Unless Bacardi is in real deep doodoo, this looks like penny pinching that will cost them far more in bad publicity than it saves. If they were listed on the Stock Exchange I’d be phoning my broker to sell and short.

Bacardi rum giant cancels fair amid economic woes


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

Rum giant Bacardi Ltd. is canceling a popular annual artisans’ fair at its Puerto Rico distillery due to the global recession.

The Bacardi Artisans’ Fair had been held each December at the company’s plant in Catano, across the bay from San Juan — and had grown to become the largest festival of its type in the Caribbean over the past 33 years. It cost roughly $500,000.

Joaquin Bacardi, head of the Bermuda-based rum empire, told the newspaper El Nuevo Dia that the decision was made after evaluating the company’s “great challenges” due to the ongoing economic slowdown.

Bacardi is a family-owned spirits conglomerate founded in Santiago, Cuba, in 1862. All of its rums are made in Puerto Rico.

Bundaberg Reserve Competition

Win a bottle of Bundaberg Reserve rum for dad
Bundaberg Reserve Rum

Bundaberg Reserve Rum
August 28, 2009

As any dad knows, leaving delicious rum sitting on the shelf is not easy.

But that’s exactly what a team of Bundaberg Reserve’s ‘guardians’ are paid to do.

These guardians have devoted years to crafting a premium spirit from Bundaberg’s Queensland distillery.

Delivering a premium spirit with a rich, dark character, mellowed with a hint of oak and caramel, Bundaberg Reserve rum is identified in the early maturation stages, as a vat of rum promising to deliver something exceptional.

It is left in the hands of the guardians, who watch it as it matures and develops its supreme character in oak vats that are handcrafted by a traditional Cooper.

The permanent release is to hit top shelves in time for Father’s Day, and brisbanetimes.com.au has five bottles up for grabs to reward Queensland dads.

For your chance to win one a limited edition bottle of Bundaberg Reserve rum, valued at $49.99, tell us in 25 words or less what your dad has done to deserve a Bundaberg Reserve moment.

Competition closes September 3. See terms and conditions for more details.

Havana Club

It is of course news to most of the Caribbean that it was a Cuban, let alone Bacardi, invention to age rum in oak barrels, rather than a rediscovery of what was centuries-old tradition in the rest of the rum-producing world. -Rumpundit.

Trademark wars: US goods sold under famous Cuban brands an issue if trade relations ease

By Michael Felberbaum (CP) – 20 hours ago

SAN JOSE DE LAS LAJAS, Cuba — Cuban rum maestro Jose Navarro’s taste buds sing when he sips Havana Club, the sweet spirit distilled in this farming town south of the capital.

“It has to be Cuban,” said Navarro, the oldest of the island’s nine certified rum experts. “Havana Club can’t exist anywhere else.”

But another Havana Club does exist, one made by Bermuda-based rum giant Bacardi Ltd. A variety of Cohiba cigars, once rolled exclusively for Fidel Castro, is produced by Swedish Match North America of Virginia, and a Miami firm offers its own version of Cubita, a top Cuban coffee.

Washington’s 47-year-old trade embargo has kept Cuban products out of the U.S. – but hasn’t prevented companies from using the communist island’s brand names.

As the U.S. and Cuba consider better ties, such trademark issues would have to be settled before any easing of the embargo. The fight between Bacardi and the Cuban government for the Havana Club name already has played out in the U.S. courts and Congress for more than a decade – and is now before Spain’s high court.

But the battles are about so much more than brand names. They are charged with 50 years of emotion over Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution and expropriation of private companies as he implemented socialism. They are also rooted in the future as U.S. corporations face the spectre of new competition from Cuban products, which may carry a special allure after being banned for nearly a half century.

“There are U.S. interests thinking about how they are going to be affected by an influx of Cuban products, and the outlook is not always positive,” said Jake Colvin, director of the Washington-based USA Engage, which opposes the embargo.

Americans craving all things Cuban already can buy products inspired by the Caribbean island – just not made there.

Bacardi’s Havana Club is an 80-proof rum that has sold in Florida since 2006, and sales have been so strong, it’s thinking of expanding the label to other states, said spokeswoman Patricia M. Neal.

Even though Cuba’s Havana Club rum can’t be sold in the U.S., the Cuban government still sued Bacardi for using the name.

Bacardi argues it owns the name because the original Havana Club was expropriated by Castro from its Cuban producers, the Arechabala family, who went into exile. Bacardi bought the name and recipe from the Arechabalas in 1997.

