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03.2005

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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Article By: Robert Bradford

Some of my fondest earliest experiences as an entry level drinker, many decades ago, centered on a broad variety of rum cocktails - from Frozen Daquiris and Zombies to a fabulous concoction that my late, great rum-loving father created with an antique shaker. Just watching my Dad's ceremonious preparations was a treat. I remember the elaborate mojito-like cocktail included egg whites, a sugar cube, muddled mint, a blend of different dark and light rums, some fresh-squeezed lime juice and several other ingredients. And he may have added a little 151-proof float just to top it off. Altogether, it was a true production. He called it a 'September Morn'. And, brother, was it ever a genuine wake-up call for anyone who happened to be drinking it with him.

But, when I was putting together a rum report back in the mid-'9Os, somehow I found it largely missing any of this kind of charm or personality, or this degree of fascination and fun.

It seemed that its virtues were being overlooked and undermarketed, its volume sales were largely flat, the category lacked any real excitement, and consumer interest was being captivated elsewhere by sophisticated single malt scotches, super-premium and ultra-premium American straight whiskies, the booming tequila market, the world of wine, and, especially, the prodigious explosion in vodkas.

However, rum has been making a bigtime comeback of late. After several years away from the subject, I'm revisiting the rum world with fresh eyes, and seeing some dramatically encouraging developments. Today, rum is the #2 spirits category in America and enjoying a whole new renaissance of unprecedented popularity. To begin with, just look at the robust growth rates. In the past seven years, rum's total volume sales in the US have been climbing steadily from what was slightly over 14 million 9-liter cases in 1998 to more than 2O million cases at the end of 2OO4. You look over performance charts and see healthy growth performances among a broad spectrum of leading premium and popular-priced brands like Bacardi USA's many diversified Bacardi brand labels and old standard Ron Castillo, Diageo's trend-setting Captain Morgan Original Spiced and the Captain Morgan Parrot Bay flavored rum portfolio, Allied Domecq's Malibu, Todhunter's Cruzan and above-premium Ron Carlos, Remy Amerique's Mt. Gay, Brown-Forman's Appleton, Constellation Brands' Barton's, Skol and Mr. Boston, among a great many others.

Also noticeable on the charts today are many new or little-known products which have been catching attention in the marketplace, several of them being super-premium-level brands for which the rum category has never really been particularly noted previously. Not that there hasn't been plenty of high-end product potential out there, as more and more suppliers have begun to realize. Several rum company executives will even tell you that the time is fast approaching when this above-premium segment of the category will finally be getting the industry play and appreciative consumer response that higher-priced super-premium entries are already enjoying in most other distilled spirits categories.

Meanwhile, the big rum news of the past few years is all about new premiums and flavored line extensions that seem to be popping up in various brand portfolios with the speed of summer mushrooms. For instance, here's Malibu, the coconut-flavored rum, that's been growing ever since being acquired by Allied Domecq in 2OO2. It's currently the #4 leading rum brand in the US. Early last year it added a mango and pineapple flavor to its brand lineup and is posting a volume of over one million case sales. And here's Diageo's #2 category-leading Captain Morgan, with the mischievous, swashbuckling party-animal Caribbean pirate as its icon. The brand was the original pioneer of the spiced rum movement back in 1985. It has now also introduced the two new flavors of pineapple and mango via its Captain Morgan Parrot Bay line last year. And, including these Parrot Bay flavors, the brand is now well up above the four million volume case-sale plateau, commanding nearly 25% of the US market, as well as "pirating the airwaves" as the biggest ad-spender in the rum category.

About Captain Morgan's ongoing success, I solicited Diageo's Group Brand Director, Hernando Ruiz-Jimenez, for some comments on his brand's exemplary state of health. "Captain Morgan," he says, "continues to deliver year on year double-digit depletions growth backed by proven growth drivers such as creative consumer advertising, consistent on-premise activation, as well as bringing the brand's rum icon to life via experiential marketing."

"The rum category is truly one of the last vestiges of development within the spirits industry," Hernando concludes with unbridled optimism, "and Diageo, with its diverse rum portfolio, is perfectly poised to lead the continued growth and maturation of this segment. With the fourth largest spirit in the US, Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, along with Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay flavored rum variants, will continue to fuel the flavored rum segment. And, in addition to these flagship rum brands, Diageo's complete US rum portfolio also includes above-premium alternatives like Myer's, Pampero and Cacique."

