Rum has been making a serious comeback in recent years.
Though some view it as that sugary drink they had too much of in college, people are beginning to realize what bartenders have always known—that it’s a beautiful spirit to both sip neat and mix into sophisticated cocktails. To learn more about the rum trends and how the spirit is currently being used in both sipping and cocktail culture, we caught up with David Cid, the Master of Rums at BACARDÍ. He gives us some insight on where rum is headed and how BACARDÍ is leading the way.
Talk to us about the changes in the rum category during the past few years.
There is no denying that we have seen a change across the category. Actually, I gave a talk about this recently in California, although for well over a decade, we have heard many proclaim that rum is finally going to see a boom in growth. This time around, something’s different. The growth of brown spirits, predominantly whisk(e)y, has set a stage that has allowed aged rums to grow in awareness and popularity amongst both trade and consumers. Because of that, we have seen more aged rums enter the market in both the EU and the United States. Parallel to that, we have seen more rum cocktails on menus and more rum-focused bars opening. So, what many may have proclaimed years ago is no longer research—we’re living it.
How has the rum category as a whole established a place for itself in the premium segment?
First, we have to define “premium.” Quality, age, craft, price? For the purposes of this conversation, let’s go with price point. When we think about my previous comment on the rise of aged spirits like whisky and cognac, it’s easy to see how more expensive/aged rums were able to find their way into the cocktail scene again. Bartenders wanted to create new experiences, and rum presents an opportunity to do just that. For the most part, it’s a category with approachable flavor profiles, has a plethora of historical classic cocktails, and can play very well in cocktails otherwise associated with other aged spirits.
In short, bartenders have pushed the category forward, consumers are becoming more aware of the possibilities within the premium side of rum, and more brands are focusing on launching and educating within this segment of their portfolio. It’s been a very organic growth during the past 10 to 15 years, and I believe we’re just getting started!
BACARDÍ has extended its line of premium rums, launching 4 and 10 last year. How has this impacted the bartending trade/marketability of BACARDÍ?
Yes, we launched Añejo Cuatro, a blend of 4 to 6-year-old rums, and Gran Reserva Diez, a blend of 10 to 12-year-old rums, in the spring of 2018. The launch was successful and the products have been well received! Above everything else, these new variants have supplemented BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho, which we already had in the market. Together, they help us define our portfolio more clearly.
The Carta Range—Superior, Gold and Black—allow us to focus on cocktails and heritage, while our aged rums allow us to focus on the how and why we age and blend our rums. So, it allows us to focus on a part of our tradition, as a rum family and company, that our younger rums don’t represent to the same degree. This has helped us broaden our conversation with the trade and given our consumers a path to upgradability. All the while, it’s also providing whisk(e)y and cognac lovers a reason to journey into rum.
How can classic cocktails be elevated using premium rum expressions?
Perhaps a cocktail expert can give a more robust answer, but I’ll do my best. With younger rums, the profile is impacted by the oak barrel but not driven by it. So, to make an Old Fashioned cocktail with an 18 month or 24-month-old mellowed rum may be a hard sell. However, once we enter the realm of aged beyond four years, the oak cask is certainly driving the profile of our rums. Notes of honey, spices, charred oak, smokiness, vanilla and many others can translate into traditional rum cocktails where the rum stands out amongst the mixers. Or if we go older, it could mean reviving some rum classics that are similar to some of the most famous whiskey drinks out there.
Añejo 4 is a great example of both of these points. Although El Presidente is a classic cocktail traditionally associated with white or gold rum depending on the recipe, there are three! In turn, the drink itself is a cousin of the Manhattan. In choosing to use this cocktail in a fourth variation, El Presidente No. 4, we are showcasing how well Añejo 4 compliments and stands side by side with robust modifiers such as rosso vermouth.
What should bartenders know about BACARDÍ’s premium rum brands?
We have a great selection of brands that have older aged rums with different attributes that satisfy different palates. Within BACARDÍ brand per say, we are very proud of the impact BACARDÍ Superior has had and continues to have in the world of bartending and culture! However, we don’t simply have a silver rum tradition—we are a rum family/company with a tradition spanning from young silver rum to extra old, 20+ year old rums.
We believe Añejo 4 and Gran Reserva 10 are both game-changing, with Cuatro playing on the cocktailing side and Diez playing more on the sipping side of the field. Give them a try and let us know what you think
Tell us what is coming up for the BACARDÍ. Is there anything new you can discuss?
For the time being, I have nothing on the traditional rum side to share for the near future. However, we did recently release a small amount of a new rum blend in our portfolio, BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Especial 16. It’s an amazing blend of 16 to 17-year-old rums, aged in our tradition, which we call “Undisturbed Aging.” Rum goes into the barrel and is allowed to mature until it’s ready to be blended or bottled. No tapping, no refilling. We simply allow the rum to develop and evaporate naturally. An expensive approach, but it’s how we’ve always done it for all of our rums.
With that, my final comment is that what we care about most is the profile of the rum, so aging statements are not always something we use. However, when we do, always remember that the aging statement will always represent the youngest rum in the blend, and that the blend may contain rums that are much older. It’s one of the ways we showcase our integrity and authenticity and welcome all to enjoy our true aged rums.