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A dark rum renaissance is underway in the UK

Sales of dark rum are surging in both the on- and off-trade, with consumers choosing it over pricey single malt Scotch, a new report by online retailer Master of Malt reveals.

The overall rum category is up by 83.5% so far this year at Master of Malt Trade (the on-trade arm of Master of Malt), according to the firm’s recent Q1 2023 report.

However, it’s dark rum in particular that is really gaining traction, with trade sales of dark rum up by 111% over the same period – a trend that Jess Williamson, content manager for Master of Malt, puts down to the spirit’s growing importance in mixology.

Speaking exclusively to the drinks business, Williamson said: “Rum twists on classic cocktails are really popular in the on-trade at the moment, and bartenders have been busy swapping out more expensive single malt whiskies for dark rums to look after their margins.

“With single malt whisky going up in price, mixologists are using characterful dark rums to replace Scotch in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned. They tend to still include a small amount of whisky in the cocktail to add complexity, which they mix with flavourful dark rums that can really hold their own.”

Buoyed by its popularity in the UK on-trade, dark rum is also performing strongly at retail, with Master of Malt observing a 22.2% uplift in sales from January to March this year.

Williamson sees the rise in interest as a natural progression from the recent spike in popularity for spiced and flavoured rums.

“Interest in spiced and flavoured rums has been growing in the UK for some time now, so it’s only natural that dark rum would have its turn,” she told db.

“Flavoured and spiced rums are a gateway to more complex, perhaps intimidating, and often slightly pricier dark rums, so it’s a natural progression to see sales of dark rum on the rise. And while it isn’t a replacement for Scotch, it’s absolutely now seen as a worthy alternative,” she added.

Williamson believes that attitudes towards rum have shifted.

“Dark rum is definitely being taken seriously as a sipping spirit now. Like whisky, it’s become really collectible – rum auction sites are popping up and the top names are being snapped up by enthusiasts,” Williamson said, singling out Master of Malt’s limited edition Caroni 22 Year Old as a recent bottling that “literally flew off the shelves”.

As for the distilleries currently leading the charge in high-end dark rum, Williamson name-checks Angostura and Appleton Estate as two of the big brands that are shaping the narrative.

“Appleton and Angostura are really leading the direct-to-consumer charge at the moment, particularly Angostura 15 Year Old and Appleton 21 Year Old at the more premium end of the category, which is interesting to see,” she said.

The newfound fervour for dark rum in the UK is a trend Williamson believes has legs, and is set to ignite a consumer interest in smaller, lesser-known distilleries.

“Exploration is showing no signs of slowing down and rum is a spirit that’s so diverse in terms of its geography and flavour profiles,” she said.

“Going forward, when it comes to dark rum people are going to start exploring outside of the big brand names and will delve into lesser-known distilleries and countries,” she added.




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