Rum’s Rising Star


New expressions and new flavors drive rum to new heights.

By Robert Plotkin

0607rmSales of rum last year continued soaring skyward, posting increases of 6.6% to about 20.8 million 9-liter cases, according to Adams Beverage Group Research. It now ranks as the second largest category of spirits in the U. S., with flavored rums accounting for roughly a third of the category’s sales. 0607rm1

John Gomez, group marketing director for Bacardi, thinks that much of rum’s success can be attributed to its unrivaled mixability. “Existing consumers are responding to the proposition of mixed drinks made with rum, as evidenced by the growing popularity of the Mojito. Rum gives a cocktail personality. Seventy-one million people turned or will turn the legal drinking age from 1997 and 2015. That expanding population will only bolster rum’s overall franchise.”

Jeffery Zarnow, ceo of Starr African Rum, agreed that the cocktail culture has propelled rum to the forefront, adding that the Mojito has become the third most ordered drink in New York City.

Stuart Kirby of Captain Morgan and Diageo added that rum’s broad market appeal explains the category’s dynamic growth. “The primary market segments for rum are men and women between the ages of 21-29. Its rich flavors, mixability and affordability make the whole category attractive to consumers.”


According to E. Malcolm B. Gosling, the seventh generation of the family that first produced Gosling rums, “Historically, rum producers did not market the spirit to its full potential. But in this age of consolidation, the larger companies are now successfully managing rum, and through their marketing efforts, consumers and critics are recognizing the many attributes of rum. Frankly, it’s no longer seen only as the product that makes drinks with cute little umbrellas.” BigAppleLegalshot copy

Bacardi Big Apple is the latest flavor to debut from the best-selling rum in the U.S.

Gosling added that “a lot of entry-level consumers are being attracted to the category through the flavored rums. This actually translates into consumers who develop a long-term loyalty for the category, and as they grow older, they develop more interest in the aged rums.”

“Look for the superpremium segment of the rum category to grow rapidly now,” emphasized Lori Tiezen, senior vice president at Moët Hennessy, importer of the new superpremium 10 Cane Rum. “As more upper echelon rums become available, expect to see a significant exodus of consumers from the other spirit categories.”

Another propelling force in rum’s climb to stardom is the American consumer’s continuing education into the differences between spirits. Enthusiasts and aficionados are becoming more knowledgeable about rum, the nuances between the different appellations and quality factors such as methods of distillation, water source and aging styles.


Category leader Bacardi remains the brand most consumers think of when they choose rum. Bacardi’s sales in the U.S. grew 3.8% to nearly 8.5 million 9-liter cases in 2004, almost double that of second place Captain Morgan. The company also holds the fourth sales slot in the market with Castillo Rum, which last year hit 1.2 million cases sold. ParrotBay.Mango

Parrot Bay is part of the expanding Captain Morgan franchise.

Their world-famous range now includes Bacardi Carta Blanc, Superior Gold, Bacardi Select and Bacardi Añejo. Superpremium Añejo Bacardi 8 Reserva Superior is crafted from an 1862 recipe, a blend of continuous-distilled and pot-distilled rums and aged a minimum of 8 years in charred American white oak barrels.

Bacardi has maintained its strong presence in the flavored rum segment. The company’s flavor portfolio includes Bacardi O (orange), Limón (citrus infused), Bacardi Razz (raspberry), Bacardi Vanila (vanilla) Bacardi Cocó (coconut) and new Bacardi Big Apple Rum. The company also recently debuted the Island Breeze line of low-calorie rum-based spirits. Featuring only 48 calories per 1.5-oz. serving, the line comes in three flavors: Key Lime, Coconut and Wild Berry.

Diageo has firm control of the second and seventh sales slots with Captain Morgan and Myers’s, respectively. Captain Morgan grew a hefty 12.9% to more than 4.7 million 9-liter cases. This volume includes the Parrot Bay line extension, which increased almost 38% to just over 600,000 cases. Diageo recently extended the Captain Morgan range with the release of Captain Morgan Tattoo, a black spiced rum with a “sweet-to-heat” finish.

Not resting on its laurels, the Parrot Bay range, which already includes Parrot Bay Pineapple, Parrot Bay Coconut and Parrot Bay Mango, added a fourth with the launch of Parrot Bay Passion Fruit. “Its introduction will fill consumers’ growing demand for increased versatility in cocktail options,” said Hernando Ruiz-Jimenez, vice president and national brand group director.

