Australians love to explore the world, but our closed borders mean we are choosing to travel through taste instead. Consumers are eager to discover new flavours from exotic locales and experts believe it could be a turning point for premium rum.
While it’s been tipped to be “the next big thing” for many years, rum has been overshadowed by the meteoric rise of craft whisky and gin. But Jordan Ashleigh, Trade Marketing Manager at Proof & Company – the Australian distributor of Diplomatico Rum – says the spirit is finally shedding its “rum & coke” reputation, as consumers become more educated about provenance.
Rum is produced in Caribbean and South American locations such as Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and Barbados, but also in other sugar-producing countries, such as the Philippines and Australia. Diplomatico hails from from Venezuela and arrived on Australian shores in 2010. Its Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is famed for its sweet, toffee fudge flavours and smooth finish.
“Rum has held this perception for so long its quality leaves something to be desired, with negative connotations of it being a ‘pirate’s drink’,” she said. “Though, in the most recent years, we’ve seen the escalation of quality with emerging brands drawing attention towards the terroir of the rums and their unique processes that occur in every country.
“Unlike Scotch whisky or bourbon, rum in most countries is not governed by strict rules or regulations, allowing for diversity of flavour from each rum you drink.”
According to Ashleigh, rum is probably the last major spirit category to premiumise in the eyes of consumers, but the growing reputation of brands such as Diplomatico mean it is catching up fast. Over the last three years, the demand has been growing for craft and premium rums, with the category increasing by 16% since last year.
“Rum is piquing the interest of dark spirit drinkers, like whisky or whiskey, and the oldest of rums with complex flavour profiles are making their way from palates of these imbibers, to their shelves and making them curious for more,” she said.
“The rum revolution has been long awaited, and as consumers pay more attention to what is going in their glasses, rum is finally seeing a resurgence.”
Focus on innovation
In 2018, Diplomatico was awarded Wine Enthusiast‘s prestigious “Spirit Brand of the Year,” the first rum to win in this category.
The Diplomatico distillery is located at the foot of the Andes Mountains and is a family-owned operation that has been producing spirits since 1959. It combines traditional methods with modern technology to produce its premium rums. The production area boasts great conditions for sugar cane and rum production, including fertile lands, abundant water and a Caribbean climate.
Diplomatico has also chosen to take a sustainable approach to creating its spirits.
“We run our business with a strong set of family values, which means everything we make and create is influenced by our duty of responsibility and care,” explained David Palacios, Global Communications & PR Manager at Diplomático. “Since the beginning of our Diplomático journey in 2002, we have acquired an integral environmental commitment, with a 100% sustainable process that contributes to agricultural development and guarantees the harmony of our activities with the environment and our people. This is part of our core values.”
Diplomatico describes itself as being “super premium”. According to Palacios, that’s because the distiller has always been focused on outstanding quality, innovation, and consumer education.
“We believe consumers will continue to enjoy discovering rum’s quality and diversity and more players will participate in this market,” he said. “From our side, we have been building additional credentials for the category, which is key to strengthening its presence on shelves and in the hearts and minds of consumers worldwide.
“Super-premium rum, Diplomático’s main market segment, has grown consistently over the last five years. The rise and development of the cocktail culture have had a very positive impact on premium rum’s growth internationally in recent years. So, the perception of industry professionals and consumers about rum is evolving, particularly in Western Europe, where the rum premiumisation trend is most mature.”
The US is also rapidly becoming a huge market for premium rum. Dawn Davies MW, Head Buyer at The Whisky Exchange, told Forbes last year: “Whisky has the largest percentage of our sales, but rum is now sitting in second place with significant growth over the last two years – 57% category growth year over year.
“In our premium rum category, we have seen over 123% increase in value year on year.”
So how do you drink premium rum?
According to Sai Hamsala, Brand Ambassador APAC for Diplomático Rum, premium rum is best enjoyed neat or over ice, perhaps paired with a piece of dark chocolate. Chocolate intensifies the bitterness and sweetness of both and creates an explosion of flavours in your mouth.
Dried fruits, such as raisins or figs, also work well … after all, there’s a reason rum and raisin ice-cream is so popular!
“However due to its complex flavour profile the rum is very versatile and can be used in making some of the classy and elegant cocktails,” Hamsala added. “There are no boundaries when it comes to how you can enjoy Diplomatico, it’s up to your taste preference.”
He suggests trying rum instead of whisky, vodka or gin in a DRE Highball made with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, topped up with soda water and garnished with a slice of orange; a DRE Old fashioned with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, simple syrup, aromatic bitters and an orange twist; a DRE Negroni with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Campari and sweet vermouth and an orange twist or a DRE Manhattan with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, sweet vermouth, aromatic bitters and a slice of orange.
Order a Diplomatico cocktail during Australian Cocktail Month
Diplomatico is a proud supporter of Australian Cocktail Month. Held across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, Australian Cocktail Month gives consumers the opportunity unlock unique bar experiences and enjoy delicious special cocktail menus with their $20 ticket.
Among the Diplomatico creations on offer for $14 to ticketholders are the ‘Heads Up!’ at Black Pearl in Melbourne, created by Ben Hardy; ‘What Friends Are For’ (above) at Burrow Bar in Sydney, created by Bryce McDonough; ‘Universal Sour’ at The Gresham in Brisbane, created by Savannah Piper; and ‘The Pablo’ at La Moka in Adelaide, created by Connor Hoy.
“It’s been great to see the creativity that the bartenders have displayed when working with Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva,” said Australian Cocktail Month founder Penny Sippe. “All the cocktails are spectacular, and customers are loving them.”
A ticket to Australian Cocktail Month can be used at any participating venue throughout May. Click here to purchase and view the full list of participating venues.
Diplomatico is available from $104.99 in Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and First Choice Liquor Market across Australia and all good independent liquor retailers.