Posts Tagged ‘sugar cane spirits’

2010 is all but over,

Friday, December 31st, 2010

but before I say goodbye to 2010 I’d like to offer a few observations of the past year and a few predictions for 2011.

As the song said, “It was a very good year . . .” If you were a rum drinker, you saw more new spiced rums come to the market than any time since, well, suffice it to say, ever. More companies are planning to spend more money marketing their rum portfolio next year.

There will continue to be new, over the top, super duper, ultra, pinnacle-topping rums coming to a store or bar near you, along with new desriptors dreamed up by marketing people drinking rum on tropical islands at great expense. And there will be more rums that didn’t live up to their hype over the last decade in the bargain bin next to the cash register in your local liquor store. And the flood of email from laid off marketing people looking for work at the Ministry of Rum will persist.

The category of spiced sugar cane spirits that has been largely ignored by all but the largest spirit company in the world, is seeing renewed interest. In the last twenty years even Bacardi, despite their plethora of flavored rums, discontinued Bacardi Spice, but the tide is changing and even Bacardi has introduced a new spiced rum, though it doesn’t have the familiar bat on the label. Among the new spiced rums entering the market in 2010 some aren’t sweetened with artificial sweeteners and some are even quite good.

Cachaça continues to struggle in the export markets outside Brazil but the scheduled Olympics and World Cup in Brazil will certainly pay dividends to those that have put their hearts and souls into this category.

Rhum agricole has seen a couple of new exports from the French Caribbean. Demand for these rhums continues to rise and more and more bartenders outside the French Caribbean have learned to make a ‘ti punch. And, a  few of these bartenders actually know that ‘ti is Creole for petit, the French word that translates to ‘delicate, little.’

More and more rum bars are opening outside the Caribbean, and the better news is that some of the people behind these bars actually understand the spirits they are pouring. Tiki, that authentically faux culture that transports the patron to exotic places where nothing on the menu has ever been served, is also seeing renewed interest. Call it a desire to escape from the reality of the world or a desire to drink better rum drinks, either way it’s a good thing for rum.

And Lemon Hart, that elusive quintessential tiki drink ingredient is going to come back to the rum shelf. There’s just a small matter of attorneys, a lot of money, and a few other details that I’m hopeful will be worked out in the coming week. Lemon Hart does deserve a place on the bar and I’m confident it will find its way back to your glass next year.

Punch is making a comeback, but this is your grandmother’s mint sherbet and ginger ale fruit punch. Made with whisky, bourbon or rum, I’ve also seem more gin punches than I care to remember, punch can be great, or less than memorable. The good news is that most punch bowls hold more than a couple of ounces of rum and it is easier to make a punch bowl full of drink than to make individual cocktails for your next party. And you’ll friends will think you’re ahead of the cool curve. Or is that the awesome curve this year? Leftover punch is also great ‘hair of the dog’ to go with your, greasier-the-better, sausage and eggs breakfast in the morning.

The problem of finding the new sugar cane spiris that come to the market is one of the challenges I addressed when I started working on the Ministry of Rum website 15 years ago. In the coming weeks distillers, importers and distributors will be able to add their customers to the Ministry of Rum database and make the consumers task of finding new sugar cane spirits easier than ever. Will this change the way sugar cane spirits are marketed? Probably not, but it will reduce the pile of messages in my inbox asking me where someone can buy the latest rum they found mentioned in a press release that didn’t give them a clue as to where to buy, or even taste, the latest sugar cane elixir.

So here’s to a successful New Year. Please enjoy my favorite spirit responsibly and take the time to share your good fortune with friends.

All the best,

Edward Hamilton

And though my crystal ball isn’t a lot clearer than it was last year, I also see too many gin mojitos, faux-rum-tinis and a few bogus tiki drinks with plastic umbrellas in the coming year. My best advice is to simply ask yourself, “Would Hemingway drink this?”

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Looking forward to the next decade

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The appreciation of sugar cane spirits has grown significantly over the last ten years, but my favorite spirit is just beginning to be noticed on a larger scale. More producers are exporting more sugar cane spirits to more countries and consumers are taking notice of better offerings.

In the middle of the last century, advances in fermentation technology and improvements in distillation fueled a change in the way rum was made in the Caribbean. Today almost every distillery uses stainless steel fermentation tanks and only a few distillers don’t have instruments to monitor the temperature and pressure in their distillation columns or pot stills. Once it was understood that cleaning fermentation tanks after each batch could improve production quality the practice was adopted at nearly every distillery. Today gas chromatography is a standard tool at all of the larger distilleries.

At the end of the last century rum distillers prepared to expand their production to meet the growing demand for their spirits. The price of used whisky and bourbon barrels has soared over the last fifteen years as distillers are putting more fresh spirits in barrels to age and replacing older barrels that were once considered ‘good enough’ to age the rum. Today the standards for aged rum are much higher than they were in the 90s.

Today almost every distiller is either reclaiming their spent yeast and capturing the methane to burn in their boilers or planning to reduce their polluting effluent in the next two years. Waste recovery is no longer considered too expensive, but rather an integral part of sustainable spirits production.

The interest in sugar cane spirits will certainly attract some less than scrupulous entries into the market just as the financial boom attracted more than a few operators who preyed on the less knowledgeable and experienced. As we enter a new decade, the way sugar cane spirits are marketed will see some of the biggest changes in an industry that dates back nearly 400 years in the western hemisphere.

As finances are stretched consumers are keener than ever to learn as much as they can about what they consume before they lay their money down next to the cash register, or, click the ACCEPT button on the electronic payment portal. The internet has changed the way we learn about new products and the way companies get their products noticed. Services like Twitter and Facebook are proving to be invaluable tools to connect with others of similar interest and to learn from others before we spend our hard earned money, which is becoming harder to earn. Electronic media is changing the way we get our news, newspapers are falling faster than politicians moral barometers, but those same electrons are enabling us to learn more about everything from the name of the latest celebrity to fall from grace to a trusted review of the bottle of spirits on the shelf in front of us, all from what we used to call a phone. Not our telephone, we haven’t used them since the last century.

In the next decade we will be able to learn even more about the products we consume, including the sugar cane spirits in our glass, before we click the ACCEPT button. In addition to competitive prices in our purchasing region, which may be a few miles to entire political areas like the EU, we’ll also be able to get real information about things like the carbon footprint of the container and its contents. Reviews by trusted colleagues, many of whom we only know by their screen names but who will become even more influential in the coming years, will be as accessible as the ingredient panels on the food packages we buy.

This won’t be a one way information street. As consumers, we will be able to challenge claims made by the hucksters and marketing companies that today claim no responsibility for their actions and are shielded from consumers by corporate lawyers. Consumers will be given more access to the people who are responsible for manufacturing and marketing the products we consume.

Of course not every producer, marketer or retailer is going to participate in the new age of product transparency. That will be limited to those who want to succeed on the merits of their products.

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