Rum is once again on the charts with a bullet, this according to the 2012 Technomic, Inc. Adult Beverage Report. Even in a relatively weak economy, the rum category continued to grow last year at an impressive 2.2%. It now accounts for 13.2%t of all distilled spirits sold in the U.S. This growth has prompted scores of new brands to enter the American market, which by all accounts is only fanning the flames. Is rum a bankable long-term trend? Our experts think it is.
“The growth trend definitely has legs,” says Luis Ayala, noted rum consultant and publisher of “Got Rum?” magazine. “The premiumization of rum in terms of price and quality is both a leading indicator of the market. On the one hand you have consumers actively engaged in discovering new brands and rediscovering more established rum brands. On the other hand there are brands that were once considered sipping-only rums that are now moving into the realm of mixology and reintroducing themselves to today’s cocktail consumers.”
Also fueling the trends, Ayala believes, is the increasing numbers of American micro-distillers entering the rum market with their own take on the spirit. One such pioneer is Phil Prichard, maker of critically acclaimed Prichard’s Fine Rum, which he distills from Louisiana sugar cane molasses and limestone-filtered spring water at this distillery in Kelso, Tennessee.
According to Prichard, he chose to distill rum as his inaugural spirit for several reasons. “When we started our distillery, the rum category was growing by as much as 3% annually. Rum’s growth is due in part to its ‘fun in the sun’ persona. It’s highly mixable and is irreplaceable in cocktails. There also is a huge variety of rums with which to experiment. The world of premium rums offers the sophisticated consumer the opportunity to enjoy these spirits neat. Yes, I think the premium rum category will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.”
In addition to its approachability and unsurpassed mixability, master mixologist Brian Miller thinks the tiki revival may be a factor in rum’s surging popularity. Miller is the host and featured bartender at Tiki Mondays at New York’s Lani Kai, a restaurant and cocktail lounge located in the Soho district.
“In this cruel economic environment and highly illogical political time, people are looking for an escape. What better way to do it than with a tall rum drink in your hand? It may be a trend for some, but for the rest of us, it’s a way of life. As Don the Beachcomber used to say, what one rum can’t do, three rums can. The blending of rums in a drink is truly an art and can take the cocktail to a whole other level. But I like to take that just one step further. Anything you can do, rum can do better. Try preparing a Sazerac, Negroni, Manhattan or an Old Fashioned with rum—it’ll change your life.”
Hot New Rums
Mixologists on the lookout for new and exciting rums are driving demand and suppliers are only too pleased to accommodate with intriguing new releases. So in the event that you missed the fanfare over their initial release, here’s the scoop on the hottest prospects of the past year or so. ¡Salud!
Blackbeard Spiced — BlackBeard is made at Destileria Serrallés on Puerto Rico’s southern coast. It’s crafted with a blend of barrel-aged, molasses-based, continuous- and pot-distilled rums and then patiently steeped with a proprietary mix of Caribbean spices—including vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon—and tropical fruits. If you’re in the market for an 86-proof, spiced rum sporting both high quality and a modest price tag, look no further. (Serrallés USA)
Blackwell Jamaican — Recently released Blackwell Jamaican Rum is distilled, aged and blended by J. Wray & Nephew of Kingston. Brainchild of hotelier and reggae music mogul Chris Blackwell, the brand is a blend of molasses-based, continuous- and pot-distilled rums that is infused with tropical fruit—bananas and mangoes—and barrel-aged for a minimum of a year. Similar to blackstrap rum, its nose and palate are brimming with caramel, coconut and vanilla and a hint of smoke. (Domaine Select Wine Estates)
Brugal Añejo — The soil, climate and access to fresh water make the Dominican Republic one the finest places to cultivate sugar cane. The influence of terroir is especially evident in top-shelf Brugal Añejo, a skillfully crafted blend of column-distilled rums made from local molasses and aged 5 years in charred American oak. The rich amber añejo is generously aromatic and laced with honey, fruit and milk chocolate flavors that linger before tapering to a long, satisfying finish. (Shaw-Ross)
Cockspur Fine — One of the renowned distillers in all of the Caribbean is the West Indies Rum Distillery of Bridgetown, Barbados. Since 1884, the firm’s flagship brand has been the inimitable Cockspur Fine Rum. Cockspur is made with sugar cane molasses and a proprietary molasses-cultured yeast. The rum’s fabled balance is the result of the distillery’s use of alembic stills and a sophisticated four-column continuous still. As a result, it produces both light-bodied rums, as well as fuller-bodied, pot still spirits. (Cockspur USA)
