Rum: Join the Dark Side

“Of course, most professionals have spotted this new trend and are progressively upgrading their rum selection in order to offer a complete range of rums to their customers. 

“The rum category, which used to be a value category driven by an oligopoly of three or four major brands, is progressively extending to an exciting selection of fine brands from all over the world. People are eventually starting to understand the difference between the different styles of rum, rhum and ron. 

“The most important thing for us is that, with more information at their disposal, our customers are slowly moving away from the price criteria to discover new brands and new styles of rum.”

Certainly the trend towards dark rum seems to have global appeal. Talk to rum producers and suppliers and they will all talk about growth in Germany, France, Italy and some parts of the US. Some mention Spain, and Pernod Ricard, which markets Havana Club, points to the ‘premiumisation’ trend in Asian markets.

So why has this happened?

Partially the change is that there has been a rehabilitation of dark spirits, as outlined at the beginning of the feature. Partly it’s because people are seeking out bigger and bolder flavours and, rightly or wrongly, they make a link between taste and colour. And partly it’s because people are drinking less but better, and are seeking out premium drinks with a story to tell. Rum has spotted a market in the premium sector.

Somewhat ironically, history and heritage are major factors in the dark rum renaissance, as drinkers seek to discover the nuanced differences between rums from Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Cuba or Venezuela.

Gonzalo Medina García de Polavieja, marketing manager of Bodegas Williams & Humbert, says: “Heritage and history are extremely important, given that they help you build an identity for the category in general and for your brand in particular.  

“It is vital to differentiate and for the consumer to identify with the history of the brand. In our case it is something upon which we place great importance. 

“We ensure that the consumer is aware of the origin, production process and added value of the product. We even do this directly by means of our packaging, where we include a detailed explanation of the ageing process. The consumer has to know what they are drinking and the history behind what they are drinking.”

Consumer education has become key. Perhaps belatedly, the rum companies have taken a leaf out of the whisky textbook and engaged the customer more fully. Hence the number of rum shows. It would seem the category is still playing catch-up though.

“I would say it is happening, and is probably one of the main reasons of its fast development in recent years, although at the moment it can’t really be compared to the level of education of whisky consumers,” says Patrick Rabion, export director at Diplomático Rum.

Time and resources

“Premium dark rum brands have invested a lot of time and resources in consumer education and professional training. Diplomático is present in most rum festivals and industry trade shows around the world.