Dark rum sees the light

France has a clear premium structure to its spirits through its ageing statements such as VSOP and XO etc, which therefore determines the value bracket of a product.

This, however, is less obvious in rum. Some brands believe they are premium even if they use additives, for example to sweeten their product, and Augustin thinks this is causing problems for the definition of premium.

“There are two main issues with sweetened rums,” he says. “First it’s clarity. Do consumers know what is being put into the rum and subsequently, if a product is being marketed as premium, can it truly be this if a load of additives have been used to make it look and taste a certain way?

“What happens is we end up with brands blending and creating rums in a pure and honest way, putting in a lot of man hours, up against a quick-fix solution. So, is it really fair for these rums to go into the same category?

“Also, I don’t think the issue with sweetened rums is the fact that they have had ingredients added, it’s more that brands aren’t being honest because of the pressures in the rise of premiumisation and that creates a lack of clarity in the category.”

Ultimately, the premium rum category needs a thorough sort through if it wants to become the ‘new gin’, but with a seeming lack of leadership on the issues, it looks like the sector will have to rely on morals and brand honesty.

Augustin adds: “In terms of cocktails, because the premium sector is booming we don’t really want to hide the flavours of these rums from the consumer too much. This means we’re using much simpler cocktails to keep our consumers engaged in the category.”


“Generally, stirred cocktails are on the rise and less so the vibrant, fruity ones. But as a tiki bar we still go through a lot of these styles of drinks.

“This year marks the 15th year of Trailer Happiness and I can confidently say it’ll be our greatest ever. The menu will be bigger but not indigestible and it’ll feature old and new. It’ll have something for everyone. I’m hoping it will be a representation of where the rum category is at the moment.”

The popularity of premium, artisanal and small-batch rum will undoubtedly rise in the coming months. And if brands truly want to dominate the premium sector, then every level needs to be coveted.