New rum flavors are also the major marketing focus for giant Bacardi USA, who leads the category in this department. They were the first to create a flavored rum sensation with their Bacardi Limon 1O years ago. Then along came orange-flavored Bacardi O a few years later. Bacardi Razz, Vanila and Coco appeared in early 2OO3. And, just this March, the company is introducing yet another flavor, its sixth, called Bacardi Big Apple, which company marketers feel confident will persuade a lot of entry level consumers to stop thinking about all those immensely popular badge-value, vodka-based appletinis they've been drinking for several years, and will start putting a Bacardi Big Apple rum drink in that triangular glass instead.

For a summary of where Bacardi sees itself today, I contacted Bacardi USA President Eduardo Sardina, asking him about Bacardi's continuing leadership with rum and its extensive and expanding rum portfolio. "We are excited because the rum category continues to grow as do the opportunities," observes Eduardo. "This new generation of consumers - the echo-boomers - want cocktails that are mixable, easy to make and fun to drink. Bacardi and Cola continues to be the number one cocktail in the world, while Bacardi Mojitos are one of the hottest new trends in the spirits business. We have a large portfolio of traditional and flavored rums that make great cocktails. Because of consumer demands and trends we developed a successful line of Bacardi flavored rums."

Where does he see Bacardi brands heading? "We are excited about the future," he says, "because the rum category is one of the fastest growing segments in the US spirits industry today. Our signature Bacardi Superior brand continues as a category leader because of consumer's demand for this mixable, approachable spirit. More consumers are also recognizing how it fits into a healthy lifestyle, in that there are no carbs and no sugars in a standard Bacardi and Diet Cola cocktail. Also, flavors have been driving a lot of interest in the rum category as consumers like the options they present. And it's only a matter of time before super-premium rums take hold, just as we've seen the trend to super-premiums in vodka, scotch and tequila. Our Bacardi Eight is a fine example. It's a highly crafted, eight-year-old aged rum that appeals to consumers' "trading up" habits and their growing desire for connoisseurship and luxury brands in the rum category."

I ask him for a few thoughts about Bacardi USA's recent news-making brand acquisitions - like the blockbuster two billion dollar deal for Grey Goose vodka last spring - and what he sees ahead for his spirits company. "Bacardi is committed to the spirits industry from a long term perspective, and we are actively seeking to grow," Eduardo declares. "So far, we've had success in all growth areas, be it organic, acquisitions or new product developments. We nurture the organic growth of our brands. Our parent company, Bacardi Limited, is daily looking for opportunities to expand strategically our portfolio and the growth of our premium portfolio. And we invest strongly behind new product development and its execution through advertising and promotion. We are noted for a strong network of distributors and retailers and are recognized for our marketing prowess. All this has led Bacardi USA to realize record performances today."

To get a more informal and detailed analysis about present day category dynamics and brand management, I turned to other Bacardi executives, to look more closely at today's consumer trends, product developments and emerging US rum markets. Bacardi seemed the logical choice for this kind of examination. After all, what better source can you turn to than the leading rum supplier which has the largest portfolio of representative rum brands in the US marketplace, the longest exposure to American consumers of several generations, and perhaps the most intimate long-term relationships with distributors and retailers throughout the US? So, what follows are some of the collective insights from, first, Bacardi's John Gomez, and also Bacardi's Regional Manager here in Massachusetts, Jim Whelan, to bring it all close to home.



JOHN GOMEZ
VICE PRESIDENT
TRADITIONAL RUM GROUP MARKETING DIRECTOR
BACARDI USA

ROBERT BRADFORD What do you find particularly signficant about developments in the rum category in the past few years?
JOHN GOMEZ When you take a look at the last 12 months or so, up to last September, you see how the entire rum category has been growing at a phenomenal rate. DISCUS data gives us an idea what different categories and competitors are doing. Rum is the fastest growing category, up something like 6.4%. It's now second only in size to vodka. No doubt that vodka's still huge, but when you ask yourself why this recent surging popularity for rum, you have to go back to a couple of things. One is looking at what rum is all about.