Diageo’s Myers’s Original Jamaican Rum is comprised of a blend of nine different rums that are each aged up to four years in white oak barrels. The range also includes Myers’s Platinum Jamaican Rum, a clear, lighter version of the famed original. Island_Breeze_Family

Bacardi has also introduced Island Breeze, a line of rum-based, low-calorie spirits in three flavors.

Sitting alone in the third spot is Malibu Caribbean Rum, which after 20 years continues to be the best-selling coconut-flavored rum in the U.S. Its sales surged 25% in 2004 to 1.3 million cases. Following the successful introduction of Malibu Mango and Malibu Pineapple Caribbean Rums, the brand has expanded its franchise with this year’s rollout of Malibu Passion Fruit Rum.

Imported by Jim Beam, Ronrico Puerto Rican Rums is the fifth best-selling brand. Made at the Serrallès Distillery, the popular range includes a white and gold version, as well as three flavors, Vanilla, Citrus and Pineapple Coconut. “Ronrico appeals to a wide demographic because of its high quality, great taste, outstanding value and varied offerings,” said brand director Carl Larsen.

Cruzan Rum holds down the sixth spot with annual sales of 435,000 cases, an increase in 2004 of 14.5%. Among its all-star lineup of Virgin Island rum is Cruzan Black Strap, a blend of medium- to heavy-bodied aged rums that is barrel-aged after blending. The rum has so many layers of refined flavors that it drinks a bit like an alembic brandy. Cruzan Single Barrel Estate is a limited production, handcrafted spirit made from a blend of triple-distilled rums. The constituent rums are aged up to twelve years in oak bourbon barrels and recasked for secondary aging. Malibu Passion Fruit 750ml

Malibu Passion Fruit is the latest addition to the Malibu line of flavored rums.

Cruzan is another pioneer of the flavored rum segment. Made in St. Croix, the 55-proof rums are triple-distilled and aged in oak bourbon barrels between two and three years, after which, they’re filtered and natural flavorings are added. The distillery’s flavor portfolio has grown to eight with the 2004 additions of Cruzan Raspberry Rum and Cruzan Mango Rum. [New to Cruzan’s repertoire is a line of 30-proof fruit-based liqueurs called Shakka, a Hawaiian word meaning “How’s it going?” Created with bartenders in mind, the highly mixable liqueurs come in three flavors — grape, kiwi and apple — and carry a suggested retail price of $19.95.]

Another brand that also has risen in popularity along with its flavors is Whaler’s, from Heaven Hill Distilleries. Sales of these classic Hawaiian spirits continue to grow along with the category. Whaler’s Original Vanille is a dark, aromatic rum infused with natural vanilla flavors. The Whaler’s line also includes Killer Coconut, Pineapple Paradise and Big Island Banana.

Sales of Mount Gay continued climbing in 2004, increasing by 3.8% to 190,000 cases. Imported by the newly named Remy Cointreau USA, Mount Gay is the oldest and most recognized brand of the Barbadian rums. The prestigious line includes best-selling Mount Gay Eclipse, Special Reserve and Mount Gay Extra Old, a blend of the oldest, most prized rums in the Mount Gay reserves. Whalers.casecard

Whaler’s Original Rum has also used flavored line extensions to help grow sales.

“I believe consumers care increasingly more about the rum in their glass,” said Nicolas Guillant, national brand manager for Mount Gay. “There is still a lot of education to be done, but we are moving towards creating a far better understanding of rum. Contrary to vodkas, rums are unique and one can perceive the differences easily. We believe consumers can taste the quality that goes in every one of our bottles.”

In 2004, the distillery launched its first flavors with Mount Gay Vanilla and Mount Gay Mango. Both of the 70-proof blend of Mount Gay Eclipse rum and natural flavors — Madagascar vanilla and Mexican mangos.

Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum had a banner year in 2004, increasing sales 18% up to 144,000 cases. Imported by Brown-Forman, the distillery’s flagship is the altogether luxurious Appleton Estate 21-Year Old, a blend of pot-distilled and continuous-distilled Jamaican rum aged in American white oak barrels for a minimum of 21 years.

“I believe that the majority of consumers are in the initial discovery phase when it comes to añejo rums,” said Chuck Shive, brand manager for Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum. “They’re discovering that ‘sipping’ rums are equal in quality with other premium spirits and that aged rums make fabulous cocktails and drinks.” Raspberry 750

One of the leaders in flavored rums, Cruzan’s latest version is this Raspberry Rum.