Denizen — Here’s a new silver rum sporting style and substance. The rum is comprised of Trinidadian column-distilled rums and Jamaican pot-distilled rums that are blended with precision in Amsterdam. The crystal clear spirit has a velvety, lightweight body and fruity and floral aromatics. Its flavor profile mirrors that offered at your neighborhood bakery—vanilla, caramel, mango, coconut and more. Denizen is loaded with enough character to excel in any cocktail or tall drink. (Citizen Spirits)
Flor de Caña Centenario — Grab your snifter and be prepared to be wowed. Made at a family-owned distillery in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua, this añejo is handcrafted from estate-grown sugar cane, which is rendered down into high-grade molasses and distilled in continuous stills. It is matured for 12 years in charred American white oak barrels. Flor de Caña does not blend rums of various ages together so each marque is aged for the exact amount of time stated on its label. (Campari America)
Rhum J.M V.S.O.P. Rhum Vieux Agricole — Since 1845, the Habitation Fonds-Préville Plantation in Martinuqe has produced some of the island’s finest rum. As is the case throughout the French West Indies, J.M rhums are distilled from estate grown sugar cane juice rather than molasses. The distillery uses two copper, single-column stills for production in strict accordance with Martinique’s Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). The small batch spirit is distilled using 100% single domaine sugarcane, matured for a minimum of 4 years in re-charred Bourbon oak barrels and bottled at a lip-tingling 45% alcohol. (Domaine Select Wine Estates)
KA loa Kaua´i Dark Hawaiian — This artisanal brand hails from the Hawaiian island of Kaua´i and is handcrafted using pure, crystallized sugar sourced from local plantations. The lava-filtered spring water from Mt. Wai`ale`ale used to produce the rum contributes greatly to its velvety mouthfeel. KA loa Kaua´i Dark Hawaiian Rum has a rich, reddish/brown hue and a generous bouquet of vanilla, baking spices, mangos and bananas, aromatics that perfectly fit the look of the rum. It has a broad, long-lasting palate of cacao, spice, vanilla and a hint of smoke on the finish. (KA loa Rum Company)
Original Pink Pigeon — Pink Pigeon is handcrafted at the Medine Sugar Estate on the island nation of Mauritius off the coast of Africa. The single estate rum is distilled from molasses in a traditional copper pot still and then blended with vanilla from Madagascar and the Reunion Islands. The gold rum has a wafting bouquet and a delectable array of flavors, a complex affair of vanilla, nutmeg, fresh citrus and a touch of cinnamon. The rum lingers on the palate revealing added notes of dark chocolate and toasted oak. (Anchor Distilling Company)
Plantation Rums — Handcrafted Plantation Rums showcase the many styles of Caribbean rum with releases hailing from Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Panama and Nicaragua. They are blends of pot-distilled and column-distilled rums made from local sugar cane molasses and aged in small oak barrels in the warmth and humidity of the Caribbean. After the rums have matured sufficiently, they are shipped to the Cognac Ferrand Estate in the Grande Champagne district of France. There the rum is transferred to small French oak barrels and further aged in the estate’s cellars. Often vintage-dated, Plantations rums are an affordable luxury. (Cognac Ferrand)
Privateer — Recently released Privateer rums are micro-distilled at the Privateer International Distillery in Ipswich, Mass. Production is overseen by Margaret Campbell, one of the first female master distillers in the Boston area since Prohibition. The portfolio currently includes two classy, small batch rums distilled from local molasses—Privateer Silver Reserve (40% alcohol) and True American Amber (45% alcohol). (Privateer Intl)
Serrallés Gran Añejo —Back in the U.S. after a brief hiatus, Don Q Gran Añejo is a singular blend of rums aged from 6 to 12 years in American white oak. The rum then undergoes further maturation in sherry casks according to the Solera aging system, which the Spanish have made famous in the production of sherry and brandy de Jerez. When the rums have reached peak maturity, those selected for the Gran Añejo are rendered to 80 proof with spring water. Here’s an alluring añejo that punches well above its weight class. (Serrallés USA)
Zuidam Flying Dutchman — Flying Dutchman is a sterling silver spirit distilled in Holland at the family-owned Zuidam Distillery. The first rum to be produced entirely in Europe, Flying Dutchman is slowly fermented, triple-distilled at low temperatures in small copper pot stills and aged for 3 months in small oak barrels. The result is a brilliant silver rum with a voluminous fruit and floral bouquet and an elegant, flavorful finish. (Double Eagle Imports)