Rum Running

Rum Running

Jack Robertiello

VODKA AND TEQUILA MAY GET MORE ATTENTION, BUT RUM’S FLAVOR AND MIXABILITY HAVE CONTINUED TO PUSH SALES GROWTH.

Is rum the next vodka?

Good question. In some ways, the answer is clearly “yes.” Rum as a spirit category was arguably the biggest winner in 2000, with the largest increase in terms of percentage growth (up 8.2%) and case volume (up 1.28 million cases). The growth was evenly spread out, as all the leading rum brands showed healthy gains.

Just as the flavored vodka business helps fuel that category’s growth, flavored rums like Bacardi Limon are partly responsible for rum’s acceleration. Even operations that don’t rely on rum-fueled blender drinks, a big category driver, are looking to the new flavors when adding cocktails.

Cindy Renzi, corporate beverage director of new York’s B.R. Guest (operator of Atlantic Grill, Ocean Grill Ruby Foo’s, Park Avalon and others likes the flavor profile of some flavored rums. Flavored rums offer the same qualities as flavored vodkas for cocktails, but sometimes vodkas have a more chemical flavor.” While some flavored vodkas retain a chemical tang rather than that of real fruit, she says, Bacardi Limon is one of the flavored rums that offer a real fruit taste.

Renzi already lists such cocktails as the Jade Lotus (Limon, Midori and pineapple juice) at the two Ruby Foo’s, is about to add a Limon-based Apple Martini at Park Avalon, and will also be launching at Park Avalon the Mango Martino, made with Limon, mango and a ginseng, ginger and guarana-laced energy drink.

Other operations, like the recent Cheers Award for Beverage Excellence winner a Kahunaville, depend on rum to deliver a party atmosphere for them. While Kahunaville serves a variety of tropical-style drinks, a majority listed on their menus is rum based: Of those, blender drinks mare up nearly 75% of sales, primarily from Pina Coladas and Daiquiris and their fruit-flavored variations.

“The eye appeal of the blender drinks realty works and we push them. They provide great consistency and flavor” says Kahunaville operations analyst Mark Broadhurst. To Make all those blender drinks consistently, Kahunaville bartenders add measured fruit mixes to already blended Pina Coladas and Daiquiris.

Currently Kahunaville is running promotional efforts tied to rum for the summer. It’s current “Live, Laugh, Love, Luau!” greets guests with leis and Mai Tais on arrival, with limbo contests leading the activities. And in the near future, according to Broadhurst, Kahunaville will introduce seasonal rum-based cocktails to the menu for the summer.

Kahunaville is planning three new locations in Las Vegas, Tampa and Orlando, and for those locations, Broadhurst said, plans are set to add perhaps four to six ultra-premium, aged sipping rums to the mix so that staff can up-sell when suitable Broadhurst said the company is also looking at putting on some more flavored rums as well.

BACARDI AND BEYOND

The leader of the rum pack, Bacardi, which as a brand already owns a compelling 5% of ALL distilled spirits business, grew by more than 5% to reach nearly 7.5 million 9-liter cases in 2000. That includes all Bacardi line extensions (light, dark, anejo, Limon, and others) but still, no other category is as dominated by a single brand as rum is by Bacardi. But that doesn’t mean the family-owned supplier is resting on its laurels; the company is set to roll-out its biggest introduction in a few years, orange-flavored Bacardi O.

But rum’s growth is not only a Bacardi party. Other well established are growing as well. Captain Morgan continued to boom, hitting 2.8 million cases, an 18.8 percent increase. Ron Castillo, Malibu, Ronrico, Capt. Morgan’s Parrot Bay and Myers’s also showed great strength last year. And US Virgin Island-distilled Cruzan showed a 50 percent increase, closing in on Myers’s in the top ten.

The over-all growth is so strong that the rum category, now the third leading category after vodka and cordials/liqueurs, is predicted by the influential Adams Business Media Handbook Advance to move into a second place tie with the cordial category after this year’s figures are tallied.

Part of the growth, clearly, comes from the heavy-hitting brands bringing out new line extensions, hoping to catch the Capt. Morgan lightning in a bottle. Cruzan, for instance, has not only redesigned the packaging of its flavored entries (coconut, pineapple, banana and orange), but has also introduced single-barrel and aged variations of the Cruzan Estate Collection rums.

Estimates suggest that flavored rums like Cruzan’s already account for 25% of the category’s total volume, and its continued growth is likely to be a factor in shaping the future of the category — especially as new beverage alcohol consumers, guided by the sweet and fruity cocktail trends, look to contemporary flavors in rum as well as vodka.

