Monday January 16th, 2017 at The Folly in London saw Think Rum take place, a trade-focused rum discussion and tasting day.
Let’s start with a very important subject in the rum category and one that I am very passionate about. Rum’s positioning, categorisation and its way forwards.
A debate over rum’s market positioning, future and how to raise the beverage’s profile kicked-off the event. It seems that volume of sales is a higher priority than quality, based on many responses from the panel and some audience contributors. In particular, the spiced “rum” sector is seen as key to both grow sales and to introduce consumers to the rum category. The expectation is that spiced “rum” drinkers will graduate to other “proper” rums as their tastes develop. Whilst I would like to think that is true, it seems very difficult to draw a correlation between a sugar-bomb containing no discernible rum flavours through to an Appleton 21yo or Foursquare Cask Blend. In my opinion, the rum industry suffers from a poor image – when I mention rum to most people I know, they mention Bacardi and Captain Morgan. Whilst I am not knocking what those two brands offer and there is a place for them in the rum category, there is a world of rum a million miles above and beyond those two brands and unless the consumer is introduced to fine quality rums, the category will always be looked down upon by whisky and brandy drinkers.
Peter Holland from The Floating Rum Shack, fellow rum lover, and enthusiast, did his best to put the case forward to promote the rum sector through improving quality and the below recategorisation, but all too frequently, others pushed the spiced “rum” sector as the way forward.
Pure Single Rum: 100% pot (i.e. batch) still.
Single Blended Rum: A blend of only pot still and traditional column still.
Rum: Rum from a traditional column still.
Industrial Rum: Modern multi-column still.
This is a subject I will revisit in the near future!
Think Rum allowed some different brands to showcase their rum ranges, whilst receiving feedback from visitors. One brand that caught my eye was La Hechicera from Columbia.
This is a light and dry rum aged from 12-21 years. Although this uses a Solera ageing system, the ages of rums are guaranteed as opposed to an average.
There are some nice flavours of vanilla, Sherry, toffee, cocoa and chocolate accompanied by a bit of fire towards the back of the mouth.
There are no additives, this “Single Blended” rum, a combination of pot and column stills, retails around £35-£40.
The same “Indie Brands” stand was also showcasing Ron Matusalem, something that is a bit too sweet for my taste.
I visited a stand with some old favourites. Mezan and Doorly’s, promoted by Marussia Beverages.
Mezan, “The Untouched Rum” offers ranges of rums from various countries, all of which are pure and unaltered, which is a great thing to encounter in the rum world.
I had a great discussion and tasting of the Jamaican XO, Panama 1999 and Guyana 2005 (Port Mourant). All are fine rums showcasing the different styles of rums on offer to consumers and all at reasonable prices.
My only point of note for Mezan is “I think that more and more rum drinkers are rightly wanting to know where their drink has come from, not just which country, but from which distillery. Furthermore, rum drinkers want information about what kind(s) of still have been used.”
Doorly’s, created by Barbados distiller Foursquare were showcasing their range of rums. The Doorly’s 3, 5 and XO rums are fine products and are excellent value. But the standout Foursquare bottling being showcased was the updated, higher ABV version of the classic R. L. Seal’s 10 year old rum. The slightly higher ABV gives the rum a bit more oomph, making this taste amazing on its own, but it also has the strength to be mixed if that is what you prefer.
I had a nice tasting of Pusser’s Gunpowder, along with some Botran and Angostura, all promoted by Cellar Trends. There were no new products being offered at this time.
I did get to taste something different, too – the Japanese agricole Ryoma, aged for seven years. Not really my taste as it is a bit too grassy though.
Santa Teresa rums were on show promoted by Mangrove Global. 1796 is always a favourite tipple of mine. I am less impressed with Blackwell rum but possibly my favourite tasting of the day was a special higher ABV of Fair Rum from Belize. I have tried Fair rums before so it is not a new brand for me. Their rums are from multi-columns and aged in ex-Bourbon barrels with no additives. European Brand Ambassador Paul Bungener introduced me to a 40% 10 year old (£45) and a really impressive 50.7% 11 year old. Paul has kindly provided me with a sample of this for a full review at a later date.
There was a strong presence from spiced rums at Think Rum. Cloven Hoof were very vocal in defence of their product, happily admitting the “s**t load of sugar” that they add to it, but also adding that their rum is based on proper rums, namely a blend of rums from Guyana and Trinidad. For me, it’s a sugar-bomb, but there is a market for sweet spiced “rums” and Cloven Hoof are exploiting that opportunity. Interestingly when I asked them about why the amount of sugar is not on the label, I was told that is down to how much extra it would cost for a larger label.
One new spiced “rum” and for me, something of a totally new concept…..
A spiced “rum” without tons of added sugar!
Cargo Cult Spiced Rum comes from Papua New Guinea and Fiji, in the South Pacific.
This small batch rum from both pot and column distillate is then blended and spiced in Australia.
The flavours feature cinnamon most notably, but also some chocolate, citrus, ginger and cloves.
Spiced rum is not really my thing, but the big plus with this is it is not a sugar bomb – you can still taste the rum.
There was a mixed bag at the “free pour” stand.
A couple of Plantation rums, notably, the fine and unique Pineapple Plantation Stiggins, one of my favourite rums, as well as their XO 20th.
A couple of Trois Rivières agricoles took the eye of Peter Holland.
Mount Gay had their very tasty Black Barrel but the rest was a bit sweet for my liking.
Rumbullion, Contrabando, Parlay, Morant Bay were on display.
Think Rum also featured seminars. A discussion of Jamaican Rums with Roger Barnes and Peter Holland’s defence of the agricole sector. In addition there was a Tiki Cocktail demonstration by Georgi Radev.
I had an interesting chat with Wild Tiger‘s Gautom Menon (right, below). They have a new spiced rum being released and he is also looking at releasing additional product ranges in the future.
I did find out a very interesting piece of information regarding one of my favourite rum brands, Appleton. When I spoke with Master Blender Joy Spence at UK RumFest 2016, she mentioned “something special” coming out this year. Well, this “something special” is going to be Appleton 25 year old. I cannot wait…..
Awards were presented to key influential personnel in the rum world.
A certain well known Rum Ambassador received an award for best “Rum Communicator.”
Whilst sharing a few post-show drinks together, Ian Burrell leant on his award, smashing the glass. Oh dear!
Following the conclusion of the event, some of us rum enthusiasts shared a drink at the venue before moving on to specialist rum bar Merchant House…..
Because we obviously had not been drinking enough rum during the day!!!!!
A big thank you to the organisers, brand representatives, bar tenders, venue (The Folly) for hosting a great event.