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Whisky Exchange reveals rum classification system

Spirits retailer The Whisky Exchange and wholesale business Speciality Drinks have designed a new classification system for rum to help consumers better understand the category.

Dawn Davies MW has created a classification system to help consumers understand rum better

Inspired by classification systems previously outlined by rum professionals Luca Gargano and Richard Seale, the new system from The Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks was led by Dawn Davies MW, head of buying at the companies, who unveiled the classification at the inaugural Raising the Back Bar trade show in London yesterday (13 May).

With more than 500 rums listed on The Whisky Exchange website and within the Speciality Drinks stable, the new categories focus on flavour profiles and production methods, rather than the traditional colours of white, gold and dark.

Consumers can now shop by the classification system on The Whisky Exchange, but it is hoped this initiative of categorising rums by flavour and production methods will eventually be adopted by the wider industry.

Davies said: “This is very much a conversation opener; we would love to know what people think. We have to start the conversation somewhere and allow consumers to have more transparency around rum.

“We know the consumer, and the trade to some extent, is crying out for more education on the different styles of rum.

“The flavours you find in rums are very different according to their production method and so when that information is combined with flavour profiles we can help people start to build a picture of the category.”

The classification is split into six categories as follows:

Single distillery rum

  • Single traditional column: rum distilled at one distillery in traditional column stills.
  • Single traditional pot still: rum distilled at one distillery in traditional pot stills.
  • Single traditional blended: a blend of traditional pot still and traditional column still rums from the same distillery.
  • Single modernist: rum made at a single distillery using modern multi-column stills.

Multi-distillery rum

  • Blended traditionalist: a blend of rums from multiple distilleries that only includes traditional column and/or pot still rums.
  • Blended modernist: a blend of rums from multiple distilleries that includes single modernist rums.

The categories will also cover six ‘flavour camps’: light and uncomplicated; herbaceous and grassy; tropical and fruity; fruity and spicy; dry and spicy; and rich and treacly.

Davies continued: “We were thinking how to label modern multi-column still rums. Then Liz [Lock, PR Manager, Speciality Drinks] said what about the word ‘modernist’, and it just worked. It talks about this era, but it doesn’t just mean now and so it doesn’t sound negative. With ‘modernist’, you’re talking about an era using positive words.

‘This classification has got to be about inclusivity and positivity; we have got to be positive to get everyone on board.

“Dark and gold tells you nothing about flavour. We have kept them in the classification because that’s what consumers know and look for. So we still use those terms because consumers are still going to shop by those terms. But in terms of flavour, it doesn’t mean anything.

“We need to help consumers understand rum and flavour better.”

Long-term goals

Sukhinder Singh, co-founder of The Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, said he hoped the classification would help deter the number of over-sugared rums on the market.

He said: “The EU is looking at classification of how much sugar is allowed in rum. Whatever that turns out to be is good. In another five years, maybe they’ll visit it again and reduce it even more.

“The classification we’ve outlined is about the long term; it’s about laying the foundations so that in three, four, five years time, consumers will have a much better understanding of rum. It’s a slow burner, but we have to start somewhere.

“But not only that, the industry will be able to talk about rum in a more unified way.”

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