Rum has always been tropical, but in 2021, it’s topical.
Over the last few years, we have witnessed an effort from foreign players to premiumise rum. It resembles the beginning of the gin revolution – ten years ago, when big players like Monkey 47, Bombay Sapphire, and Tanqueray introduced India to woodsy juniper berries. They brought their world-renowned bottles to our shelves, educated the consumers on the spirit, and paved the way for a homegrown, craft-gin revolution. Now, rum brands like Havana and Bacardi promise to reinvent the Indian perception of rum.
To better understand the rising popularity of rum, The Cocktail Story sought opinions from three bastions of the Indian bartending industry: Vikram Achanta, Pankaj Balachandran, and Yangdup Lama. Here is what they have to say:
Is the Indian market ready for a Rum Revolution?
Vikram Achanta: The Indian consumer is looking for genuine, Indian craft spirits. After the waves of whiskey and gin, rum is the clear follow-up. It has deep roots in India and its diversity in flavor makes it a bartender favorite for cocktails. The bartending community is eagerly looking forward to the expansion of rum as it will bring variety to a dormant market.
Pankaj Balachandran: This is not the first attempt at reviving rum in India. Way back in 2010, bars were adorned with over 10 labels of good-quality rums, including Ron Zacapa, Havana, Pyrat, Mount Gay, and more. So, what we are witnessing is another try at expanding the rum market and exploring the spirit’s culture. Hopefully, it pays off.
Yangdup Lama: It may be too early to talk about a Rum Revolution. Rum is a tricky spirit, unlike gin, and it’s popular in countries where it has age-old ties. The category is new to India, so it will require a foundation to be laid before we can build on it.
What does the Indian consumer need to know when looking for a good rum?
Vikram Achanta: The Indian consumer has gotten used to dark rum, due to the ubiquity of brands like Old Monk and McDowell’s No. 1. As new styles of rum like gold and spiced rum enter the market, consumers need education on what goes into these rums and how they need to be appreciated.
Pankaja Balachandran: As diverse rum brands become available on the market, Indian consumers need to open their mind to unorthodox rum cocktails. Move over mojitos and daiquiris, it’s time for Bermuda Yacht Clubs and Palmettos.
Yangdup Lama: We need to realize that rum is all about taste, character, and story. It is a diverse spirit made all over the world, so the Indian consumer needs to learn about the craftsmanship of the distillers and the different types of rum, hopefully through tastings and sampling.
What are you looking forward to most, when it comes to rum, this year?
Vikram Achanta: I’m excited for 3-4 premium Indian rums, of different styles, to enter the market, kickstart growth, and shatter myths along the way.
Pankaj Balachandran: With bigger players like Bacardi launching Ocho, Cuatro, and Diez, and Havana launching its 7 year old in India, paired with iconic brands like Kraken, Diplomatico, Lover’s, and homegrown brands shaping up, I’m looking forward to the momentum building up for rum. 2021 will be the beginning of the long-overdue, Indian rum revolution.
Yangdup Lama: When it comes to bigger brands with bigger budgets, I’m looking forward to investment that will build a base for the spirit and promote the category. From homegrown brands, I expect passion and a long-term goal. More than profits and ROI, the upcoming homegrown brands need to focus on educating the Indian customer on the beauty of rum.
Rum was born in the heat of the tropics, on land where sugarcane grows in abundance – it only makes sense for India to make it our own. The Rum Revolution is approaching, and 2021 seems to be the beginning. As international brands spearhead the movement, homegrown brands like Makazai from Goa promise to follow suit. But part of the responsibility rests on us – the consumers.
We must learn how to appreciate rum. Free ourselves of cola highballs and tiki cocktails, and take note of rum as a complex, sipping spirit. Every rum comes with a story: Where was it distilled? How was it aged? Where was the sugarcane sourced from? It’s time to familiarize ourselves with these questions, and more importantly, understand their answers. India was born to rum, it’s time we join the race.