|The rum is pouring off of the line for you|
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Revelers in need of festive spirit are reaching for rum in record numbers, new figures show, suggesting the pirate’s tipple of choice is primed to mimic the ongoing resurgence of gin. Rum reached nearly $1.4 Billion in the United Kingdom for the nine months to the end of September, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which expects the annual figure to top $ 1.4 Billion for the first time before the first salvo of fireworks ushers in 2018. Rum is slated to hit this $1.4 billion watermark just a year after gin, the phenomenal success story of the alcoholic drinks industry in recent years. While rum may be chasing gin in the sales stakes, building a domestic champion is a challenge few have attempted.
The English Spirit Distillery, housed in a 19th-century barn, employs 15 people making rum from scratch using sugar cane molasses distilled in bulbous copper pots. Founder and master-distiller Dr John Walters said the business was the first in the UK, and still one of just two along with Scotland’s Dark Matter distillery – to make rum this way.
“The challenge with any spirit is to present it in its naked form with access to all of its benefits and faults,” said Walters. “With rum, you need a lot of expertise.” Importing molasses is costly – Walters gets his from Venezuela, while the tarry syrup is messy and hard to handle. Nonetheless, the effort is paying off. Sales of his three brands, led by flagship Old Salt Rum, were 40% higher than 2016, leapfrogging vodka sales in the process.
Ian Burrell, the self-styled Global Rum Ambassador, thinks others may follow Walters into rum-making but not in great numbers. “I can definitely see that happening but it will take time,” he said. “You can make a craft gin within a couple of days but with rum to get your consumer to pay a premium, they want to see it aged. “You need to stick it in a barrel for a few years to get some character and flavor. Imagine buying a car, and as soon as you get the keys, you’re told you can’t have it for a few years until it’s ready? It’s a waiting game.” But Burrell is confident that, as far as consumers go, the moment in the sun has arrived for his favorite spirit.
“Rum cocktails are some of the most popular ones ... mojitos, daiquiris. And there’s a rise in tiki-style drinks too, Mai Tai’s, Pina Coladas etc. “They not only use rum in abundance but may use several in one cocktail.” He is also predicting an upsurge for spiced rums, usually made using imported spirits and infused with spices and other ingredients such as fruit peel.
With a little bit of luck, and the recent excise tax cuts the same will be in store for the United States. I would love the see rum catch up and maybe even surpass the whiskey sales here in the United States.