First, it's a distilled spirit that's highly mixable. It lends itself to easy-to-make, good-tasting drinks. Young adult consumers are increasingly less disposed to going through the "acquired taste" process. They're looking for instant gratification, which has become part of the culture we're all living in. Everything today is instant, whether it's the internet or immediate cellphone contact, videogames, you name it. Whatever it is, people have become accustomed to getting it right away. And this also applies to taste in what they're drinking. These are people who were weaned on things like Coca-Cola and have a sweet tooth going in. Rum's warm and approachable natural taste and versatile mixability is ideally suited to all this.

Maybe even more important is that the image of rum is a whole lot of fun. There's nothing pretentious going on here. I think you find vodka is a little bit colder, a little bit more about posing, whereas rum is all about fun and social interacting. Not that vodka hasn't been a leader in driving this so-called "cocktail nation" that's out there. But rum is playing a very big role in all this, as well, and particularly making major strides forward with these new flavored rum products.

RB Are new consumer audiences having a major impact?
JG Very much so. One of the things you have to look at is the demographics. There's this whole phenomenon that's called the Echo-boom Generation. Another marketing name for it is "Generation Y". These are the off-spring of the Baby Boomers of the '6Os and '7Os. And one of the things we've learned is that the more 21-year-olds you have in the population, there's a direct correlation to spirits consumption. It's interesting to note that when the spirits industry really started to grow, after a couple decades of decline, its first year of growth was 1997. And when we take a look at when the first echo-boomer turned 21 - guess what? The year was also just about 1997. So, there's a direct connection with this new wave of drinkers, as more and more echo-boomers come into the marketplace. The figure projections are pretty staggering.

And when you think about these young adult drinkers, guess what they like to drink? They're looking for mixable, fun drinks, and rum fits the bill perfectly. Furthermore, although we have little doubt that vodka will continue to do well, because it, too, is also very mixable, we suspect that our edge is the fact that we have a category that's fundamentally more fun and approachable.

RB I know that your traditional signature Bacardi rums, particularly Superior light, are the big engines that drive the enormous Bacardi freight train and have always done phenominally well. But how successfully have all these new flavors been fitting into the brand portfolio?
JG Recently, flavors have been a key in driving the business, and our Bacardi flavors have done extremely well. Basically, what they've been able to accomplish is to create a bridge between rum and vodka, bringing some of the sophistication of vodka, while still preserving the approachability of rum. It give consumers just another way of consuming rum beyond the traditional ways with coke or in frozen drinks. So it's expanded the reach of the category.

RB Has there been much in the way of cannibalization of your enormous traditional rum consumer base by the advent of new flavors?
JG Not at all. What's been really great is seeing how Bacardi traditional rums have continued to grow consistently since 1997, when I began working the brand. While the flavored rums have been growing aggressively, Bacardi Superior continues to be not only the largest rum brand but is also the largest spirit brand in both the US and the world. We call it the democratic brand, because it appeals to everyone, male or female, young or old, or, from an ethnic market standpoint, whether it's white, African-American or Hispanic. We also have strong markets in all parts of the country. So, our brand appeal is pretty universal.

Anywhere you want to go in America, Bacardi and Coke is the most popular Bacardi drink, by far, and continues to do well. Also, recently, we've been promoting Bacardi and Diet Coke in an attempt to leverage the low-carb craze. A lot of people don't realize that Bacardi rum has zero carbs and zero sugar. But how can that be, some people wonder? Isn't rum made from sugar cane? Yes, it is, but what isn't well understood is that, through the distillation process, those natural sugars are converted into alcohol, and so Bacardi is not a sugary sweet product unto itself. Any real sweetness comes from what you mix it with.

Our Bacardi and Diet initiatives have been extremely effective for us, and have proven extremely relevant to a great many consumers. It also doesn't take anything away from the flavor of the original rum drink character. One of the problems with all these low-carb products, which have been introduced and have died, is that they just don't taste good. But a great thing about Bacardi and Diet is that it maintains a full taste and it's also available anywhere. All to say, it's been a huge part of what's been driving our recent success.

