Think Rum ambassador Peter Holland previews the event

Think Rum 2020 will take place on April 28 and this year, for the first time, it will run alongside a number of spirits events as part of Think Spirits 2020. DRN caught up with Think Rum’s ambassador and rum consultant, Peter Holland, to have a chat about all things rum:

* What do you think retailers should do to enhance their rum ranges?

“Running a business is obviously about striking the balance between space, getting things out the door with a decent margin, and offering interest.

“Minimising the quirky, lesser-known products means you may have less stationary stock, but you aren't helping to develop interest. Equally just buying everything with 'Rum' on the label doesn't guarantee diversity.

“Time and time again, I find myself circling back to the need to more widely adopt a meaningful way of grouping production styles, such as the Gargano Classification. Having dozens of light, multi-column rums isn't diverse it is just lots of very similar stuff and quite honestly a waste of shelf space.

“The key is ensuring that regionality is backed up with a variation in distillation style, and furthermore that sugarcane juice rums, rather than just molasses-based rums are featured.

“Pure Single Rum, Traditional Column Rum, Single Blended Rum are all unfamiliar terms in the mass market, but they are becoming more commonplace in the geekier circles. The more that 'hip' retailers are seen to be using a more grown-up language, the faster this will all become the norm.

“Look to Madeira, Haiti, or Mexico for amazing rums that blow the mass market dross out of the water!

“We will be experiencing a huge rise in spiced rum offerings coming to market this year. Some will be excellent, and some will be poor, and there will be all manner of products in between.

“It's important for me to make people realise that rum and spiced rum are two entirely different categories, with different consumer profiles associated. Retailers need to know this and make sure that they don't miss a trick. They should list them separately, make them easier to find for those that want them.

"Certain brands really are spiced rum in all but name, as they don't disclose the addition of sugar and vanilla. The effect is two-fold, it makes spirits fans think less of rum - it becomes guilty by association - but secondly, it potentially prevents spiced rum fans from considering it as a valid purchase.

* And how can retailers encourage consumers to explore and learn about the category?

“I guess there is a degree of repetition when I say that using the Gargano Classification helps. But regional focuses - especially ones that are tourist destinations - really are easy ways to snag the emotional heartstrings. Understanding the classification helps you to explore sideways with rums that are comparable, but then also naturally suggests a progression.

* What are the strengths of the rum category in the UK?

We have many years of history to draw on. Not all rums are from places with a colonial connection of course, and I should further say that the tone of linking back to the past should be respectful otherwise we risk causing genuine offence. Rum has a long history, and some aspects were pretty awful, but from first-hand experience the people making rum in the modern era are proud of both their rum and their traditions.

* What are the weaknesses of the overall category, particularly for the off-trade?

“An annoying reluctance by some brands to flat out deny that they add sugar and other flavourings to their rums can create a situation of mistrust. This is generally reinforced by a fluffy marketing story. Misdirection or marketing - that's one for the discussion panel - but I know that genuine spirits enthusiasts want information, so if they see rows of rums that are all smoke and mirrors, then there is little chance of engagement. These products have their place, but allowing them to represent a category is dangerous for the category and will ultimately hold the category back.

* Why should spirits buyers attend an event such as Think Spirits?

“Think Spirits offers the opportunity to learn, and speak to people such as myself who talk passionately about the category without an axe to grind. Rum is my life, not just a means of raising a paycheck. I want to see rum seen in the light it deserves. That said, it doesn't hurt to have a little fun, and lets not try to be too stuffy eh?”

Peter Holland will be championing rum as the spirit of choice in this year’s The Dragons’ Cup session, which will kick off the Think Spirits event at 11am on April 28 at St Mary’s Church in Marylebone, London. Holland will also host a rum masterclass during the afternoon and there will be a number of rum and other spirit producers available throughout the day with brands available to taste.  

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