Sip on This: Rum Is On the Rise

Jun. 23, 2016

The US is in the early stages of a rum renaissance, a movement that is being led by a new appreciation for rum’s super-premium category.

In 2015, the super-premium rums grew by 2.9% in volume and 2.8% in revenue. Sales of the category are expected to continue to climb and are projected to increase 50% by 2017.

What is causing the renewed interest in a century old beverage? In one way, rum has American whiskey to thank for the spirit’s increase in popularity. Many of the same qualities that drove consumers to move on from vodka and into whiskey: heritage brands, sense of tradition, the rise of classic cocktails in the on premise and - at the time - affordable luxury in the off-premise, all are now working in rum’s favor as consumers look to other brown spirits to broaden their horizons.

Whiskey can’t take all of the credit for rum’s rise, though, as there are more than a few factors weighing in on the revitalization.


Sip, Sip, Sip

Whiskey enthusiasts are discovering something about rum many consumers forgot after a lifetime of rum and cokes: rum is an incredibly beautiful spirit to sip on —particularly in barrel-aged expressions, where notes of vanilla, cinnamon, oak and baking spices form a comforting comparison.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that these higher-end, super-premium rums make for fantastic sipping. Similar to whiskey, rums are laid to rest in barrels for years, often times a decade or longer. Rum distillers also take a page out of the Scotch whisky playbook and often use a variety of former spirit barrels – sherry, wine, whiskey or other rums – and uses them as finishing barrels, imparting another layer of complexity to a spirit already worth some serious contemplation.


An Education in Terroir

Terroir is a term often associated with wine, but this ‘sense of place’ is gaining traction with spirits as well, first with mezcal and tequila and now with rum. Rums from across the globe vary in their agricultural ingredients, distillation methods, barrel aging times and weather. All of these factor into the essence of the spirit, its terroir.

Previously little attention was paid to these subtle differences in bottlings, but now an increase in category and brand education is bringing these notable nuances into the rum conversation. Suppliers and brand ambassadors are entering on premise accounts with stories to tell and a wealth of knowledge about their spirit’s character. Grass roots organizations like Authentic Caribbean Rum (ACR) are also leading industry-focused seminars aimed at educating customers and consumers on the wide range of Caribbean rums and how to use them for something outside of a daiquiri.

“We’re trying to demonstrate that rum deserves its place at the top table,” said ACR Global Ambassador Neil Morris to Beverage Dynamics.


A Pleasing Price Point

While super-premium rum’s similarities to whiskey are clearly helping the spirit find a new consumer base in the on premise, it is rum’s accessibility and affordability that will bring them into the off premise. The fear of a whiskey shortage is driving whiskey distillers to abandon age statements on the bottle in favor of creating a blend instead, which keeps prices reasonable and the whiskey itself consistent. Those whiskies that still are labeled with an age statement are rising in price, often reaching a point that is too expensive for consumers who simply wanted some affordable luxury.

Unlike whiskey, rums with years of barrel time and an age on the bottle are still incredibly affordable, which means that consumers can easily trade up at the store for a more premium rum without feeling they are overspending zealously. Rums that have spent a decade or more in the barrel, while not cheap, are far more reasonably priced than a whiskey aged for the same duration of time.

For consumers looking to explore outside of their whiskey comfort zone and expand their horizons into other brown spirits, rum seems to be the trending place to start. 

Help your customer explore the finer side of rum by stocking up on a variety of different super-premium and craft rums from across the U.S., Caribbean and abroad.

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