RB What other new rum consumption trends are out there?
JG The hottest new rum drink trend, by far, has to be the Mojito cocktail - it just continues to grow and grow, and you see it mentioned in TV shows and movies. It used to be sort of a New York-Miami drink, but now it's everywhere in national accounts and has been moving prominently into the on-premise mainstream. It has really provided the whole rum category a more sophisticated image, and has become sort of rum's version of a martini.

RB What goes into a Mojito, exactly?
JG It's one of the classic Cuban cocktails and something like a mint julep. Basically, you muddle lime, mint leaves, and a little simple syrup altogether, bringing out the lime oils and the mints oils. Then pour in Bacardi rum, add ice and a little club soda. It's a little bit like a classic Brazilian rum drink that's also gaining popularity, called a Caipirinha, which doesn't include any mint. It's an exceptionally refreshing cocktail and has become an "in" drink in many upscale establishments. Significantly, in the latest James Bond movie that supposedly takes place in Cuba, here's OO7 in a bar ordering a Mojito, instead of one of his "shaken, not stirred" signature martinis. People are now calling for it all the time, and it's had a huge impact on Bacardi's business and the whole rum category.

RB Aside from the new flavored rums, what does your complete traditional Bacardi brand lineup include, today, and what are the approximate price points and volume sales figures?
JG Our original signature light rum, now called Bacardi Superior, continues to be the brand's huge work horse. We also have Bacardi Gold and Bacardi Select, which is our dark rum that's been taking some share away from the Myer's black rum segment. Until about five years ago, Bacardi Select was always called Bacardi Black. The decision for the name change to Select was partly to distinguish it when we introduced our aged super-premium Bacardi 8. Select has been doing extremely well for us, right now, and is line-priced with Superior and Goldatapproximately $1O.99 to $11.99 for a 75Oml. Our Bacardi 151 rounds out the last of the Bacardi traditional lineup. It's been around forever, and is primarily used as a topper for all those exotic drinks. And, with its higher alcohol level, the pricing would be more like $14.99 to $16.99.

RB What do the current volume sales numbers look like for the US market?
JG Sales of our traditional product lineup are now up around the 7 million case-range, which does not include the flavors. When you plug in flavor sales, you're looking at upwards of 8 million cases. We're definitely at the highest volume level that Bacardi rum has ever known, and continue to maintain a dominant category leadership. And, as I mentioned, with all this 21- to 29-year-old drinking audience that's emerging, we're particularly trying to establish brand relevance and keep focus on our products, because this new big wave of young adult drinkers represents our future.

Something that is sometimes overlooked about Bacardi is that there's no company that invests behind its brands more than we do. Whether it's in promotional materials, merchandising programs or advertising, no company is more aggressive in these areas. For instance, right now, we're one of the leading advertisers on TV, as this new dimension keeps opening up. And this is something that is exceedingly important for the wholesale and retail tiers of this industry to keep in mind, because it has such a positive impact on their own bottom line.

Distilled spirits are really like fashion accessories to this young drinking audience, and you need to provide an immediate and relevant promotional image. When you buy a car or a pair of jeans, you're making a statement about yourself. Likewise, when you call for a brand in a bar, you're also making a statement. It's called "badge value". So, one of the things we try hardest to achieve is brand identity in the fastest possible way. The main advertising vehicle used to be print, but that takes a long time. TV is a more immediate process and gets back to that point about the importance of instant gratification for this echo-boomer audience I was talking about earlier.

RB A key point one keeps hearing about the success of Bacardi over the years is the training and experience of all the people out there working the brands in different markets. What can you tell me about this Bacardi network today?
JG This is a huge key to what we've been able to accomplish. One of the biggest assets that Bacardi has going for it in the marketplace is, indeed, the quality of our sales force network. This is a relationship-based business, and we have an excellent long-standing reputation with both distributors and retailers as being pro-active and supportive. There's still that family culture the Bacardi company has which kind of sets us apart, and it permeates into everything we do with all our sales force relationships. But it's a rare commodity in today's business world. You just don't find it in a lot of these big companies. Things like company values are hard to replicate. It's relatively easy to copy a product, but it's extremely difficult to copy a corporate culture.

