“This seems to be directly in line with the sales performance seen by distribution partners such as Master of Malt, who saw an 83.5% overall growth of dark rum sales from January to March this year.”

Crighton added the feedback from the on-trade was that more venues are experimenting with rums ‘as a way to premiumise cocktail, spirit/mixer and neat serve offerings whilst delivering good margin’. 

And Crighton reckoned the rum category is beginning to attract drinkers away from the gin sector.

Much as with gin – which boasts a wide range of different styles and flavour profiles – ‘there is a rum for nearly everyone’.

“Rum has a good association with being a more ‘laid back’ style of spirit, or being the base for more fun, easy going cocktails,” he said.

“The increasing consumer demand for these serves will continue to increase demand for rum regardless of the season.”

And as with other drinks sectors, there has been a growth in demand for non-alcoholic versions of dark spirits, according to Noah Villeneuve, head of creative development for mindful drinking organisation Club Soda.

“Dark spirits in the alcohol-free category are expanding rapidly and we’re starting to see superb quality products present themselves,” said Villeneuve. 

“In particular, the rum category is very strong right now; for example, take Caleno Dark & Spicy, a Colombian-inspired spiced rum, or ANON Spiced Cane, for someone with a sweeter tooth.

“Whisky-shaped liquids have come a long way in the last twelve months and I predict big things for malt-like SKUs such as Kahol, Feragaia and High Point Amber.”

Villeneuve said straightforward serves such as a Mojito or Dark & Stormy or ‘slightly more adventurous’ serves such as a whisky sour are ideal for non-alcoholic alternatives. 

For those consumers that do change up their spirits choices in line with the seasons, the autumn will be along before we know it, with the associated richer, more indulgent flavours. 

Romano at Isle of Arran Distillers pointed to the company’s Sweet Tooth cocktail as an example of combining the distillery’s spirit with richer flavours to bring out the ‘darker, sweet flavours’ in the malt. 

The cocktail mixes the distillery’s Barrel Reserve expression with amaretto, creme de cacao and pear liqueur to create what Romano described as a ‘punchier, warmer concoction’. 

“The versatility of the Scotch whisky industry allows consumers to enjoy a big number of different products all year round,” she said. 

“Sometimes even the range of one single distillery can provide four or five products with different texture, palate, nose, colour, all thanks to experimentation, different cask maturation, barley variety, PPM levels, age and more.”

Likewise, the range of flavours available in rum make it a solid choice year-round, said Crighton. 

“White rums are ideal for light serves,” he said.  

“Spiced rums can take advantage of using local geographic ingredients, and fruit rums can appeal to the same consumers as fruit and liqueur gin drinkers.”