The Appleton Estate range includes popular Appleton Estate V/X, Appleton Estate Extra, and new to the U.S., Appleton White Jamaica Rum, an aged rum slowly filtered to remove all trace of color.

For its part, Gosling’s will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year. Its flagship brand, Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, a dark rum aged and blended in Bermuda according to the secret family recipe, actually dates to 1860, and it has become the basic ingredient for famous Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail, made with ginger beer.

This year, the company introduced its first new product in more than a century, Gosling’s Gold. The 80-proof product ($17.99 suggested retail) combines rums from both pot stills and continuous stills, with a smooth and rich taste. It can be served neat or mixed in fruit-based cocktails.

Available across the U.S., Gosling’s has launched a significant marketing campaign to educate American consumers about the brand. A new company has been formed, based in New England, to spearhead the marketing effort in the U.S. Called Gosling-Castle Brands, its president and ceo is E. Malcolm B. Gosling, whose family has run the company for seven generations.


Rum is a global phenomenon. While most spirits are associated with a small handful of originating countries, rum is handcrafted across a wide range of latitudes. The following is a selection of new and noteworthy rums not mentioned above.

Both Mount Gay Vanilla
and Mount Gay Mango
debuted last year and
have seen success in
the market.


* 10 Cane Rum (Imported by Moet Hennessy USA). From Trinidad, this superpremium rum distilled from the first pressing of the cane grown in rich, volcanic soil. The brand exudes elegance. It’s crafted in copper alembic stills and aged in small French oak barrels for six months. The introduction of 10 Cane Rum is glad tidings for the growing legions of people who appreciate ultra-fine silver rums.

* Angostura (Imported by Angostura USA). A line of premium Trinidadian rums made from blends of molasses-based, continuous-distilled rums and aged in charred, American oak barrels. Its top marks are 8-year-old Angostura 1919 and Angostura 1824 Limited Reserve, which is aged for 12 years and then recasked.

* B.R.N.I.R. (Castle Brands of New York). Short for British Royal Navy Imperial Rum, it is likely the rarest, most exclusive rum available in the U.S. From 1655 to 1970, this was the rum doled out to sailors in Her Majesty’s Navy. Since 1970, this blend of pure pot still rums from Jamaica and Guyana has rested in vast underground warehouses in England. It is imported in wicker-encased demijohns.

* Brugal Añejo (Shaw-Ross). While the entire line is finding success in the U.S., it’s the three-year-old Brugal Añejo that’s garnering critical acclaim. Made in the Dominican Republic, the rum has a long lasting finish and a modest price tag.

* Charbay Rum (Domaine Charbay). Created at family-owned Domaine Charbay in St. Helena, CA, this superpremium rum is triple-distilled in an alembic Charentais pot still from a proprietary blend of Hawaiian and Caribbean sugar cane syrup. The producer also markets Charbay Tahitian Vanilla Rum, which is infused with Tahitian vanilla beans. Both are priced at $38 per 750 ml.

* Doorley’s X. O. (Spirits of Hartford). A superpremium Barbadian rum produced by R. L. Seale & Company made from a blend of molasses-based, barrel-aged spirits and finished with a second maturation in sherry oak casks.

* English Harbour Extra Old Rum (Antigua Distillery Ltd.). An elegant spirit from Antigua comprised of a blend of bourbon-barrel aged rums up to 21 years old.

* Flor de Caña Centenario (Shaw-Ross). Made in Nicaragua from a blend of molasses-based, continuous-distilled rums, Centenario is a sublime spirit aged in small oak barrels for no less than 21 years.

Leading Brands of Rum

(Thousands of 9-Liter Cases)

Brand Supplier 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 % Chg
Bacardi Bacardi USA 7,400 7,660 7,800 8,140 8,450 3.8%
Captain Morgan Diageo 3,260 3,575 3,933 4,215 4,759 12.9%
Malibu Allied Domecq
Spirits USA
850 930 940 1,040 1,300 25.0%
Castillo Bacardi USA 1,100 1,150 1,167 1,195 1,200 0.4%
Ronrico Jim Beam Brands 497 534 560 560 535 -4.5%
Cruzan Rum Cruzan
International, Inc.
229 304 340 380 435 14.5%
Myers’s Diageo 315 305 303 295 300 1.7%
Barton Rum Barton Brands 140 150 157 173 195 12.7%
Mount Gay Remy Amerique 162 168 178 183 190 3.8%
Monarch Rum Hood River
160 165 168 175 178 1.7%
Total Leading Brands 14,113 14,941 15,546 16,356 17,542 7.3%
Others 2,879 2,929 3,016 3,153 3,258 3.3%
Total Rum 16,992 17,870 18,562 19,509 20,800 6.6%

* Gosling’s Family Reserve Rum (Castle Brands of New York). Crafted at Bermuda’s oldest surviving business, Gosling’s Family Reserve Rum is made from the same blend of rums as the famed Black Seal, but aged considerably longer in oak. The result is a rich and complex 80 proof rum ($70 suggested retail).