RB Bacardi USA has emerged as a major spirits industry player, in categories quite apart from your leading rum position. What are your thoughts about company development and opportunities in the near future?
JG I think all this porfolio diversification is evidence of the real long term dedication this company has and the owners feel for this business and the industry. And it's not just the acquisition of great brands like Dewar's, Bombay and Bombay Sapphire, Cazadores in the tequila category, and now Grey Goose vodka. The real added value is the way we've been able to grow them. We seem to have a knack for taking acquisitions to new levels. And, again, I think it all comes back to how we relate to the marketplace, because we simply couldn't do any of this without the great sense of cooperation we've been fortunate enough to establish with our distributor partners and in the retail sector. At the end of the day, there's nothing like strengthening partnerships and accelerating product growth for building trust and credibility in the marketplace.

Another promising thing about our developing company portfolio, beyond Bacardi rums, is that it's heavily weighted in white spirit and flavored products. It's yet another reason to be excited about our future opportunities out there. Senior management of this company has done a fantastic job in terms of acquiring brands and giving us the means to expand our business, not only in the US, but internationally. All I can say is that, if you're with Bacardi USA, it's a great time to be in the spirits business.



JIM WHELAN
MASSACHUSETTS REGIONAL MANAGER
BACARDI USA

ROBERT BRADFORD What has Bacardi been doing to develop the brand in your territory the past couple of years?

JIM WHELAN A year ago, of course, we introduced the three new flavors. Originally, we've had Bacardi Limon out there in our markets for nearly a decade. Around 1998, the company introduced Bacardi O. And, in 2OO3, we came out with Vanilla, Razz and Coco. Razz is particularly strong in the Northeast. It's already become our #2 flavor here in Massachusetts, right now, in just over a year. I think the big point about our introduction of flavors is that we didn't take market share away from those consumers drinking traditional Bacardi light and gold rum products or cola drinks or frozen Bacardi cocktails. Instead, what we're finding is that our rum flavors have been bringing over flavored vodka drinkers. So, we're not cannibalizing our rum market at all. It's flavors that have been bringing new people into the category.

RB Who do you see consuming these products?
JW It's difficult to define a specific consumer audience for our traditional Bacardi light and gold rums, because so many people and age groups drink them. But our flavors put special focus on the entry level consumer segment which everyone is trying to attract today. And there are millions and millions of them who are turning legal drinking age in the next decade. So, most of today's advertising is directed to the entry-level consumer. The new low-carb craze is a major new opportunity with this audience. So, a Bacardi and Diet call has become popular with many of these young consumers who pay close attention to healthy lifestyles, what they eat and what they consume in alcoholic beverages.

Women make up a strong consumer segment for our flavors. These are professional, educated women, anywhere from 21 to 35. They're really tuned in to a "flavorific world", to use one of Horizon Beverage's Bobby Epstein's favorite descriptive phrases. Our different rum flavors can cater to a whole lot of niches, and there are so many ways to consume these different five brands.

You look at the on-premise action in the Boston area and see bartenders doing all kinds of stuff with them. For example, with Bacardi Limon, O, or Razz, they're serving it with Sprite or with tonic, and they're using it for Cosmopolitans. Bacardi Vanila is often mixed with ginger. And Coco is simply outstanding with pineapple juice. New trends with ethnic drinks have been developing tremendous popularity, too, like the Mojito, in particular. It's become very much of an "in" drink in many national markets and large Hispanic consumer strongholds like California, Florida, Chicago, and Texas. Here in Massachusetts, too, we have a significant population of Caribbean Hispanics that's been growing dramatically in recent years and represents a strong developing rum consumer base. However, with the new rum flavors, you're also seeing a lot of Bacardi Limon mojitos, Bacardi Razz mojitos. It makes this an unusually exciting time for the rum category.

