After the economic boom that top-shelf bourbon, scotch, and Japanese whiskey experience last year, Rum makers are looking to get into the premium spirits market. With plenty of money to be made in the luxury spirits tier, many rum companies are introducing new, higher-end, more expensive bottle to their line-up. Among those trying to target premium dark spirit consumers are: Bermuda-based Goslings, which released a limited-run, 15-year-aged bottling in January 2019; Trinidadian distiller Angostura, which debuted a limited-edition, Oloroso-sherry-cask-aged rum in September 2018; and Jamaica’s Appleton Estate, which released 4,000 bottles of 30-year-aged rum at $495 each. Bacardí, slightly ahead of the curve, added a premium collection of aged rums to its lineup in April 2018. In 2013, it launched its “Facundo” line, named for the brand’s founder, Don Facundo Bacardí Masso. The exclusive series includes three aged dark rums, ranging from $60 to $250 a bottle.
With rum containing barrel-aged notes of vanilla, caramel, and spice, it is poised to attract bourbon fans. “I’ve personally seen a lot of bourbon guys who are liquidating their collections, and buying rum,” says Jan Warren, a veteran New York bartender and portfolio specialist at La Maison and Velier, a global spirits distributor. Many who missed the bourbon boom are eager to get ahead of the coming rum success.
The Cocktail Renaissance that began in the early 2000s, largely tuned its attention to reviving and reinventing whiskey and gin cocktails, putting Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, and Aviations, in younger, hipper barfly’s glasses. More recently the Cocktail Renaissance has expanded to include tiki and non-tiki tum cocktails. With bartenders championing their preferred rum brands in these cocktails, producers can rely on an army of ambassadors around the world, just as the rye whiskey industry did as many bartenders emphasized the traditional ingredient of rye whiskey over bourbon in classic cocktail.
In all ways, rum is catching up to its dark spirit competitors. After being seen as a cheap party alcohol it has redefined itself as a premium luxury spirit now valued at $179 million, a small-but-not-insignificant chunk of the $27 billion U.S. spirits market. Similar to the process tequila is currently going through. This is an exciting and diverse era in rum production that should be explored and valued as the spirit takes its place on the top shelf.