- The old man's spirit associated with one-legged sea captains is now captivating younger drinkers, says Sally-Jayne Wright
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15 years ago, if you ordered rum at the pub the choice was limited: Cuban-style Bacardi, a navy rum such as Lamb’s or if you were lucky, a Caribbean rum such as Mount Gay Eclipse. Suddenly, Asda’s drinks aisle is packed with rum. The retail market shot up 7.9% in value on volumes up 5% (year to June 2018, Kantar Worldpanel) and last year, annual rum sales hit £1bn. British craft rum distilleries are springing up everywhere. There’s even one, Taxi Spirit Co, claiming their white rum, Cabby’s, is the first to be distilled in London.
IS RUM THE NEW GIN?
We’ve been hearing this for some time and drinks brands – including those better known for gin such as The Lyme Bay Winery – are leaping aboard. Lyme launched Luggers Spiced Rum in May. At September’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair, Fentimans launched a Tropical Soda for rum cocktails.
WHO’S BEHIND THE TREND?
16 to 24 year-olds, particularly in the North. More than 70% of younger spirit drinkers (according to The Grocer) consume rum, perhaps in a cocktail at a tiki (Polynesian themed) bar, a Caribbean restaurant like Turtle Bay or a festival. June 2017 saw the launch of Manchester’s first rum festival, and a much larger, older festival in London, RumFest, turned 13 this year. A proportion of rum drinkers – let’s call them young sophisticates – seek premium, aged rums to sip neat or with ice, as you would a fine whisky. They are curious about flavour profiles and regional differences (The Grocer).
RUM IS MADE FROM SUGAR CANE JUICE OR MOLASSES, ISN’T IT, SO HOW CAN ANYONE CLAIM A 100% BRITISH CRAFT RUM?
They can’t. To make rum, you distil the raw materials, ferment, and in the case of golden, dark and aged rum, age them. Only white rum is un-aged. While a few craft distilleries import molasses to distil, many add flavours, spices and a designer bottle to imported – usually golden – rum.
DOES IT MATTER THEY DON’T MAKE IT FROM SCRATCH?
Only to purists. Just pointing out that it’s easier to make gin than rum.
I GOT SICK ON BACARDI ONCE…
Then you’ll be relieved to hear that clear rum, traditionally used by bartenders as a base for mojitos and daiquiris, is in decline. Trend Watch’s local Waitrose offers twice as many golden and dark rums as white.
WHAT KIND OF RUM IS SHOWING THE STRONGEST GROWTH?
Spiced. A World Rum Award-winning example is the beautifully packaged Ableforth’s Rumbullion XO 15 years. One fan described its vanilla, cloves, cardamom and orange peel notes as “Christmas in a glass”. Flavoured rums are also very popular. Trend Watch tasted a hazelnut rum, Belgrove, at Speciality & Fine Food Fair and thought how delicious it would be in chocolates. Burning Barn Smoked Rum was inspired by a genuine farm fire. Another to try is Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy – dark rum infused with ripe pineapples.
THESE ALL SOUND RATHER SWEET…
They are, and there’s controversy about how much sugar makers are adding. More than 100g of sugar per litre and rum becomes liqueur. Sugar is not the only point of contention. Expert Wes Burgin, who blogs as The Fat Rum Pirate, says, “With whisky there are rules as to what you can call aged. Rum is different. One trick is additives to make a rum appear darker, smoother and older.” International labelling laws would help those discerning new rum drinkers who seek authentic and genuinely aged products. The terms ‘premium’, ‘super premium’, ‘plantation’, ‘estate bottled’ and ‘aged’ can be marketing speak, and a brand name containing numerals, e.g. Bacardi 8, does not
HOW CAN WE MAKE THE MOST OF THE TREND?
Local rums such as Morvenna from Cornwall or Barti Spiced Rum from Pembrokeshire make good gifts. Younger drinkers buy online so check out Amazon’s bestsellers such as The Kraken Black Spiced Rum, Duppy Share and Red Leg. To please the young sophisticates, stock premium-looking bottles with a clear explanation of geographic and historical origin. Dictador 12 from Colombia would fit the bill.
ANY IDEAS FOR CHRISTMAS?
Miniatures and 20cl sizes – try Nelson’s Pineapple Rum – make fun stocking fillers, as do cocktails like Redvulette’s new Rum Punch. Got the right mixers? We like Gusto Organic Drinks Real Cola, also their Fiery Ginger & Chipotle Soda. In cans, there’s Dalston’s Ginger Beer with Zesty Lime. Bailey’s lovers will enjoy Sisserou Rum & Coconut Cream Liqueur, an elegantly packaged and not-too-sweet newcomer.
WILL THE TREND LAST?
We each have a repertoire, established in our twenties, of the two or three drinks we consume on specific occasions. So logically, if 70% of 16-24 year-old spirit drinkers like rum and nearly 80% of 25-34 year-olds, they may continue consuming into middle age. Even if they trade down in sweetness and up in quality, at current prices, it’s cheaper to acquire a premium rum habit than a whisky habit. Rums with authentic heritage and a good story will outlive the gimmicky fly-by-nights.
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