Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Premiumization of Rum Comes With a Price

     Last week, I spent two days in Miami at a rum congress with some of the most influential rum producers in the world.  Two of the most prolific topics was the Geological Indication  and Transparency within the category.  With the move by the category to more premium and super-premium expressions, this has to to happen if the category is going to be taken seriously.
     Transparency has been a buzz word in the spirits world for quite some time, and as consumers become more inquisitive and knowledgeable, secretive operations are vulnerable to backlash.  Rum has so far avoided the public wrath inflicted on categories such as gin and whisky, but as its premiumization’s trajectory accelerates, distillers are under greater pressure to speak about their production methods openly and honestly.    Alexandre Gabriel, master blender of Plantation Rum, feels that any rules for rum production, “must first and foremost promote transparency, while not killing the diversity that makes rum so special”. He also believes, “The work of putting together a Geographical Indication must be a careful process and it must be done in a way to explore and research collectively the heritage of a particular country in rum making.  It is also something that needs to be keep in mind is that rum is a vibrant spirit and that has to continue and Geographical Indication should not stifle that.”
Richard Seale:  Foursquare Distillery
     Richard Seale, master distiller and blender at Foursquare Distillery, says transparency is “essential to creating a super­-premium category” and identifies two ways to achieve premiumization – through adding ‘perceived value’ or ‘intrinsic value’. ‘Perceived value’, he says, is created through “packaging, misleading solera age claims and the addition of sugar syrup”, which creates the “illusion of quality”. But ‘intrinsic value’ is based on “genuine artisanal distillation and genuine age”, and is an ethos largely associated with the whisky category.
“This is how we must build the premium category of rum,” he says. “It is more than just to premiumize – it is how we premiumize that matters and will determine our ultimate success. A consumer can and should buy on taste, which is subjective, but what the consumer has to pay should always be based on intrinsic value.”
     Richard Seale finds that the “terrible myth that rum has no rules, but rather, the problem is that our rules are not recognized”. He says the United States and European Union, both key rum markets, do not recognize the specific regulations from rum­-producing nations, which he calls a “genuine disgrace”. Seale also says the EU fails to properly enforce its own regulations for rum, which prohibits the use of neutral grain spirit and flavorings, among other things. “This lack of enforcement has helped make rum a dishonest category, and has prevented the category from having the confidence in its integrity that is necessary to develop the super­-premium class,” he says. Seale urges the European Union to recognize rum’s Geographical Indication Is in the same way it recognizes Scotch whisky, but he also says that the United States is a “vastly greater problem”.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Caribbean Rum Producers Move to Protect Intellectual Property

     Caribbean rum producers met in Barbados recently to discuss how best to protect the intellectual
property behind regional rums.  The attending members of the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) heard from several experts, including Francis Fay, head of geographical indications in the European Union Commission and Bernard O’Connor, a well-respected international attorney on intellectual property and author on geographical indications.

     The half-day panel discussion examined the establishment of geographical indications (GIs) for rums from individual countries. Several in the grouping — Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Guyana – are close to or have already established national GIs for their products. Participants also discussed ways to protect and advance the reputation of the authentic Caribbean rums produced by WIRSPA members.

Speaking at a reception and tasting of member brands, Komal Samaroo, chairman of the grouping and head of the Demerara Distillers conglomerate, observed that while the industry was one of the oldest in the region, its future potential was considerable. Already the largest agro-based export earner after minerals for CARICOM/CARIFORUM states, it is also its premier export product with an international reputation for quality.

     Protecting this heritage and developing the opportunity, said Samaroo, called for careful management
of the intellectual property intrinsic to the value of the product. The panel discussion and the view of the international experts were that a participatory approach based on broad consensus was a key factor in successfully realising the potential of the industry in the global market.   Also speaking at the event, minister for agriculture and food security for Barbados, Indar A. Weir, gave his government’s commitment to supporting the industry, to achieve its full potential in the international market.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Fort Matthews Grenada

    The Ruins of Fort Matthews just above St Georges, is a real testimony to the suffering that the people of Grenada went through in the American Invasion of 25 thru the 29 of October, 1983.  What was thought to be the fort was in fact an asylum, the fort was further to the south.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Which Alcohol is Consumed First Has No Effect on Hangovers

