Rum: Join the Dark Side

“The brand also organises masterclasses in the countries where it is distributed – close to 50 countries to date. We also take industry professionals to our distillery in Venezuela and explain every step of Diplomático’s production process.”

Nick Blacknell, marketing director at Havana Club International, agrees.

“There is a strong community of loyal rum enthusiasts and connoisseurs who understand the outstanding, incomparable quality that Havana Club’s range of dark rums offers and what makes these rums so distinctive and prestigious,” he says. 

“That said, the ultra-premium and above segment of the rum category is still in its infancy and has significant room for continued growth. Education is a vital element for us to ensure more and more discerning drinkers over the world see that Havana Club Icónica Collection dark aged rums are amongst the finest luxury spirits available today.”

It seems that, with the education and the launch of products at the top end of the market, the profile of the dark rum drinker is shifting. Where once it was polarised between cheaper mixing rums favoured by the party crowd, and those who sipped it over ice at the high end, the category is broadening its appeal in general.

“We are seeing an evolution in dark rum,” says Jordi Xifra Keysper, marketing manager of Beveland. “The consumer is more mature and less likely to mix it as they might with white rum. We have a premium Dominican dark rum aged seven to 10 years, which can be drunk alone or with ice.”

Delassus at Spiridom points out that it is important to make a distinction between aged dark rums, and coloured and spiced rums, which may be coloured by caramel and are aimed at a totally different market. Focus on the aged rums, though, and there is definite growth.

“A few years back, dark rum was either consumed in a Cuba Libre by young party people, or neat with an ice cube by a niche of rum connoisseurs alongside a good Cuban cigar,” he says. 

“But time has changed and between those two extremes, more and more consumers are attracted by dark rum via a new angle. 

“Those new dark rum consumers are usually former cognac or whisky drinkers who are willing to experiment with a new spirit category, or former drinkers of white rum who now want something more complex. Thankfully, dark rum is really versatile (in taste and consumption methods) and can satisfy consumers from many different horizons.”

Which begs the inevitable question: have dark rums got single malt whisky drinkers in their sights? There are a mixture of views among the producers, but they all accept there is some way to go.

Single cane estates

But certainly Bacardi thinks there is mileage here. It has just launched two single cane estate rums (see page 10) which are designed to further segment the rum category, accelerate the move to ‘premiumisation’ and which will inevitably be seen as a step towards the single distillery world of malt whisky.

“As the world leader in rum, Bacardi has a unique ability to drive rum category premiumisation, the credibility to deliver new perceptions of the rum experience, and the insight and innovation to create new categories within rum,” says Mike Birch, managing director of Bacardi Global Travel Retail.