Dark rum sees the light

Augustin adds: “A lot of people say there isn’t enough legislation in the rum industry, but to me that’s irrelevant. You shouldn’t need these rules to be honest with the consumers.

“I feel as though the rum enthusiasts are taking on that role of regulating the category themselves. They’re effectively the board, and if they see a brand misbehaving then they’ll call it out and we’re seeing a lot of producers getting caught out for using misinformation on their rums.

“I’m not here to alienate brands and I don’t want it to become a war, but a discussion. There are a lot of brands which don’t want to be the first to admit what they do, but actually I think if they do reveal their methods more openly, then it could have a more positive response.

“It’s really important for the trade specifically to understand and maybe reclassify different rums. Richard Seale (of Foursqure Distillery) and Luca Gargano (of Velier rum) have proposed quite a simple and verified way of looking at rum, which I think makes sense to the veteran rum drinkers and the new ones.”


Aside from just its origin, the colour of a rum can often be misleading, specifically for the premium sector.

Augustin says: “When I first heard that you wanted to talk about dark rum I thought ‘what is dark rum?’. The term ‘dark rum’ doesn’t say anything about the rum other than the colour, which can be effected in an all manner of ways.”

It is a common technique used across every brown spirits category to add caramel colourings to make a spirit appear older, and therefore more premium. But to gain genuine clarity in the top end of rum, the mentality towards its colour needs to change. “Ultimately we need to get away from the idea of rum being a colour,” says Augustin.


The appearance of rum isn’t solely led by its colour. Its labelling should be an indicator of a rum’s style, ingredients and how it is made. But this can definitely be misleading – often deliberately.

For example, the number on a bottle of rum can mean anything in some markets. It can have no relevance to the age of a rum and it is used by some brands to give the impression of an older, more premium product.

This is probably the most disputed area of the rum category, and may continue to frustrate premium brands which are honest about their products.

Burrell also pointed out in Berlin last year that he wants people to acknowledge rums for the styles they have according to their origin. For example, Caribbean rums carrying different characteristics than Mauritian rums.

Augustin says: “I think the consumers who come to Trailer Happiness are more likely to ask for a specific rum. It’s very brand-led and then our bartenders will try to recommend different rums with a similar style.”

Blacknell from Havana, says: “We would welcome education on different styles. We think that’s super interesting to understand and that’s why we’re putting our focus on bartenders.”


Another way the rum category is being organised is through the development of different levels of premiumisation.