Dark rum sees the light

As artisanal brands invade the on-trade space traditionally occupied by big names, opportunities to premiumise are opening up in the category. By Shay Waterworth


ALTHOUGH MANY PR companies are dubbing 2018 ‘the year of rum’, it’s a woolly statement. But there is evidence to suggest it could be the year the category’s premium sector flourishes. However, premium is not just one level any more. Category leaders have taken on the responsibility of marking their premium stamp on the middle ground, in the same way premium car brands have many options at a wide range of price points. In order to justify having different levels of premium rums, the products need an abundance of versatility.

In Drinks International’s rum supplement last December, Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown produced an in-depth report on the origins of Cuban rum, and the feeling is that the history and traditions within one style of rum are on a par with just about any other spirit. Rum is also more diverse, more international and more accessible than gin, tequila and arguably every other category. The biggest difference between rum and other spirits is that now the category is going through a serious period of organisation.

Sly Augustin, owner of Trailer Happiness tiki bar in Notting Hill, says: “For me, every year is the year of rum. But I think if we look at it in terms of 2018 being the year of premium rum, that could be a thing. The premium category has been dominated by certain brands for a number of years and I think potentially this year we’ll see other brands challenging this perception.”


In response to this movement for premiumisation in rum, big brands which already have a premium range have now targeted the middle ground, attempting to develop the area between the top end and the bottom end. Bacardi has recently launched Cuatro, to sit between Carta Blanca and Ocho in its core premium range.

Sarah Doyle, vice president of marketing at Bacardí Europe, says: “It’s probably the biggest extension to the Bacardí range in history.

“Cuatro is an accessible, premium rum, which can hopefully introduce more people to the spirit. It’s important to respect and understand that people might not want to go straight in with a super-premium, heavily aged rum right away. We don’t want to shut people off from the rum category.

“I think rum has been terribly misunderstood. It’s probably the most complex category so it’s important to ensure every area of it has a premium option.”


Nick Blacknell, international marketing director at Havana Club, adds: “We saw the number of artisanal, smaller premium gin brands boom in the UK in recent years and now the same is happening with rum. It is essential for these smaller, premium rums to be successful in order for the category to thrive.

“At the moment we’re thinking in three-year planning cycles – the short-term plan is to massively increase the sales of Havana 7, in which we see huge potential, while our long-term aim is to target the craft and luxury rum sections.”