years made a big point of showing their
aged expressions as sippable as whiskey.
Says Brand Manager Katherine Lewis,
that’s where the customers are: “Going
beyond the rum consumer—tapping
in to the aged brown spirit consumer,
who appreciates aged tequila, single
malt Scotch, bourbon, etc., we’ll speak
to them with a message that emphasizes
liquid quality and premium lifestyle.”
The movement is definitely there,
says Bacardi’s Toby Whitmoyer: “We
definitely see interest in dark and aged
rums picking up, for us with Bacardi 8 and
Reserva Limitada. But rums haven’t been
premiumized at the rate of other spirits.”
Some brands are aiming more actively
to correct that. Cruzan will roll out its Dis-
tiller’s Collection this fall, with Cruzan
Estate Diamond Light Rum and Estate
Diamond Dark Rum joining Cruzan Sin-
gle Barrel. Mount Gay just launched Black
Barrel, the only Mount Gay rum finished
in charred bourbon barrels, and made with
a higher proportion of double distillates.
Some other fairly young brands
with complex flavor profiles and super-
premium positioning, such as Banks and
Atlantico, have pegged their growth to
the bar community and consumers who
a few years ago might have gravitated to
Zacapa, the dark and rich Guatemalan
rum. Atlantico, in particular, is one to
watch; on top of the star power provided
by Enrique Iglesias, the brand has two
expertly crafted sip-worthy expressions:
a solera-style Reserva and Atlantico Pri-
vate Cask, a blend of small-batched rums
aged up to 25 years.
The allure of being regarded as a
sipping rum is clear, although these
rums themselves are not. Gosling’s,
whose Black Seal Rum made the Dark
and Stormy famous, scored a coup
Caribbean Journal
named Gos-
ling’s Family Reserve Old Rum their
2012 Rum of the Year.
Based on its name and packaging, Viz-
caya VXOP borrows a page from Cognac
to declare its commitment to sippability.
Made with fragrant sugarcane juice fer-
mented and aged in oak barrels, Vizcaya
VXOP emerges with a thick texture and
deep flavor profile that includes notes of
spice, butterscotch, honey and caramel.
Rhum Clément, perhaps the best-
known rhum agricole sold in the U.S.,
to that end has mostly been promoted in
high-end cocktail bars and brown spirit
lounges, and recently has increased its
expressions to include a 6-year-old and a
10-year-old. Soon, according to managing
director of Clément USA Ben Jones, the
company will add a white rum made from
a single-varietal sugar cane a single cask
aged in all French oak for eight years.
Other brands too have focused on the
cocktail crowd, like Venezuela’s Santa Te-
resa. Says Commercial Director Henrique
Vollmer, “Santa Teresa has effectively
demonstrated that its aged expressions are
worthy of sipping on their own and can
go head-to-head against the finest whis-
kies and brandies.”
There’s an array of rums, like Pana-
ma’s Ron Abuelo and Nicaragua’s Flor
de Caña, that offer more refined and in-
teresting aged expressions, but building
interest for super- and ultra-premium
rums has always needed a big push from
one of the major players to establish
consumer awareness of rum as a quality
beverage. As Ayala says, “The premium
and super-premium segments have the
most potential, and those distillers who
are able to deliver a good quality/cost
offering at these levels will see their
businesses grow.”
Rum is made from sugarcane byprod-
ucts—such as molasses, or directly from
sugarcane juice—which are fermented and
then distilled. After distillation, the spirit is
aged in oak barrels. The following points
cover variations of the final product:
Light rum (sometimes called silver
or white), named for its clear appear-
ance, spends little time in barrel and
emerges with a milder flavor profile
marked by general sweetness. Most light
rums hail from Puerto Rico and are ideal
for mixing in cocktails.
Golden (aka amber) rums are aged
longer and disply a darker hue as well as
some wood character.
Dark rums are typically aged for three to
12 years in barrel and take on both a darker
color (described variously as red, brown or
black) and stronger flavor with hints of spice
or molasses. Commonly produced in Haiti
and Jamaica, dark rum is more likely to be
enjoyed as a sipping rum, and is used in
cooking thanks to its richer flavor.
Spiced rums gain character through
the introduction of actual spices while
the rum is aging. Most of these rums are
darker in color and are based on golden
rums; spices may include include baking
spices (vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon), ginger,
rosemary and pepper. Cheaper expressions
are made of white rum later darkened with
Flavored rums are infused with differ-
ent flavors. Common fruits used are tropical
(banana, coconut, pineapple, mango) and
citrus (orange, lime). Vanilla is also used
quite successfully. Typically 80 proof or
less, flavored rums can be enjoyed neat, on
the rocks or as an ingredient in cocktails.
Rum usually has about 40% alcohol
(80 proof); however, many expressions
are bottled at a higher strength. Among the
best-known examples is Bacardi 151.
Rum grades used for designation
depend on where the rum was produced.
Generally, premium bottlings feature higher
prices due to longer aging and higher stan-
dards. They are often enjoyed straight.
Young cane at the Appleton Estate in Jamaica
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