A way of life

Golden period

Clément’s export director, Matthieu de Lassus, says: “I believe the rum category is eventually stepping into its golden period. For many years, people have been forecasting a boom for the rum market. This boom never really happened but we did experience a steady growth for the entire rum category in the past decade, driven mostly by dark and aged rums. 

“This slow but steady growth shows that, unlike gin for example, the rum category is not a fashion category. Rum is a serious, historic and complex category which needs some time to open its wings. 

“For many years the rum category suffered from its lack of regulation and from the lack of education and information available for customers.” 

According to De Lassus, just like the whisky category which can be divided into American, Irish and scotch, rum can be divided into three major categories: Rum (English-style rum from old English colonies); Ron (Spanish-style from old Spanish colonies); and Rhum (French style rum from previous French colonies).

Clément is Martinique’s main rhum agricole producer with two aged brands: Rhum Clément and Rhum JM. Italy and the US are its strongest export markets. “We have today more than 8,000 barrels ageing in our cellars and have plans to build new cellars in the next few years to face the growing demands for these aged rhums,” says de Lassus. 

Bodegas Williams & Humbert’s international marketing manager, Gonzalo Medina García de Polavieja, says: “Consumers are discovering that rum is more versatile in its uses than any other spirits. 

“You have light, heavy, white, gold, extra-aged, flavoured. No other spirit is used the way rum is. Mass consumption of rum is here to stay and it will continue to grow as more and more consumers discover that rum is not only a party drink; it is not only a spirit reserved just for cola. Rum can be sipped, it can be premium and it can be luxury too.”

Williams & Humbert produces the Dos Maderas range: Dos Maderas 5+3 (five years in American oak casks in its place of origin in Guyana and Barbados, then shipped to the W&H bodega in Jerez for three years in Dos Cortados Palo Cortado sherry casks); Dos Maderas 5+5 PX (a third stage of ageing in casks which have previously been used to age its Don Guido Pedro Ximénez for 20 years). Top-of-the-range Luxus is aged for 10 years in the Caribbean and five years in Jerez. Eighty percent of Dos Maderas sales are accounted for the international market, mainly US and Europe (Germany, France, Italy, Denmark and Belgium).

Berry Bros & Rudd Spirits co-produces Penny Blue, a single estate small batch XO Mauritian rum which is distilled, matured and bottled by the Medine distillery. Brand manager Luigi Barzini reckons that rum is currently the most exciting and fast-growing spirits category.

“Rum producers don’t communicate enough to high net worth individuals (HNWI). We need to give them more confidence in our products through tastings and education. Adopting some of the whisky and cognac cues without losing our character might be a solution. Finding the right balance between fun and crafted ‘seriousness’ will always be a challenge,” he says.