The growth has inspired Hawaiian-distilled Whaler’s supplier Bishop Wines and Spirits to turn up the promotions on its four-rum line: Whaler’s Rare Reserve Dark, Whaler’s Hawaiian Spiced, triple-distilled and lightly vanilla-flavored Whaler’s Great White, and the more vanilla-flavored Whaler’s Vanille (pronounced van-ee). Bishop recently partnered with the ICEE Company, using Arctic Freeze machines to feature Whaler’s cocktail mixes at bars and restaurants on a national basis, and is supporting the push with on-premise point-of-sale materials — table tents, banners, bartender cards, t-shirts and more.

Drew Jackman, corporate beverage director, Capital Restaurant Concepts, says the response from customers for vanilla rum, specifically Whaler’s, has been phenomenal. “We’re just rolling through that vanilla rum. We took it on two months ago, and now we go through four or five cases a week company-wide.” Customers are asking Jackman’s bartenders for Whaler’s Vanille in Strawberry Daiquiris and mixed with either colas or ginger ale. As predictedl by the rum companies, the vanilla flavor has found favor especially among female consumers, Jackman said.

In addition, the Capital Restaurant Concepts’ operations, based in Washington, DC, and Baltimore metropolitan area, enjoy a rum boom every year around this time, due to the Preakness Stakes, held in mid-May near Baltimore. Like the Kentucky Derby and the Mint Julep, the Preakness has its own drink: the Black-Eyed Susan, made at Jackman’s bars with vodka, Cointreau, Mt. Gay rum, lemonade and lime juice. (The frozen version gets a dash of blackberry brandy as a black-eyed float.)

Other flavors have been entering the market recently as well, trying to open the enhanced rum market. Cabana Boy is a new group of six flavored entries coming from supplier White Rock, with the expected orange and citrus rums joined by pineapple/coconut, vanilla spice, wild cherry and raspberry. Both Cabana Boy and Whaler’s seem to be focused on the young female consumer.

MIX IT UP

The importance of Latin- and island-inspired bars and restaurants can’t be overlooked in rum’s growth. At Chicama, chef Doug Rodriguez’s casual and festive restaurant in NYC, the shimmering green Buena Vista, made with rum and peach schnapps, is extremely popular.

Other Latin restaurants, like Isla, with the palm-enhanced feel of a pre-Castro Cuban poolside setting, Isla Coladas and other rum-based beverages help set the mood. And at NYC’s successful Soho Latin bistro Ideya, ceiling fans cool the mostly young crowd sipping Mojitos and Mangomambos — a mix of spiced rum, vanilla vodka, mango puree and coconut cream. Rum leads the flavor profile for many cocktails created here by Fernando Pena, the bar manager who’s appeared whipping up his favorites on the TV Food Network.

Their list last fall, for instance, included the Ojo de Pescado (fisheye), a mix of dark rum, sloe gin, passion fruit liqueur and fresh lime juice. The Negrito combines dark rum, creme de cacao, milk and a touch of cinnamon. The Solaso (bright sunny day) is made of dark rum, creme de banana, coconut cream, orange juice and a splash of milk. Ideya also stocks something called Mamajuana, rum marinated in a mixture of up to 15 barks and leaves indigenous to the Dominican Republic.

These bars and other throughout the country have successfully marketed themselves and this quintessential new world spirit through festive imagery and tropical connections. Whether the operation’s style is surfer’s dreamworld, Havana fantasy or South Pacific idyll, the connection, latching on to rum’s reputation as the vacation fun drink has brought many operators strong returns.

Rum is likely to remain a profit center as long as Strawberry Daiquiris and Pina Coladas are the entry drinks for many young adults. While a number of aged and blended rums known for their sipability have entered the market, it’s rum’s easy mixability with fruits and juices that has lead the way.

WHAT RUM IS

Rum’s main distinguishing factor is the source of its distillation. Sugar cane is the beginning. Botanically a grass, sugar cane’s roots lie in the South Pacific, but it now grows wherever the climate is warm and balmy. Cane’s sweet juice is easily extracted from mature in presses or mills; in fact, today some bars press their own fresh cane juice for such drinks as Mojitos.

First made in the Caribbean from the molasses residue that remained after the refining of cane, rum became an integral part of the economy of the New World. France and England forbade commercial distilleries, so Americans started distilling the sugar cane residue themselves, primarily in New England.

Cane rum or what’s sometimes called sugar cane brandy, comes directly from this juice, while other distilleries use molasses, a by-product of sugar refining. (Some rums are made from blends of sugar cane juice, cane syrup, and molasses, in varying combinations.) Yeast works its fermentation magic on the sugars and turns them into alcohol in the form of a low grade cane or molasses “wine,” which is then distilled, barreled and rested or aged, although some is bottled directly from the still.

Nearly all rum is aged in used oak barrels once used to mature bourbon or other whiskies. During the aging process the rum acquires a golden color that changes to a dark brown with time. The bottled strength of rum depends. While some rum is bottled at about 40% alcohol by volume, other rums are bottled at the still or barrel strength, as much as 75.5%.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Adams Business Media

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group