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In this Q&A with Paul McFadyen, brand ambassador at Plantation Rum, we explore the unique relationship rum has with the people who distil the spirit, the diversity of the liquor, as well as the premiumisation of the category.
What drew you to the rum category?
The joy of rum is how global it is and the different experience of approaching and producing rums is what contributes to the diversity of the category. That's what makes it so exciting, because there is something for everybody.
I’ve been working in the rum category for the last 25 years and was drawn to it, because of this variety and diversity.
There are rums that are refined to the point of neutrality. But, at one extreme, you've got rums made from sugar cane juice, called Cachaça and Agricoles that are vegetal, rich and earthy – they carry the flavours of soil and the grass. Then you've got long fermented molasses-based Pot Still rums from places like Jamaica and Guyana.
Every sort of rum can be plotted somewhere within that matrix, and they don't bear any resemblance to each other.
What makes rum unique and representative of different cultures?
Rum is unique because it represents the distilling culture of a people. It’s so much more than just a liquid in the bottle.
Jamaican rum, for example, tastes the way it does because it represents the Jamaican culture.
Looking at other areas, Jamaican food is spicy, full, rich textured and sits in the palate a long time. Jamaican music is very similar; it’s unabashed, loud, proud, sub bass rich and textured. It’s no surprise that Jamaican rums taste full, rich and loud. They make your pallet dance.
There's a relationship between what it means to be Jamaican and Jamaican food, Jamaican music and Jamaican culture.
This applies to the whole of the Caribbean and regional rums provide a link to these cultural experiences and identities across different communities.
Can you introduce QUBA’s rum rebels to Plantation Rum?
Maison Ferrand, an old French cognac house created Plantation Rum. They love the spirit and spent the last 20 years developing contacts with every rum company across the globe, from which they buy the pick of their barrels. We then put our own stamp on these barrels.
This is what makes Plantation – it’s a celebration of all the different colours in the rum rainbow, with our own little twist added to it.
We’re talking to every rum producing nation world. We buy rums from Australia, Fiji, Central America, South America, from across the Caribbean and beyond.
Is there anything you look for when selecting your rums?
The most important thing we look for is that the rum is representative of the island style.
For example, rum from Barbados has a typical profile. These rums are a blend of pots and column stills; they carry lots of light citrus notes.
Of course, within these regional rums, we look for the ones that are a bit better than the norm. We go over and taste lots of barrels from different producers, year in, year out, and we've got very good at finding the nuggets that are shining in the mine.
Why has the premiumisation of rum taken longer compared to other spirits?
The premiumisation of rum has taken longer compared to other spirits because of visibility.
The larger players in this category haven’t done a lot to support the category from this point of view. They’ve sold their brand at such a cheap price, that there hasn’t been enough headway for premium brands to come in the market.
That’s been slightly obstructive, because if you can't get to where people do their shopping, then it's harder to get into people's day-to-day drinking habits.
Thankfully, the landscape is now changing, and the major retailers are stocking rums that are priced between £25 and £40, as opposed to £15.
What is the role of the bar industry in the rum revolution?
The bar industry has a very important role to play in the rum revolution.
It’s the bar industry that have redefined people's perceptions of rum over the course of the last 15 or so years; by making Mojito’s more complex, introducing people to Cuban or Guyana rums and making Tiki and tropical drinks more fashionable again.
The bar industry dictates consumers drinking habits and is one major reason premium rums are now being sold in major retailers.
These changing perceptions are having an impact, and now if you go onto an online retailer, like Master of Malt or Whiskey Exchange, you’ll find over 500 rums to purchase.
Is there a need for a dedicated rum mixer to help further drive the rum revolution?
A dedicated rum mixer that excited current rum drinkers and made the category more accessible for non-rum drinkers would be a good thing.
Typically, the road people go down is to drown their rum with a big sweet mixer, such as Coca-Cola or Ginger Beer.
A clever mixer that isn’t just a heavy dose of sugar and actually adds value to the rum proposition will help further drive the rum revolution.