The rum industry continued to develop during 2020. According to the Distillers Council of the US (DISCUS), shipments of 9-liter boxes increased by 3.9% to about 25.1 million boxes. This is a drop from the top of 25.6 million cases in 2013, but represents the third year of volume growth in the category.
In terms of revenue, however, the picture is different. Sales in 2020 hit a new record of $ 2.5 billion, an increase of 5.9% over the previous year. Over the last decade, sales of white rum and brown rum have fallen in price, while sales of premium priced, typically aged brown rum, have risen steadily. Spicy and flavored rum, especially premium prices, have also grown significantly and now represent 56% of the total rum market.
According to DISCUS, sales of rum fell in value, a category that includes many white rums at beginner level, by 7.1% in 2020 compared to 2019. Sales of premium and super-premium rums, a category that includes many aged browns rum, however, increased by 7.2% and 7.7% in revenue.
These trends are confirmed both nationally and internationally by sales data from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. According to the IWSR data, the global volume of space decreased by about 6% in the period 2015-2020. Globally, dark rum fell by 9% and white rum fell 12%. In the United States, the total volume decreased by 1%. Dark rum fell 2% and white rum fell 1%.
However, according to the IWSR, global space volume is expected to increase by 15% + over the period 2020-2025. Dark rum is expected to grow by 17% and white rum by 9% during this period. In the United States, the amount of both dark and white rum is expected to decrease by 5% during this period.
Significantly, the IWSR estimates that global volumes of premium and more expensive rum increased by 35% in the period 2015-2020 and is expected to increase by 38% in the period 2020-2025. In the US, premium and higher priced rum increased by 28% + from 2015-2020 and are expected to increase by 27% + between 2020 and 2025.
The Roman Renaissance seems more pronounced globally than it has been so far in the United States. Rising worldwide interest in premium rum, however, may well be a sign of continued, growing interest in the category in the United States as well.
Once a year I sit with Dawn Davies MW, head of The Whiskey Exchanges (TWE) rum department. TWE is among the world’s largest internet-based suppliers of rum. Dawn is a Master of Wine and a leading expert in this category. She has repeatedly been shown to have her finger on the pulse of the rum trade!
JM: What do you think has been the most interesting / important development in the rum industry over the last year?
DD: To me, it’s the many new rums that come on the market, especially those that do not come from the perceived traditional Caribbean countries of the world. The producers in Scotland do some amazing things, just like those in Taiwan, Australia and Vietnam.
It seems that all gin producers are now entering the mix, but unfortunately they often drag down the quality and just release flavored / spicy rum, which can potentially harm the growth at the quality end of the category.
JM: A number of rum producers, most notably Dictador Rum in Columbia, have suggested that ultra-aged rum could become a financial asset class similar to what has happened to ultra-rare Scottish whiskeys. Do you see any evidence of this development? Which rums do you think have the potential to be investment quality?
DD: It would be interesting to see if Dictador can actually present documents proving the origin of the age of the Romans, if this sector is to grow, we need more police control of brands to ensure that what the consumer buys is actually, what it is.
There is certainly an opportunity that we have seen with the releases of Caroni, Foursquare, which is gaining a lot of interest in the secondary auction market.
The rums that have the greatest potential are those that emit high-quality rums that not only appeal to the rum consumer, but also drink from other high-quality aged spirits such as whiskey and cognac.
JM: Rum Agricole continues to grow in popularity. What do you think is driving this increase? Is this phenomenon driven by mixologists and the growing use of Agricole rum in cocktail culture?
DD: Rum Agricole and other sugar cane juice-based rums are definitely moving in the right direction in terms of popularity. I think this is definitely led by the bartender community and the popularity of drinks like daiquiri, which definitely benefits from a generous splash of sugar cane juice-based rum.
There is also a synergy between them and mezcals, which is also on the way, so I think this taste profile is becoming more popular. Companies like Specialty Brands with Velier and Damoiseau have done a good job of pushing the category in the UK.
JM: What do you think are the best values in aged brown rum these days?
DD: I think there are some absolutely amazing rums out there for price levels that make them great value for money. Appleton, St. Lucia Distillers and Mount Gay are classic examples along with Doorlys, Worthy Park and English Harbor. These are just a few brands, but I could name many more. That’s the wonderful thing about rooms these days!
JM: Fadfinish is becoming more popular among rum manufacturers. What do you think are the most interesting fat-ready rums?
DD: I’m less excited about something bland, it’s rare to get the right integration between spirit and dish that it’s done in. There are people like Richard Seale and Foursquare who give the rum a little more than a finish in wine casks that is very good. Worthy Park has also done some good, as have the guys from the Single Barrel Selection (which is an independent bottler).
JM: If you could only have one rum, which one would you choose (besides TWE’s Black Tot Rum)?
DD: It’s way too simple: Clairin Sajous – this is my ultimate desert island drink!
JM: Thank you. See you next year!