The Rise of Rum

January 19, 2019

No matter which publications you read last year, from The Guardian, Good Housekeeping to Harper’s Bazaar, rum was making headlines 

 

Whilst you may have been forgiven for thinking that the only drink in town was gin, rum has been quietly sneaking up on gin to become the next big thing. One of the reasons for its low key and slow progress is partly because unlike gin, rum is trickier and more expensive to produce. Nevertheless, distillers have not been deterred and UK sales of rum in 2018 to the end of September hit £991m, according to statistics from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. Furthermore, they expect that figure to sky rocket to £1billion before the end of the year, This means sales of rum will only be a year behind that of gin in reaching the billion pound watershed.

Looking ahead, the success story looks likely to continue as the nation’s love affair with cocktails looks unlikely to end any time soon. Gary Hyde, Senior Buying Manager of Ocado, says, “As the key ingredient in many of the nation’s most loved cocktails, including daiquiris, piña coladas and mojitos, I think it’s only a matter of time before rum takes its turn in the spotlight.” In 2018 Ocado saw their sales of rum rise by 13%, rising twice as fast as any other category of spirits. According to a new study by Campari, all categories of spirit other than gin are growing slower than rum, with Jamaican Rum heading up the pack. 

The image of rum has seen a major make over, rather like that of gin going from ‘mother’s ruin’ to the hipster drink that rules the bar currently. Long has rum been seen as the drink of sailors and pirates in hot and tropical climates. Now its rich history is being used to re-brand the spirit and bright new innovators are playing with exciting flavours. It may come as no surprise that given the global history and popularity of rum, there is an International day set aside just for the celebration of the great drink - 16th August.

Rum has a dark history, tied to the Caribbean sugar trade and inevitably to slavery - to be exact, the exchange of molasses and slaves. Not to mention the plantations that grew the sugar cane, which were fuelled by the blood and sweat of slave labour. Perhaps it was a sign of the times, that a processes that we find deeply unpalatable today was not of concern to the drinking population of the day and rum’s popularity quickly spread throughout the sea-fairing colonial nations, through Australasia, the West Indies and finally Europe. The image of pirates quaffing rum is no fiction for they too began trading in rum because of its value and naturally it then became their favourite tipple too. The rum-pirate connection was further cemented by books like Treasure Island. 

The maritime connection goes way beyond the swash bucklers, as the British Navy carried rum aboard its ships for more than 300 years, handing out a daily ‘tot’ of rum to every sailor. Whilst we all know the term given to gin, ‘mothers’ ruin’, it is perhaps less well know that rum was called ‘kill devil’. It was believed that drinking rum would protect sailors from scurvy, the terror of the seas. It was also given as part payment of wages. Sadly, for the sailors, the Navy did away with this daily ritual in 1970. It now only makes an appearance at ceremonial events when a glass is raised to her Majesty’s health. 

There is, or course, the old naval legend that the body of Admiral Nelson was preserved in a barrel of brandy or rum during the journey home. It is said, however, that upon making port, there were no spirits left in the barrel as the desperate sailors had cunningly drilled a hole in the barrel and drained the lot. This earned the one time only Nelson flavoured spirit the moniker, Nelson’s Blood. Frankly I can’t see this flavour idea catching on again in the rum resurgence!

There is an enormous variety of rum recipes within the industry, with even the most basic ingredient varying. For example, within the French speaking Caribbean islands, they choose sugar cane juice. The English speaking islands, however, select molasses as their core ingredient. Other alternatives are sugar cane syrup. It is not only a cultural tradition which leads to these choices, but the wide variety of legal requirements from different countries as to what constitutes rum in terms of the time it must age in the barrel and the minimum ABV. For example, to be officially called rum in Mexico, the rum must have been aged for a minimum of eight months. By comparison, to make the grade in The Dominican Republic, the ageing process is a minimum of two years.

Due to the sugary base ingredient, rum is sweeter and has a tendency to be more sweet upon the palate than other spirits and therefore more palatable to a wider audience and makes it easier to drink neat.

Different Types of Rum

Just like gin, there are a wide variety of rums available. Here’s our beginners’ guide to get you up to speed.

Light Rum

This might be your first experience of rum  - certainly if you have ever had a mojito, as it is the rum of choice for the majority of classic cocktails. Light rum has a sweet, but quite neutral taste and this makes it perfect for mixing in cocktails, as it goes well with just about anything and its clear colouring does not alter the appearance of a drink. Light rums tend to be reasonably priced and there are plenty of big brands out there, but there are others you may want to dabble with once you get more familiar with rum.

Gold and Aged Rum Brands

There are different standards of production for these types of rum and so you really need to read the labels carefully so you know what you are buying, though to be fair, not all labels tell you everything - but isn’t that true in life itself! There are some gold rums which are made from a blend of various rums that can be of different ages. Check to see if it has had artificial colours added to bring out that beautiful golden colour or whether the rum has been cut with other spirits.

