An age-old question

It will take time and a considerable amount of effort to educate the masses but there is knowledge at the grassroots, which is a start.

Seale says a small, enthusiastic and growing community knows what makes a good aged rum.

He adds: “We have a lot of remedial work to undo the damage from many brands who taught the sweetness from the added sugar/sweet wines was the sign of a quality aged rum.”

That’s not to say progress hasn’t been made. “We have made dramatic progress in the past five years in educating the trade on this. It will take more time to reach the average consumer level,” Seale says.

Zacapa’s De Rojas thinks it all depends on where the consumer is from. “In countries which have a long tradition of rum, such as Central America and the Caribbean, there is more understanding. However, the further you move from the source, and particularly in markets where aged rum is not so well established, the less people will understand.”


The speed at which new products are entering the market is a cause for much-needed celebration.

Seale says: “With recent success all of us have invested in more aged stocks and the traditional producers will continue to bring new, genuinely older rums to the market. I know we have some exciting releases planned, I doubt we are alone. Absolutely there is room, we have barely made inroads to the premium sector of the spirits. Rum has a great opportunity.”

Havana Club’s international marketing director, Nick Blacknell says the latest addition to its Tributo Collection, unveiled in February, is a great example of balancing innovation with quality. “Crafted by our Maestros del Ron Cubano, the 2017 edition is made from a blend of exceptional Havana Club rum reserves and aguardiente – or, spirit base – to achieve a unique rum with a distinctive dry note and an intriguing array of flavours, highlighting and paying homage to the finest Cuban sugar cane.”

In terms of new products, Hamilton says there is a finite number of distilleries at any time. “I’m seeing more rums coming to the market claiming to be from lost, forgotten distilleries, some of which are actually aged, and then there are those that are fast-ageing through the miracles of deceit and trickery,” he says. “Twenty five years ago I saw additives that were meant to fast age rums at distilleries in the Caribbean, they didn’t really work very well. Today the additives are more refined and the sales pitches to the distilleries and to me are more polished but you can’t age rum, or any other spirit, without that elusive ingredient of time.”

Aged rums tend to fall into the super-premium category, which saw 9% growth in the past year, according to the IWSR. These rums are recruiting consumers from other categories such as scotch and brandy.

“Asia and global travel retail present the greatest opportunity for dark aged rum as they represent almost half the ultra-premium spirit category market share,” Havana Club’s Blacknell says. “The growing middle classes around the world are resulting in more high-net worth individuals and it is they who are responsible for the premiumisation we’re starting to experience in the rum category, and have observed in the other categories in recent years.”

Zacapa’s De Rojas concurs: “There is a growing wave of consumers who are motivated by and see value in new and luxurious drinking experiences. As consumers increasingly learn to appreciate the nuances and complexities in quality sipping rums, this will create significant opportunity for growth – particularly for the ultra-premium tier.”