     Research published by two leading British and German universities has debunked the myth “beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer”.  A study has found that the order in which alcoholic drinks are consumed has no effect on hangovers.  The research, carried out by the University of Cambridge and Witten/Herdecke University in Germany, aimed to discover how the order in which alcoholic drinks are consumed can affect the next morning’s hangover.
     To test this, 90 volunteers aged between 19- and 40-years-old were recruited and split into three groups. The first group consumed two and a half pints of beer followed by four large glasses of wine. The second group consumed the same amount of alcohol, but in reverse order. Subjects in the third control group consumed either only beer or only wine.
     A week later, participants in the first and second study groups were switched to the opposite drinking order. Control group subjects who drank only beer the first time around received only wine on the second study day, and vice versa.  After each day of drinking, participants were asked about their hangover and gave a score for how they felt from 0-56, based on factors including thirst, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, stomach ache, increased heart rate and loss of appetite.

     Dr Kai Hensel, a senior clinical fellow at the University of Cambridge and senior author of the study, said: “Unpleasant as hangovers are, we should remember that they do have one important benefit, at least: they are a protective warning sign that will certainly have aided humans over the ages to change their future behavior. In other words, they can help us learn from our mistakes.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Diageo ‘Very Focused’ on Putting Some Life Back in the Captain Morgan Brand

     Diageo is “very focused on getting the energy back into Captain Morgan” after the rum brand’s half-year sales declined.   In the group’s results, net sales of Captain Morgan fell by 4% making it the only one of Diageo’s ‘global giants’ to decline during the final six months of 2018.   More broadly, rum was Diageo’s only spirits category to decline in the period, falling by 3%. This was largely attributed to Captain Morgan’s performance in the US, which decreased 9% and “lost share in a declining category”.
     Speaking at a Diageo roundtable last week, CEO Ivan Menezes said “rum has been tough for us”.  He said: “The spirits sector is so dynamic in the US.  “Even vodka brands that are on trend are doing really well. Rum is a more muted category. It’s been tougher. Captain Morgan, as a result, is not performing well.  “We’re very focused on getting the energy back into Captain Morgan so there’s a lot of work going on that.
     This is not a surprise to me, Rum is only growing in the areas of premium and ultra-premium expressions.  The consumers in the United States are looking for a better spirit, not something they can bury in a mixer and barely be able to tastes it.  Finding the sales of lower end spirits are slipping is not a surprise to me.  Many of the makes of the mass “mixing expressions” are working to bring premium ones to the market in order to produce sales gains. 
     Consumers of “brown spirits” are not the ones that generally mix it with colas or other sugared mixes that bury the flavor of the spirit.  Rum drinkers are following in the path of quality that they are willing to pay extra for that can stand alone with a little water or ice if anything at all.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

An Unusual Sight, A Mangrove Blossom

     During a recent visit to Grand Cayman, I visited the Queen Elizabeth Botanical Garden.  It was an absolutely wonderful experience that allowed me to see some very unusual plants, birds and reptiles.  The one thing that really stood out in my mind ws this mangrove blossom.  Living in Key West, I'm surrounded by mangroves, but this is the first time that I ever saw one in bloom.  They are not a spectacular blossom, but it was great to actually see one blooming.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Zaya Gran Reserva Rum Issues a New Formula and Age Statement

     Trinidad and Tobago-made rum Zaya Gran Reserva has been relaunched with a new age statement of “aged up to 16 years”.  The new expression is said to have notes of vanilla, caramel, cocoa, apple, banana and cherry, leading to a “heavy, velvety smooth finish”.  Zaya Gran Reserva Rum is bottled at 40% abv or 80 proof and has a new packaging design to indicates the new formula.  The bottle has a new slimmer, sleeker design including a longer neck to allow, that adds an ease of pouring along with a cork closure.
     The label incorporates the brand’s home, Trinidad and Tobago, which is also known as the ‘land of the hummingbird’.  The design features this phrase and a gold hummingbird on a medallion, which sits between the neck of the bottle and the label.  The teal accents on the bottle and label are an adornment that gives a hint to the tropical waters on which the island lies.
      Zaya Gran Reserva is available from select retailers across the US and online, including Shop Wine Direct, for an suggested retail price of $29.99 for the 750ml bottle. It is being imported by Infinium Spirits.
     I find it interesting that it was able to get the label for the United States, where regulations require the age statement on the bottle be that of the youngest alcoholic component in the blend.