rum on a dollar contribution basis. How-
ever, they move to other spirits perceived
to be more sophisticated as they progress
in life,” says Gerard Thoukis, senior direc-
tor of marketing for Shellback. To gather
them before they graduate to other brown
spirits, Shellback Spiced was developed to
be smooth, easy to drink, sweet and fruity,
with a less vanilla characteristic promi-
nent in many spiced rums.
On the other hand, Oakheart is being
positioned as a sippable rum that’s more
refined and mature, with a slight smoky
flavor profile. Captain Morgan Sherry
Oak Finish aims for complexity was well,
showing notes of oak, sherry, vanilla, car-
amel, dark cherry and cocoa with a slight
floral undertone.
While females make up half the spiced
rum demographic, the volume is greater
among young males, and that’s where two
brands owned by Heaven Hill, Admiral
Nelson’s and Blackheart, operate, says
company spokesman Josh Hafer. Black-
heart appeals to those seeking higher
proof and an edgier image, while Admiral
Nelson’s consumers are more price-sensi-
tive and less into premium imagery.
As the spiced choices increase, re-
search reveals that consumers think of
spiced as simply dark rum, which encour-
ages brands like Sailor Jerry to eye com-
peting for drinking occasions with highly
branded whiskies and other brown spirits.
It’s even showing up in cocktails, as Dia-
geo’s Tom Herbst points out. “As mixol-
ogy continues to evolve and diversify,
the demand for spiced rum has increased
steadily,” says Herbst. “Overall, consum-
ers are becoming more receptive to brown
spirits, which includes spiced rum, wheth-
er in cocktails or enjoying on the rocks.”
So, high proof or low, strong or mild,
bold or easy, premium or value, spiced rum
buyers have a range of choices. And that’s
likely to continue as the category stretch-
es; it’s clear that right now, spice is right.
“Spiced rum is a significant segment of the
overall rum category and its going to con-
tinue to expand, and there will continue
to be innovation whether it’s marching up
through different tiers of aging or proof or
flavors,” says Whitmoyer.
It will be interesting to see the ex-
tent to which the heightened attention
to spiced rum spills over into flavored
rums. Bacardi has happily extended into
multiple flavors—some, such as Dragon
Barry, quite exotic—as well as lower-proof
ready-to-serve cocktails. Brands Jumbie
Bay and Caribaya have forged identities
that keep their tropical flavors and imag-
ery front and center.
Vanilla rums, in particular, seem
poised for attention, as they straddle the
spiced and flavored categories. Notable
vanilla expressions include Pink Pigeon,
an Anchor Distilling Co. import from
Mauritius, tinged with vanilla, nutmeg
and orange peel. And direct from Mada-
gascar, the world’s most famous vanilla
supplier, comes Dzama. This line includes
multiple bottlings; Dzama’s 80 proof, $35
vanilla expression has a whole bean in ev-
ery bottle.
Spiced rums may be the current volume
drivers, but when the palates of rum
drinkers mature, many refined and com-
plex pleasures await them. The trick is,
getting consumers to understand what
good rum really is.
Rum consultant Luis Ayala believes
the search for breakthrough spiced brands
has led the industry down a narrow and
wrong path. “Rum has not been consid-
ered a ‘serious distillate’ due mainly to the
spiced and flavored rums that dominate
the industry,” says Ayala. “For every con-
sumer who enjoys sipping aged rums neat,
from a snifter or other specialty glass,
there are hundreds of consumers who mix
spiced rums without regard to the quality
of the neutral alcohol they are drinking.”
There’s no lack of brands or pres-
ence—for one, Appleton in the past few
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