A rummage through rum styles

As rum grows, diversification is inevitable. Clinton Cawood reports on the innovations in style.

Rum is undoubtedly having a moment, and as it continues to grow – at the premium end of the market in particular – some styles are getting more attention than others. Rum is a notably diverse category, a­ er all, and there’s a lot to explore, for producers and consumers alike.

“We’re seeing consumers interested in rum on various levels, from neat sipping to spiced,” says Speciality Brands managing director Chris Seale. “We are offering a wider range than ever, covering a spectrum of styles and occasions.”

As consumers explore the category their knowledge is increasing, so the distinctions between various styles, and the wealth of innovation within those styles has arguably never been more prominent. “What I am most excited about is people starting to see the spectrum of different rums, and how each serves a different purpose,” says Duppy Share Rum founder George Frost.

For Appleton Estate brand ambassador Chris Dennis, this growing level of knowledge is crucial. “We’re slowly approaching a tipping point where we can start defining rums by country and therefore production style, instead of simply by their colour,” he says.

If we must define the category broadly by colour, gold rum is certainly leading the charge at the moment. IWSR Drinks Market Analysis reports that dark rum, which includes both gold and black rum, was the sub-category that saw the strongest growth in 2021, with gold rum out in front.

When people speak of sipping rums, they are invariably found within this subcategory.

At Cask Liquid Marketing, director Richard Herbert has seen sales of sipping rums, such as El Dorado 12 Year Old and 21 Year Old increase in the last two years, “helping to add value to the category and introduce new consumers”, he says.

For Cask’s managing director Claire West, this is particularly noticeable in the on-trade, “with customers typically associating age with quality”.

Sipping rums have long been a priority for Bacardi, according to global brand ambassador Dickie Cullimore, who says this has been driven by consumer demand. He gives recent examples of Bacardi’s Gran Reserva 10, as well as Gran Reserva Especial 16, “inspired by our drinkers, and in that sipping space”.

After dark rum, it’s the flavoured category that has been having the most success currently, according to the IWSR. And while rum shows o‑ some of its most varied and diverse expressions here, spiced rum remains the champion, and very often the one to introduce new consumers to rum in the first place.

But Cullimore believes that spiced rum has achieved validity of its own in recent years. “The assumption was that people would start with spiced and then graduate into traditional rum, but what’s happening now, largely led by the UK, is that it is growing into its own sub-category,” he says. “Its increased popularity has seen producers explore the universe of spice and what it could be.”

Major evolution

The result is a category that has evolved significantly in recent years. “We’ve seen a request for drier styles over the past year, and believe this is going to continue,” says Herbert, citing Cask’s Black Tears Cuban spiced rum as an example of this drier style. Another example of this evolution in style is Canerock, from Plantation Rum. “A true spiced rum, it took us three years to find the perfect recipe – an aged rum, blended with natural spices, using our 30 years of rum making experience,” says Maison Ferrand communications director Angélique Jullienne.