BACARDÍ North America recently promoted Ned Duggan from Vice President of Bombay Sapphire, Prestige Brands, to Vice President, Brand Managing Director BACARDÍ Rum and D’USSE Cognac.

In his new role, Duggan, who has more than 12 years of spirits experience, oversees the marketing strategies and innovation for both the BACARDÍ and D’USSE Brands. Chilled spoke with Ned about his new role and his plans for bringing BACARDÍ to the next level of drinking.

Ned Duggan - Vice President, Brand Managing Director BACARDÍ Rum and D’USSE Cognac

Ned Duggan

How is BACARDÍ leading the effort for the premiumization of rum? Why now?

BACARDÍ has always had a role in the premiumization of rum this year we are focusing our efforts on driving the premiumization of not only our rum but the category as a whole. We are bringing consumers high end/high level experiences that will allow them to sample our premium variants and see rum in a whole new light. We are doing this in a variety of ways through our BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition, National Rum Day, and Experiential Activations.

One of these Key Experiential activations is No Commission, led by our Chief Creative of Culture, the one and only Swizz Beatz. Here consumers will not only be able to experience Art, Music, and Fashion but also get to try this elevated Rum, tying culture together. Through BACARDÍ Legacy, bartenders and key mixologists are given the opportunity to create the next BACARDÍ Legacy Cocktail.. Both of these programs allow for consumers and trade to be able to experience the sophistication of BACARDÍ Rums and create a space of premiumization in the category.

Tell us about BACARDÍ’s premium offerings.

BACARDÍ has a variety of premium offerings in its rum portfolio, ranging from the top of the line Facundo Rum Collection with Eximo, Paraiso and Exquisito to our premium Reserva Line set, led by BACARDÍ 8 Años and including BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron and BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Limitada. These three in the Reserva Line are our core premium variants. They embody the true essence of rum, making their liquid taste not only delicious but also elevated and sophisticated. Each of these rums were crafted specially by the Maestros de Ron BACARDÍ in Puerto Rico. As the title suggests, these are the Masters of ‘BACARDÍ Rum.’

They train extensively to develop the skills, expertise and senses (of smell and taste) specific to BACARDÍ in order to consistently deliver the same flavor profile. On occasion, they are called upon to create new blends but their primary focus is ensuring BACARDÍ tasted the same today as it did when it was originally created over 150 years ago. Of the three rums, BACARDÍ 8 Años Rum is our main premium offering. You can sample it by trying it neat, or in a delicious BACARDÍ 8 Old Fashioned. It has a refined flavor with prominent wood notes alongside apricot, nutmeg and butterscotch. This Rum is perfect for any high-level occasion as well as a great sipping rum for any rum, Cognac, or Bourbon lover.

8 Old Fashioned & Maestro Collins, bottles, cocktail

8 Old Fashioned & Maestro Collins

What are some of the challenges that brands face entering the premium segment of the industry? How does it apply to the rum category?

In general, there is a lack of consumer understanding about how to drink rum. After the rapid growth of white spirits in the 90s, many consumers only viewed rum as a simple party drink, perfect for mixing in cocktails, but not necessarily for a more sophisticated occasion. That left rum competing with vodka as a spirit solely for simple mixed drinks. While rum is a great mixable spirit, that is only part of the story of the category. I think that as a category, we need to work together to promote the craftsmanship of rums, and continue to educate consumers about the quality and versatility of the spirit.

Versatility is one of rum’s greatest strengths. How is the premiumization of rum being marketed to the trade? i.e. mixology or sipping?

Versatility is certainly a great strength. When we look back at the history of BACARDÍ we find many cocktails that deliver a unique Silver rum experience. For example, the BACARDÍ Daiquiri and Mojito amongst others. However, we also find amazing cocktails that involve our dark and older rums. These give us not only an opportunity to retell parts of our story, but to show the trade, and consumers alike, how BACARDÍ has played a role in the premium rum segment. The neat serve, and drinks like El Presidente No.1, which is a rum version of the ever-popular Manhattan, and the Rum Old-Fashioned, are just examples of ways that we are showcasing our premium variants. This allows us to have a conversation about rum’s rightful place amongst any other premium category offering. Also, it opens the door of creativity for the trade to create new experiences for their guests, be it by presenting a classic with rum, a BACARDÍ 8 Old-fashioned, or designing a completely new modern-day classic.

The trade places importance on authenticity and craft. Typically, premiumization parallels artisanal. How is BACARDÍ differentiating their premiumized products?

There is no denying that the growth in the craft segment has somewhat shifted the definition of terms like craftsmanship and premium. Although sometimes artisanal, small producers, is sometimes tied to both, the reality is that there are many producers at a larger stage that produce great craft products. By that I may be speaking of, limited quantity, or heavily hands on products.

A big part of showcasing our premium products relies on showing more of what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. In other words, transparency into our authentic methods for producing premium products. An example within that family of BACARDÍ Rums is BACARDÍ 8. Due to our undisturbed aging in the tropics we experience a significant loss of rum due to evaporation known as angel’s share. So, in the case of BACARDÍ 8, at eight years, the youngest base, we’ve loss 40-50% to evaporation. This not only raises the cost of production, but gives the rum bases a truly unique profile that simply is difficult, or impossible, to get otherwise. A blender must identify what aged bases need to be pulled from the aging warehouses to create the blend. Starting with a small hand blended sample, and then the larger blend. All under the guidance and approval of a Maestro de Ron with no less than 35+ years of rum making experience.

Between tasting the product, and sharing this type of detail, BACARDÍ I will succeed in providing a reason to believe, that properly defines and differentiates our premium offerings. We apply what we refer to as tradition undisturbed aging. Which simply means we place rum in barrels, the barrels in the aging warehouses, and these remain there until they have met the minimal aging period. The barrels are never refilled, or consolidated.

BACARDÍ has already begun to send out the premiumization message to bartenders with Ocho and Maestro. How is Bacardi going to continue to evolve the category with bartenders?

In keeping the legacy of our founder alive, we must continue his embody his spirit for innovation. He strived to make the best rum in the world, and was successful beyond expectations. We must continue to strive towards making the best rums to be served neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails.

These type of innovations, or evolutions, may stem from the Bacardi Family, as in the case of the FACUNDO Rum Collection, or from our Blenders, as is the case of the Casa BACARDÍ Special Reserve available only at our distillery in Puerto Rico. In the case of the trade, Gran Reserva Maestro is an example of responding to their request for a more robust silver rum experience. So, active engagement by our teams with the bartending community will, on one hand, allow us to identify the possibilities for future blends that meet both our expectations, as well as, meet the demands fueled by bartender and consumer trends. On the other hand, it will allow us to continue to drive an understanding of our craftsmanship and products that will help bartenders suggest BACARDÍ rum knowledgeably and confidently.

What would you like bartenders to know about premium rums?

Premium rums are as carefully and lovingly produced as any spirits category with a diversity and complexity of character that can rival the best. Rum also has an enviable historical pantheon of cocktails which serve as a great base to help guests navigate this emerging premium option.

What’s ahead for premium rums?

We expect the rum category to continue experiencing premiumization as other categories have done. We also expect to start seeing a lot of momentum behind super premium rums both in light and dark varieties. Whether they enjoy the easy mixability of light rums or sipping our finest dark, aged rums neat, consumers are looking for the highest quality products. Rum’s versatility and diversity in profiles has awakened the interest and continues to drive the upward trend in the category.