Dark Rum Brands

Dark rum comes in two varieties. The first starts its production process with the darkest of molasses and is sometimes referred to as ‘black strap’. They have rich and thick flavours to savour. The second type of dark rum is aged in charred oak barrels for quite some time - as we have mentioned previously the amount of time frequently depends on the national standard. In a cocktail, this type of rum floats on the top of the drink, like a Mai Tai, or they can be used  for those rather flamboyant drinks that the bartender sets on fire as they serve them.

 

Spiced Rum Brands 

Spiced rums can draw from a whole range spices and you will recognise a spiced rum instantly from the aroma. You could find yourself sampling anything from cloves to orange peel. As the drink grows in popularity, innovators will no doubt find increasingly esoteric spices to utilise.

 

Flavoured Rum Brands 

Just like the spiced rum, the flavoured rum options are growing rapidly, just as the gin market did. Traditionally, the flavourings have been fruit based and are often found in cocktails. The one you are probably most familiar with is coconut flavoured rum. If you are feeling adventurous, you can always try infusing rum yourself with whatever flavour tickles your fancy.

 

UK Craft Distilleries

Whilst the first London whiskey in 100 years was launched last autumn, other distillers have turned their attention to rum as the next big craft spirit to hit the markets. Here are a few that you might want to check out next time you go to buy rum, rather than buying from one of the big conglomerates, try something home grown.

Rum is not the spirit on your mind when you think of Scotland, but their first white rum,  Sea Wolf Premium White Rum, is made in Angus. Its base ingredient is cane molasses, which is fermented for four weeks at a low temperature with rums and champagne yeast. The result is a tropical citrus delight with a spice finish. From Manchester, you can pick up Zymurgorium Manchester Spiced Honey Rum. With honey from all over the world, macerated with spices and then blended with rum from Barbados and Jamaica, the result is a triumph as the distillery’s first rum. Heading into the south west of the county, Bombo Rum, the product of The Real Rum Company, hails from Newquay, Cornwall. The company named the drink after what is thought to be one of the oldest mixed rum drinks. Apparently the pirates went loco for it! It comes in three varieties; caramel and banana, caramel and coconut or caramel and spices. Meanwhile, there are three varieties of Alnwick Rum to sample as they offer dark, white and spiced. This list is by no means exhaustive, but will get you off on your UK craft rum journey.

 

What’s Next for Rum

Bottles & Cans have gazed into their crystal ball to see what 2019 might bring for rum and here are our predictions.

The smart people at CGA indicate that golden rum will be the next big thing, so get in quick and impress your friends at dinner parties now! It would appear that white rum is becoming less popular which could be due to the growth of other types of rum. Apparently, Bacardi Cuatro are investing more in exploring golden varieties. The growth in the cocktail market is believed to be behind the rise of rum, especially cocktails like the Pina Colada and, of course, the daiquiri in all its many different guises. Watch out for the predominance of the rum cocktail. Flavoured rums really come in alongside the rum cocktail and the range of flavours available is going to explode in 2019. Innovators in this field, especially the craft distilleries, are going to really surprise us with their ingenuity  Finally, we predict the rise of the premium rum, by which we mean the absolute crème de la crème of rums. There are those of us who will be seeking out the most luxurious, exotic and exclusive brands, like the Zacapa Royale, but be prepared to pay dearly if this is your rum passion.

So, this brings us to the end of our beginners’ guide to rum. By now you can confidently impress your friends, family and colleagues with your expert and wide ranging knowledge of this next big drink, whilst wowing them with your rum cocktails. Go forth and spread the word.

 

Rum for two more

Back in 1740, when Admiral Edward Vernon enforced a reduction in the strength of the British Navy’s rum ration, his men complained, Vernon suggested the addition of limes and sugar to make the drink more enjoyable.

Old J has been created in honour of this unlikely mixologist who was known as Old Grog. However, Old J brings Vernon´s concept into the 21st Century by using the finest Caribbean rum combined with their secret blend of spices, sugar, vanilla and Persian lime.

It took over sixty trials before the perfect harmony of ingredients was found, and Old J’s smooth and spicy flavour profile was born.

 

Fiji Rum is produced at South Pacific Distilleries in Lautoka, located on the beautiful island of Fiji, since 1980. Fiji Rums are distilled and matured in Fiji’s tropical climate with only the finest local ingredients.

Fiji Rum Company’s Golden Honey Rum 2 year old is a bright golden coloured rum with hints of sweet fruits, which are followed with a distinctive honeycomb aroma. It has a smooth mouth feel and creamy, honeycomb and vanilla flavour which is followed with hints of spice that linger on the palate.

 

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