Premumization has been driving the spirits industry across all categories and rum has been no exception––but what makes a rum premium? 

Recent predictions suggest that by the end of 2029 the rum market will reach US$21.5 billion, largely due to the increasing premium category. This growth has been consistent across categories and markets—almost every spirit is seeing a rise in the sector and for rum, it’s a big deal. 

While plenty of companies have been developing aged and premium rum options, until recently consumer opinion was not always with them. Many consumers used to think of rum as a spirit dedicated to tropical drinks, but in the last few years this has changed dramatically. Now, the average consumer sees the value in a premium rum and is happy with the price point that comes with an aged or premium bottle. 

When it comes to the qualities of premium – there is of course the hard work that master distiller put into carefully crafting, but aging and cask finishes also play a role. 

The West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers’ Association Inc., (WIRSPA) is one organization based in the Caribbean working to develop rum as a premium category. They offer training and education for makers and consumers, and have developed a label system to help showcase the range and complexity of rum. Their Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque indicates a brand following set standards and has three tiers including one for Matures and Deluxe rums. The organization notes that aging is a particularly interesting subject for rum. Thanks to its production in warmer climates, rum needs less time to age than other spirits—on average Caribbean rum in particular ages 2-3 times faster while still matching the complexity and flavors of other premium spirits. Which means that while rums ages 10 or more years are fantastic, you can get a complex, premium spirit with much less time. 

Different casks and barrels are another tool that master rum distillers use to make stand-out spirits. While most producers use bourbon barrels that are repurposed, some are doing truly unique finishes. One of the most notable is Rhum Barbancourt – who uses French Limousin casks as their process pulls from cognac making traditions. Other premium brands use ex-sherry, cognac, or port barrels to bring out different notes and aromas. 

With the expansion of premium rum, there’s a new opportunity in cocktail making. The sweet and sophisticated flavors of a premium rum make for an interesting swap in classic cocktails that focus on scotch, bourbon, or whiskey. A classic Old Fashioned, for instance, is a perfect chance to showcase the complexity of a rum, just note you may wish to leave out the traditional sugar cube. 

Rum Old Fashioned by Chris Bulilan

Rum Old Fashioned 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 oz. Premium Rum of choice 
  • 3 dashes bitters 
  • Orange peel for garnish 
  • Cherry for Garnish 

 Preparation: Add rum and bitters to a glass with ice and stir. Express the orange peel over the glass before garnishing with peel and a cherry. 

Rum Manhattan by Adam Jaime

Rum Manhattan 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 oz. Premium Rum of choice 
  • 1 oz. vermouth 
  • 1/2 tsp maraschino cherry liqueur 
  • 1 dash bitters
  • Orange peel for garnish 

Preparation: Add all ingredients to a glass with ice and stir, express orange peel over top before garnishing. 

To continue the story, check out our premium rum coverage in our latest issue.