Rum Trends in 2024 - The Rise of Premium Aged Spirits

Is there a better deal in premium spirits right now than rum? While bourbon and tequila have seen significant price increases due to their soaring popularity, rum remains an affordable luxury. This is excellent news for consumers seeking premium products without the hefty price tag.

The Premiumization Trend

Today's consumers are more interested in premium aged spirits than ever before. This shift began with wine, craft beer, and American whiskey, and has now extended to almost all alcohol categories. "Today, we’re talking about a premium aged spirits consumer," says John Meisler, vice president of sales for Serralles USA, which includes Don Q. "Consumers don’t just drink one thing anymore, they drink everything." This broadening of tastes has led to increased experimentation across different spirits categories.

The Rise of Premium Rum

Rum producers have taken note of this trend. "The rum category is continuing to trend towards premiumization, where consumers are increasingly valuing craft and aged rums over traditional options," says Antoine Couvreur, managing director of Mount Gay Distilleries. He adds that rum is no longer just seen as a base for frozen vacation drinks but is now appreciated for its depth and complexity. Sipping rum has grown significantly, now accounting for 18% of rum consumption.

Innovation in Aging and Finishing

This consumer shift towards premium spirits has spurred innovation in rum, particularly in barrel aging. Traditionally dominated by white, gold, and flavored variants, the rum market now sees more aged products. "Distilleries are increasingly exploring different barrel types and finishes," says Ricardo March, founder of Bacan Guaro. While bourbon barrels were once the norm, there's now a significant move towards using French barriques that previously held wines like Sauternes or port, resulting in remarkable flavor profiles.

Don Q has been a pioneer in this space, introducing super-premium aged rums as early as 1995 and continuing to innovate with double casks and single barrel releases. For whiskey drinkers who love single barrel bourbons, these aspects translate naturally into rum.

Consumer Interest in Quality and Transparency

Consumers today, especially younger generations, are highly informed and care deeply about the quality and transparency of what they consume. This trend extends to rum, where quality ingredients and skilled production methods are increasingly appreciated. Scott Shaw, chief commercial officer at Copalli Rum, emphasizes the importance of using fresh-pressed sugar cane juice and avoiding additives like sugar, which many rums use to sweeten their products artificially.

Marc Farrell, founder of Ten To One Rum, agrees: "Leaning into super-clean liquid and transparency has been a tenet for us from day one. Ten To One has no additives, which is a point of tension in the industry because consumers have come to expect the opposite." As the demand for transparency grows, rum producers will need to follow suit.

Sustainability Matters

Alongside quality and transparency, sustainability is becoming a key concern for consumers. Brands like Mount Gay are leading the way with sustainable packaging and a focus on provenance. "We have developed the most sustainable packaging in the high-end rum offering," says Couvreur. This includes using recycled glass and minimalistic packaging with essential information accessible via QR codes.

Craft Cocktails and Home Mixology

The Covid-19 lockdowns led to more people becoming proficient at making cocktails at home, which has benefited rum significantly. "Rum has a high rating in the off-premise," says Marc Farrell. As consumers continue to explore the versatility of rum, they discover the wide range of cocktails it can create, from classic Daiquiris to innovative new concoctions.

The Future of Rum

What does the future hold for rum? As bourbon and tequila prices continue to rise, rum remains a high-quality, value-for-money alternative. Mark McLaughlin of Old Line Spirits notes that rum could follow a similar trajectory to whiskey a decade ago, when premium bottles were still affordable. "Ten years from now, people may be looking back and kicking themselves for not getting these rums when they were so affordable."

With the ongoing trend towards premiumization, innovation in aging and finishing, a focus on quality and transparency, and a growing appreciation for its versatility in cocktails, rum is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the coming years. Whether you're a seasoned rum enthusiast or new to the category, there's never been a better time to explore the rich, complex world of premium aged rums.