* Grand Havana (Grand Havana Rum Corp. of Miami). Now made on Grenada, Grand Havana Rum is a Cuban-styled spirit double-distilled in copper pot stills and matured in sherry casks for up to seven years.

Gosling’s Black Seal Rum is being presented in this co-pack with Bermuda Ginger beer, which makes the renowned Dark ‘n Stormy drink.

* Inner Circle Rums (Spirits of Hartford) — These classic rums date to 1873 and are pot-distilled from sugar cane grown in Fiji and Australia. The range includes an 80 proof, 90 proof, 115 proof and a 151 overproof.

* Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva (Skyy Spirits). Gran Reserva is solera aged approximately 15 years and comprised of rums between 8- and 32-years old. These barrel-aged rums are produced by several West Indies distilleries.

* Montecristo (Side Bar Spirits). The brand is made in Guatemala from a premium blend of continuous-distilled and pot-distilled rums. The constituent elements are further aged in American ex-bourbon barrels between 12- and 23-years.

* Oronoco (Diageo). This handcrafted superpremium from Brazil’s rainforest is triple-distilled from fresh cane juice and blended with well-aged Venezuelan rums.

* Pampero Anniversario (Diageo). This highly acclaimed, special reserve rum comes from Venezuela and is a super-premium blend of pot still and continuous still rums aged in oak barrels a minimum of eight years. It has an entrancing color that is a sight to behold.

* Prichard’s Fine Rum (Prichard’s). Made in Kelso, TN, Prichard’s is the closest representation of a traditional American rum that exists. It’s made from sugar cane molasses from Louisiana, spring water and five times distilled in copper pot stills. To ensure smoothness it’s aged in small American white oak barrels. The distillery’s range also includes Prichard’s Crystal Rum (80 proof), Prichard’s Cranberry Rum (70 proof) and Sweet Georgia Belle, a savory peach and mango rum-based liqueur (70 proof). 10cane_rum

Made in Trinidad, the superpremium 10 Cane Rum was recently introduced by Moet Hennessy USA.

* Pyrat XO Reserve (Patrón Spirits). Made on the island of Anguilla, Pyrat XO Reserve is a blend of pot still rums matured in French oak according to the Solera aging system. The rums in the blend have a range in age from 8-40 years.

* Rhum Barbancourt Estate du Domaine (Crillion Importers). — This sophisticated rhum agricole is double-distilled in Haiti from fresh cane juice and aged a minimum of 15 years in French oak barrels. The extended aging has a profound affect on the rhum.

* Rhum Clément (Clément USA). Made since 1887 and once again available in the U.S., estate-bottled Rhum Clément is one of the preeminent rhum agricoles, a traditional style of rum in which fresh cane juice is distilled, rather than molasses. The range includes Clément Première Canne, an ultra-premium silver rhum; Clément Créole Shrubb, an 80-proof liqueur made from silver and aged rhums and orange peels; and Clément V.S.O.P. Rhum, an exemplary barrel-aged rhum.

* Sea Wynde British Royal Navy Rum (Castle Brands). Sea Wynde is an ultra-premium rum made from a blend of pot still rums from Jamaica and Guyana. The rums were aged in oak casks from five to eleven years old.

* Starr African Rum (Starr African Rum LLC of Beverly Hills). Distilled from sugar cane grown on the African island of Mauritius, the column-distilled rum is light-bodied, aromatic and brilliantly flavored. It’s marketed in an attention-grabbing red pyramid-shaped bottle.

* Zaya Gran Reserva (Wilson Daniels). A masterful superpremium made in Guatemala by La Nacional. The gran reserva rum is double-distilled in copper pot stills and aged in oak barrels for 12 years. *

ROBERT PLOTKIN is a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and author of numerous books including Caribe Rum ­ The Original Guide to Caribbean Rum and Drinks. He can be reached at BarMedia, 1-800-421-7179, or e-mail him at


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