4 Craft Rums on the Rise

Craft rum is on the rise. Savvy consumers have discovered that the category offers the same depth of flavors as whiskey — at a fraction of the price.

Below are four craft rum brands whose recent sales success earned them Growth Brands Awards from our magazine last year for their sales in 2016.

1) Ron Barceló

This Dominican rum brand, from Shaw-Ross International Importers, increased 5.2% in sales in 2016 to reach 61,000 9-liter cases. The reason? “A shift in consumer tastes toward aged spirits and full-flavored offerings, and the growing popularity of craft and Tiki cocktails,” says Rod Simmons of Shaw-Ross.

Looking to build on those trends, the brand will launch Barceló Imperial Onyx (SRP: $39.99) in first quarter 2018. This new expression aged in ex-bourbon oak casks with a “heavy char” grade. “The result is a rum for the serious spirits enthusiast who enjoys a bold, intense taste,” Simmons says.

2) Blue Chair Bay

Owned by country singer Kenny Chesney, Blue Chair Bay focuses on tropical flavors that reflect the Caribbean, says Monica Gray, Fishbowl Spirits marketing director. Sales expanded 15.7% in 2016 to hit 81,000 cases. The target demographic is mostly women, ages 21-35.

The brand has launched Key Lime Rum Cream, and with it Blue Chair Bay gave fans the opportunity to win a trip to watch Chesney perform in the Florida Keys. Over the summer, fans were challenged to write a 200-word essay on what they’d do with a year off. The winner received $50,000.

Blue Chair Bay last holiday season welcomed people to upload photos of themselves in an ugly Christmas sweater for the chance at a Jeep Patriot loaded with prizes.

3) Brinley Gold Shipwreck

The father-son duo of Bob and Zach Brinley launched this St. Kitts rum in 2014. In 2016, Brinley Gold Shipwreck grew 20% to 24,000 cases.

Among the brand’s promotional efforts is a charitable collaboration with the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network. This organization protects turtles and their habitat, and provides former sea turtle fishermen with alternatives means to make a living, says Michael Wolff, VP Marketing at Opici Wines/Market St. Spirits.

4) Blackheart

This premium spiced rum from Heaven Hill Brands saw its sales rise 5.2% in 2016 to reach 92,000 cases.

Reinforcing its “bold and bawdy” spirit, the brand has aligned with Bellator MMA, Light Heavyweight Champion Phil Davis and Mercedes Terrell, says Lauren Cherry, Heaven Hill communications coordinator. The target consumer demographic is men aged 21-24.

Cherry says the brand will focus on growing within its core consumers moving forward. “As interest in brown spirits continues to trend upward,” she explains, “we will continue to see consumers attracted to a quality, consistent rum that they can sip every day.”

Correction: An original version of this story incorrectly identified that these rums won Growth Brands for their 2017 sales. They received awards for their 2016 sales. We regret the error.

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece 7 Whiskey Trends in 2018.

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