RB I'd also have to think it's an exceptionally exciting time for Bacardi as a spirits company, quite apart from rum developments, in the last few years. You've developed from the world's leading rum producer, with the world's best-selling spirits brand for the last 25 years, to become, recently and rapidly, one of the most enviably well-balanced spirits portfolios in the entire industry. The fact is, today, you seem to have a leading brand in just about every major category. When did you see this evolution really starting?
JW I'd have to say that 1992 was the true beginning, when we picked up Martini & Rossi brands. This gave us the world's best-selling vermouth, and a couple of major wine and cordials brands, including Benedictine. It also gave us some distinctive cognacs like Otard and Gaston. These are not necessarily big in the states, but they all have considerable significance worldwide. In 1998, we picked up Dewar's, and later created the Dewar's 12-year-old, and most recently have produced a very limited Dewar's Signature brand, which is comparable to a Johnnie Walker Blue pedigree in aged single malt components. The backbone single malt is Aberfeldy from the Grampian mountain Highlands region, and some of the whisky inthe blend is 27-years-old. We later acquired the Bombay and Bombay Sapphire gin brands, and, most recently, the celebrated acquisition of Sidney Frank's Grey Goose vodka just last year. And, in between, we've picked up Cazadoras tequila, which is a super premium in that highly mobile category.

And if you look at what we've been able to do with these brands, I believe that Bombay has now overtaken Beefeater's as the #2 gin in the US, second only to Tanqueray. Dewar's continues to be the #1 brand of scotch in the United States, and also here in Massachusetts, ahead of Johnnie Walker Red. What more can I tell you? To sum it up from my viewpoint, I think what Bacardi's trying to do is be a player with a dominant brand in each of the major categories. We're in great shape with rum, great shape with scotch, great shape with gin. Our recent super-premiums, like Cazadoras tequila and Grey Goose vodka, present enormous upside opportunities to face the competition. I feel pretty good about the company's direction and our successful integration of these brands we've acquired. We've been able to take and grow them. We've also been able to launch new brand successes at the same time.

RB For years, of course, Bacardi has also had a successful line of mixer products. Are these still doing well for you?
JW Our non-alcoholic Bacardi Frozen Mixers is actually a partnership with Minute Maid, and we as sales people aren't really directly involved. Also, our branded non-alcoholic Bacardi bottled mixers like Pina Colada, Daiquiri and Margarita, are also handled by the Minute Maid company. But they all continue to do a good business.

But, in addition to these non-alcoholic mixers, two years ago, in March 2OO3, our company introduced a line of pre-mixed, ready-to-serve cocktails called Bacardi's Party Drinks. And this is something I'm really concentrating on right now. We started with the three flavors of Bahama Mama, Rum Island Ice Tea and Hurricane, which has a distinctive blue color and has done exceptionally well. Then, a year ago, in March 2OO4, we added The Zombie to this lineup. And, in April 2OO5, there's a fifth Bacardi Party Drink coming to market called Rum Runner, which is a pre-mixed version of the classic tropical cocktail of the same name that has a bunch of different liqueurs in it.

The whole idea behind the Party Drinks is that they are all fantastic rum cocktails that you normally would only get when you're out in a bar establishment. They are prepared to recipe by on-premise professionals who have the expertise and ingredients to make them successfully. So, these pre-mixed Party Drinks enable a consumer to take these great on-premise cocktails home with them, and serve these drinks just as if they'd been orderedata bar. The rum's already in there. You don't have to go out and buy all the different other stuff for the drink. Everything's pre-made and ready-to-go like an instant cocktail.

Getting back to our line of rum flavors, this month we're introducing Big Apple Rum. Bacardi's marketing people have done all the due diligence about what our next flavor should be and apple scored particularly well with our test panel.

RB Just for the record, could you clarify for me the current nomenclature and usage suggestions for the different Bacardi rum brand labels in your portfolio? There have been quite a few recent name changes, as well as new product introductions, and it can get a little bit confusing about which brands are the same, which are new, and in what ways they're supposed to be consumed.
JW Bacardi's familiar standard light rum is now called Bacardi Superior. We still have amber-colored Bacardi Gold. Darker rums are typically used for some of the frozen drinks as a topper or float - this might be Bacardi Select, we used to call Bacardi Black. It's got more of that molasses character and is perhaps the most flavorful rum we have. You'll find it competing against a product like Myer's. And there's Bacardi 8, a real gem of a product that starts getting into the true super-premium rum segment. It's a blend of aged rums, all of which have to be 8 years or older. We make it in the Bahamas and it's aged in small oak casks. The beauty of this brand is that when you age products in Scotland - where it's cold and damp - the aging process doesn't go so fast. But in a warm climate like the Bahamas, the aging takes place significantly faster. And because there's more rum in contact with the wood, and because we use smaller barrels, we get a lot more flavor from the wood that one expects in a carefully-aged spirit. This product has an absolutely spectacular super-premium taste. You can drink it on the rocks or even savor it in a snifter. It's far and away my personal favorite rum experience.

