Rum: The Spice Is Right!

Rum: The Spice Is Right!

Rum is on the up right? All the sales predictions indicate it. As much as I’d like to say that all the growth in the Rum world is very much at the top end, the reality is that a lot of the growth attributed to a subcategory that’s easy to dismiss (especially if you’re a serious Rummy like me) and that’s spiced Rum!

A Growing Concern?

I’ve spent some time looking at the spiced Rum offering of some online retailers and to be honest the rate of new spiced Rum brands coming to is almost ridiculous, and while my approach wasn’t super detailed, it did seem to suggest a number of styles.

I’m a proponent of the Gargano Classification for a number of reasons – the notion of different flavour profiles being attributable to the different distillation styles, which when extended by regional variation makes for the model by which a bars back shelf offering could be built around. My point?

Well, I think that perhaps the Spiced market has reached the point where "spiced Rum, isn’t just spiced Rum" and that both the subcategory and the imbiber would benefit from a little more guidance. It’s time for bar owners to build the ultimate spiced Rum backbar folks! Yes, you heard it here first…

Innovate or Replicate?

The simplicity of sweet and vanilla lead, low proof and low-price approach has lead Captain Morgan Spiced to years of marketplace domination – they are obviously doing something right ‘amiright’? This presents the replicate or innovate conundrum to those looking to break in, and who can blame most for being a bit “me too” in their thinking.

So, what can you do to innovate? It doesn’t matter if the reason for bringing the product to market is a fill-in while your real stock matures or a long-term plan. Do you go with a neutral spirit base or real Rum? Flavouring route: concentrates or steeped spices? Ingredients: safe and traditional, or unique? Do you go fun and quirky, or serious? Aim for a celebrity or historical tie-in, or perhaps stay on trend and offer the healthy option? Don’t forget you’ve got regionality, seasonality, and perhaps an innovative production process to play with as well. So, with all those in mind, does your current spiced Rum selection cover all the bases?

What’s the Healthy Option?

Avoiding the obvious disparity between health and alcohol connection for now, a sugar-free option in the spiced Rum selection should be a ‘must’, and John Frum's Cargo Cult is a brand that clearly states this is their USP.

The brand offers an interesting if slightly bizarre marketing back plot about John Frum: a figure associated with cargo cults on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. Viewed as an American World War II serviceman who will bring wealth and prosperity to the people if they follow him – it’s all a little odd to be honest.

A traditional ‘kastom’ dance during the celebration of John Frum's Day in Lamacara village. On Tanna island in Vanuatu people believe in a mythical man called John Frum (possibly a corruption of 'from' since he was reputed to be from Amercia) who appeared in 1937. He told the islanders that they should abandoned Western habits including money, western education and Christianity, and go back to their old traditions, living by their 'kastom' (Pidgin English for 'custom'). In exchange for this they would receive 'cargo', or wealth and prosperity. Every day in Lamakara village, followers of the cult raise an American flag which symbolises the power and material wealth which they see as still being monopolised by Westerners. Cargo cults are religious practices in Melanesia, the Pacific region stretching from Fiji in the East to Papua New Guinea in the West, which focus on obtaining the 'cargo' (or material wealth) from the Western World through magic, religious rituals and practices. Cargo cult followers believe that their ancestors bequeathed them the cargo but crafty westerners took possession of it and deprived them of their inheritance. At the beginning of the 20th century, cargo cult devotees were constructing big wooden aircraft, landing strips and bamboo control towers, duplicating some of 'white man's rituals' in the hope they would attract real airplanes with cargo to the island. Nowadays these traditions have declined but older followers of some of the cults still remember the good old times when they would imitate the behaviour of American soldiers who came to their islands during the World War #photography #vanuatu #oceania #cargocult #johnfrum #tanna #tannaisland #melanesia #pacific @panospictures @agencecosmos @laifphoto

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Cargo Cult Spiced Rum does offer the more health conscious the option to fulfil their spiced Rum fix, without the added sugar, although many mixers are super sweet. One suspects it might be a little easier for a cocktail bartender to work with.

There’s another option in the form of Foursquare Spiced: who have eschewed both sugar and vanilla in their offering which has been on the market for years. It’s very much the along the line of "Christmas in a glass" flavour-wise. A "heathy" option in the form of a light Rum base and steeped spices and no extra calories.

Unusual Botanicals?

British spirit makers Sweetdram have a Smoked Spiced Rum that works from the initial platform of a three-year-old Guyanese Rum base which is further steeped with grains of paradise, chamomile, lime leaf, cardamom, fennel, fig and pine-smoked lapsang souchong, the later giving a smoky profile to the Rum.

In many respects, the selection of botanicals has more in common with a Gin, than a Rum and its brands like this that will blur the lines between Rummies and Gin-types. I’m not saying that your typical Gin drinker will be a Spiced Rum fan, but it might help.

Alternative Process?

Ron Botran, a Guatemalan Rum producer, have employed the use of a Carter-Head still, very much à la Gin production in the creation of their first spiced Rum: Cobre. Redistilling the Rum and infusing it as the vapour runs over the basket of botanicals – in this case, a simple combination of ginger, clove, cardamom and vanilla.

For those feeling this might result in a relatively light spirit, have no fear – this is as bold as you’d expect from a spiced Rum. The reasons behind the move may be more to do with Rum production rules and compliance, but now the process has been proved, I’m sure there will be future releases.

I think as far as the spiced Rum market is going – we’ve just got going!

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