Close Menu

Rum sector must stop marketing ‘substandard’ products as ‘super-premium’

The rum category needs greater efforts to distinguish between “traditional producers” and those creating “substandard products” in order to better reflect the quality of premium rum, a leading distiller has urged.

Rum WSR 2020
The rum category must stop pushing “sub-standard” products as “super-premium”, a leading producer has said

When asked about what rum can do in order to keep premiumising, Richard Seale, proprietor of the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, said rum has been slower to premiumise because a large portion of the marketing behind super-premium rum is focused on “substandard” products.

“Premium rum has existed for as long as any category,” Seale told The Spirits Business earlier this month. “Rum’s share of the super-premium is very poor and does not reflect the quality of the spirit. That is what needs to change. We do not need to start making premium rum; we have been doing it for more than 100 years.”

He attributed rum’s ‘slow’ premiumisation to the fact the category “only has to meet basic and very weak standards in the US and the EU, rather [than] home-grown standards”.

“Imagine if you could adulterate Scotch in the EU or in the US (as you can do in rum), the market would be flooded with substandard products masquerading as premium, and it too would be ‘slow’ to grow the premium business because the category would not simply get the credibility to grow,” Seale added.

“To get a greater share of premium, and in that a share more reflecting the quality of premium rum, we need more efforts to distinguish the traditional products from those who make sub-standard products and to reliably protect those standards in export markets.”

Foursquare Distillery is one of four rum distilleries in Barbados. The other three distilleries are Mount Gay, Saint Nicholas Abbey and the West Indies Rum Distillery (WIRD).

The distillers are currently in the process of trying to agree a geographical indication (GI) for Barbados rum.

However, while Foursquare, Mount Gay and Saint Nicholas Abbey have agreed on the terms and conditions for a GI, WIRD has reservations and has not given its backing as of yet.

The three distilleries in agreement argue that the proposed regulations would place “no restrictions” on production methods.

However, the WIRD has expressed it would like to see greater flexibility within the GI rules.

The Barbados government said it would not approve the legislation until all four distilleries agree on its terms.

For an in-depth look at the issue, plus a wider exploration of the rum category, see the March 2020 issue of The Spirits Business magazine, out soon.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No