RB How would you summarize your outlook for the rum category?
JW A year or two ago, when were were looking at spirits categories, there were only really two categories that were growing. One was vodka and the other was rum. In general, brown spirits have been declining. Tequila had been slowing down a bit, but has been making a little comeback, particularly with some of the high-end products. But, for the most part, it's been the vodkas and the rums that have been the traditional clear spirits with strong growth performances. And between these two categories, flavored rums are proving exceptionally appealing to younger entry level consumers.

Plain vodka, by it's own description, is flavorless, colorless, odorless, and somewhat harsh and alcoholly for a lot of younger drinkers. But rum, unto itself, has a genuinely approachable taste which complements any flavor it's partnered with. And while it's true we're still living in the era of unprecendented martini and cosmopolitan popularity among our young professional, male and female, consumer audiences, which has been driving the vodka category for several years, it's also true that anything today can be put into that triangular martini and cosmo glass.

I can only tell you that flavored rums make an outstanding cosmopolitan. I'll almost guarantee that if you put a flavored rum cosmo, made with Bacardi Limon, O or Razz, up against a flavored vodka cosmo, side-by-side, the flavored rum version is going to come out ahead every time. These rums are all colorless in the bottle, of course. But add a splash of cranberry or blue curacao in there, and your cocktail takes on a wonderful pink or light blue color, which is also so important to today's younger consumers. Much of a drink's appeal is all about appearance, so many of them are actually tasting with their eyes. So, what do I see up ahead for rum? A huge new consumer base, more retailer shelf space, and a lot of upturned arrows.


FAST FACTS on RUM

Rum is made by distilling fermented sugar and water.

White rums are generally light-bodied, clear and have a subtle flavor profile, which makes them highly mixable.

Golden rums are generally medium-bodied and age for several years in oak casks, which give them a mellow flavor profile.

Dark rums are rich and full-bodied, produced mostly from pot stills and aged in oak casks for extended periods. Best consumed straight up.

Anejo rums are made from a blend of aged rums.

Rum is produced in areas where sugarcane grows abundant, however 85% of the volume produced is in Puerto Rico with the rest in the Caribbean.

Bacardi founder Don Facundo Bacardi y Massu was the first to filter his spirit through charcoal - a step never used before in rum production.

During the Spanish-American War, an American soldier suggested Bacardi rum be mixed with a new beverage, Coca Cola, hence the Cuba Libre was born.

The most expensive rum in the world is British Royal Navy Imperial Rum that sells for about $4OOO an imperial gallon.


RECOMMENDATIONS

From Chris Kozlowski. Noted Rum Expert and Owner, Crescent City Bistro & Rum Bar in Dover, NH

SIPPING TOP 1O

1O Bacardi 8 (Puerto Rico $$)

9 Coyopa (Barbados $$)

8 Appleton 21-Year (Jamaica $$$$)

7 Plantation Rum (Various Caribbean Islands $$-$$$$)

6 Pampero - Ron Anejo Anniversario (Venezuela $$)

5 Ron Metusalem Gran Reserva (Cuba $$$)

4 Barbancourt 15-Year Grand Reserve (Haiti $$$)

3 El Dorado 15-Year Special Reserve (Guyana $$$)

2 Gosling's Family Reserve (Bermuda $$$)

1 Cruzan Single Barrel Estate (St. Croix $$$)

MIXING TOP 5

5 Pusser's (makes a super Painkiller!)

4 Ron Metusalem White (great for Mojitos)

3 Gosling's (Dark & Stormy)

2 Four Square Spiced Rum (with Coke)

1 Cruzan White (good for everything!)

FAMOUS PUSSER'S PAINKILLER

Pusser's Rum, pineapple and orange juices, and Cream of Coconut, with fresh nutmeg sprinkled over the top. Served over ice in a rocks glass.

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