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SB meets… Filippo Maria Olivi di Briana, El Supremo Rum

The founder of the Paraguayan brand, El Supremo Rum, shares why the rum category is on the up, before unveiling a number of releases planned for the near future.

El Supremo Rum
Founder Filippo Maria Olivi di Briana believes rum is poised to become the next big thing in spirits

What was the inspiration for the El Supremo Rum brand?

Don José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia y Velasco was a Paraguayan lawyer and politician born in 1766. A visionary who was ahead of his time, whose strong personality contributed decisively as he led Paraguay to independence from the Spanish in 1811, he would become the first president of Paraguay. He was affectionately known by Paraguayans as El Supremo.

We dedicate our unique rum to this distinct man whose independent spirit and vision not only lives on in the hearts of Paraguayans but also in Asunción’s National Pantheon of Heroes.

Rum is regularly described as ‘the next big thing’. What do you think about this?

Indeed, rum is poised to become ‘the next big thing’. We have already seen sales of rum exceed £1 billion (US$1.2bn) in the UK to overtake whisky. It has also overtaken gin sales in Europe and vodka sales in Australia. However, the premium rum category is to be even bigger.

The projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of premium rum is at 25%, higher than any other spirit category. Fuelled by this confidence, Brown‑Forman bought Diplomatico, and Diageo snapped up Don Papa this year. Industry analysts expect as much as 15% CAGR in the super­ and ultra-­premium rum categories. Within sipping rums, we are seeing a big lean towards innovative cask finishes, as well as the premiumisation trend taking off in bars and restaurants.

As with other categories, premiumisation in rum means more creative barrel finishes, giving a wider range of flavours to explore. The age of the rum­naissance is upon us.

Describe your core portfolio.

We have two SKUs. El Supremo 8 Years Old is an exceptional medium-bodied rum. It is full flavoured, a sumptuous smooth sipping rum which can also [be used in] cocktails.

El Supremo 12 Years Old stands alone for aromatic richness and extreme smoothness. It can be enjoyed neat or chilled. Authentic, uncompromising, a vintage rum at the top of its category.

Which markets are your rums currently available in?

Germany, Belgium, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. It will soon be available in the UK, Denmark, Bulgaria, Turkey, Congo, Thailand and Cambodia.

How have you seen interest in agricole rums change recently?

The agricole rum market has experienced consistent expansion in recent years, propelled by a rising consumer appetite for premium and artisanal spirits. Why? Its distinctive production method, combined with its opulent flavours and tropical heritage, positions it as a coveted spirit for both seasoned rum connoisseurs and those new to this category. Agricole rum is something like the Cognacs of brandies or single malts among whiskies.

El Supremo Rum
The brand’s 12-year-old rum ‘stands alone for aromatic richness and extreme smoothness’.

What casks do you use?

What makes El Supremo truly ‘rum­arkable’ is the wood. The heart of El Supremo’s distinction lies within the two woods. First, our rum is aged in barrels crafted from indigenous Incienso Marrón wood, a treasure exclusive to Paraguay. It is this exceptional wood that bestows upon our rum its unique flavour and captivating hue.

Our dedication to perfection extends to the double ageing process, where our rum matures in French oak casks until it reaches the pinnacle of readiness. This journey is never rushed; it unfolds in a sanctuary, shielded from the outside world as we know it in faraway Paraguay.

What innovations are you working on?

We are exploring special cask finishes in ex-Armagnac barrels. We believe it will enhance the rich, fruity and spicy flavours of El Supremo even further, contributing to a more complex taste profile. Besides special casks finishes, we will be launching three new SKUs by summer 2024. Starting with a new five­-year-­old, you can expect bartenders and mixologists to start serving before the end of 2023.

Shortly after, connoisseurs and enthusiasts will be able to experience the new El Supremo 18­ year­-old rum. This luxurious aged rum will be available in spring 2024. Exclusive to travel retail in summer 2024, we will be launching our oldest rum yet – the El Supremo 25­-year-­old rum.

This interview can be found in the October 2023 issue of The Spirits Business magazine, out now.

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