In recent years, there has been no doubt that gin has been the most fashionable spirit for mixed drinks. Sales of gin have almost tripled in the last ten years as more independent gin makers flooded the market and cocktail culture flourished. However, sales of rum are also picking up, which raises the interesting question of whether it will take gin’s crown.
Gin’s image has been transformed from a rather old fashioned tipple to a cool and sophisticated choice of drink over the past decade. Compared to most other alcoholic drinks, it’s relatively low in calories and this may have contributed to its popularity amongst the weight conscious.
Gin is also very versatile in terms of its flavour, which can be subtle or quite distinctive, depending on the way in which it is distilled and how it has been infused. This makes it an ideal base for cocktails, because it goes well with such a wide range of ingredients.
It seemed that nothing could stop the rise of gin as the nation’s spirit of choice. However, last year, rum sales topped £1bn in the UK to represent 13% of all spirit sales, a rise of 51% compared to 2019. This puts rum sales ahead of whiskey for the first time, although it has yet to catch up with gin.
Food and drink retailers have commented that the surge in rum sales is due to new brands coming to the market, as well as new flavours that are being marketed to younger consumers. Research by food and drink industry analyst CGA found that 48% of all rum drinkers are aged between 18 to 34.
All varieties of rum showed strong growth, including white, dark, golden, and spiced rums. The drink has long been popular amongst wealthier collectors, but it is now becoming accessible to a much wider audience, and is becoming a favourite cocktail ingredient.
How is rum produced?
Rum is made from distilled sugarcane molasses and aged in wooden casks or stainless steel tanks. Rum that is aged in oak barrels will become dark rum, whereas rum that is aged in stainless steel caskets will become ‘white’ rum, that is usually colourless. The quality of the rum also depends on the variety of sugarcane that is used.
Owing to the necessity of a tropical climate to grow sugarcane, rum has traditionally been produced in the Caribbean Islands. The much warmer climate means that the spirit matures faster, although a greater volume is lost through evaporation.
White rums tend to have a milder flavour than darker varieties, so they are most often used as a cocktail ingredient. Gold rums are aged for longer to achieve a light gold or amber colour, and can have subtle overtones of vanilla or caramel.
Dark and black rums are aged for the longest period of time and have the strongest flavour, which is sometimes supplemented by wood charring or by adding spices.
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