Think Rum: focusing on education

A panel of rum experts gathered together yesterday at the annual Think Rum event in London to discuss the best approaches to educating consumers about rum. 

One of the challenges highlighted by many on the panel is that the current method of categorising rum as either white, gold or dark, is not an accurate system.

Nicholas King, WSET spirits educator and product development manager, said: “This white, dark and gold categorisation; it doesn’t make sense. It does for most consumers but we need to find a way of dealing with that problem.”

Sly Augustin, owner of Trailer Happiness, said: “When I see rum described as white or dark, personally I think this means nothing, but is this the most damaging thing for the rum category? It just means we have to start from scratch.

“I think the most confusing aspect about rum is when we ask, what are our objectives?

“Whisky has a personality. Your average whisky doesn’t have any external aspects of theming.

“With a lot of rum bars you have to have parrots and palm trees and all the gimmicky stuff.

“I lead with the quality of the product and understanding what the consumer wants. It is a slow process but if we focus on the quality of what we are offering then people will be engaged.”

POS and labelling information for rum was also discussed.

John Vine, Waitrose’s spirits buyer, said: “People can have too much information and that can make it over-confusing for customers.”

At Waitrose recently there has been a big focus on producing accurate and clear tasting notes for each spirit, and ensuring the flavour profiles are communicated.

And when it comes to labelling, Imie Augier, general manager, Merchant House, said: “If you could read a label and understand it better - even understanding that different levels of abv can impact the taste - that would be some progress.

“Labelling is good at the moment but I think it could be better. If everyone was on the same page it would be much better.”

King said that for rum educators the best method is to break the category down in terms of style, because there are only a certain number of options available to producers.

He explained: “You have raw material, you can run your fermentation in different ways, you have a choice at distillation and choices post distillation. Those are the main options that will get you to the end result.”

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