Cuba says it registered the Havana Club trademark in the U.S. in 1976 after the Arechabalas let their claim on it expire. It has sold the rum internationally since 1993 in a joint partnership with French spirits consortium Pernod Ricard.

So far the U.S. courts have sided with Bacardi based on a 1998 federal law that prevents the registration or renewal of U.S. trademarks tied to companies nationalized by the Cuban government. Cuba has appealed its most recent case to the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s Havana Club is winning abroad. A Bacardi suit filed in a Spanish court against the Cuban government and Pernod Ricard over the trademark in that country was thrown out in 2007. Bacardi, too, has appealed, and the case is before the Spanish Supreme Court.

The true argument is over who can claim to produce authentic Cuban rum – especially if the country opens up to global commerce.

Bacardi, a family-owned spirits conglomerate founded in Santiago, Cuba, in 1862, pioneered the light, dry smoothness Cuban rum is now famous for, devising a charcoal-filter system and aging in oak barrels for added sweetness.

But the Bacardis joined the fiercely anti-Castro exile community in Miami after Castro nationalized the company in 1960. Havana Club, like all Bacardi rums, is made in Puerto Rico – and says so on the bottle.

Still, Neal says her company’s Havana Club transports consumers “back to the time it was created: sultry nights, classy nightclubs, and pulsating Latin music, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.”

Cuba and Pernod Ricard spent $70 million to rehabilitate a Havana Club distillery specializing in darker, higher quality anejo rum in San Jose de Las Lajas.

“If I have a recipe, am I producing a Cuban rum? No. Cuban rum is not a recipe. It’s an expression of an entire culture,” said Navarro, while scrutinizing stacks of barrels filled with aging rum.

Even without the U.S. market – 40 per cent of world rum drinkers – Cuban Havana Club has seen its annual sales soar 13 per cent to 3.4 million cases. Bacardi’s more than 200 brands and labels sell 20 million cases in 150 countries every year.

It’s a debate that may ultimately be decided by consumers.

John Verburg, manager at Cafe Habana in Ann Arbor, Michigan, uses Barcardi to mix his mojitos, the famous Cuban cocktail of rum, sugar and mint. But he’s asked all the time when he will get rum “authentically from Cuba.”

“I don’t know if people are salivating yet,” Verburg said, “but it could be something very exciting.”

The thought of competing with Cuba is already keeping executives at Swedish Match North America up nights. The Richmond, Virginia-based company owns General Cigar Inc., which has sold Dominican Republic-made Cohiba cigars in the U.S. since 1997.

“It’s not the brand that’s going to make the difference, it’s whether it’s Cuban or not,” said Gerry Roerty, the company’s vice-president and general counsel. And smokers are willing to pay a premium for Cuban, he said.

Cohiba was founded in Cuba to make cigars for Castro and visiting dignitaries. Today it is the flagship of 27 premium brands produced by Habanos, equally owned by the government and Madrid-based Altadis SA, which was acquired last year by Britain’s Imperial Tobacco Group PLC.

Cuba never registered its version of Cohibas in the United States but still sued General Cigar. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with General Cigar, which has factories in the Dominican Republic and Honduras and produces versions of signature Cuban brands Partagas, Hoyo de Monterrey, Bolivar and Punch. It also makes the La Gloria Cubana, Rico Habano and Havana Honeys brands, which despite their names are unknown on the island.

U.S. industry estimates show 85 million Cuban cigars could be shipped to the U.S. annually in a post-embargo world, slashing profits for U.S. companies that sell about 255 million premium cigars a year.

Roerty said not only would General Cigar face a trademark war, but the company would not have access to Cuban tobacco leaves or other raw materials to match its new competitors.

Some say the forbidden-fruit factor around Cuban cigars and other products won’t last if the embargo vanishes.

Still, most U.S. aficionados are anxious to get their hands on real Cubans.

At Havana Connections, a cigar shop in suburban Richmond – General Cigar’s own backyard – mention of Cubans sparked an hour-long discussion.

“When you smoke, it’s taste. And the Cuban seed and Cuban cigar – they’re smoother and creamier,” said 60-year-old Dan Tater, a smoker for about a quarter-century. “There’s got to be something to that lore that this is really a better cigar.”

Americans hankering for super-strong, Cuban-style espresso can get Cubita, a coffee imported by Universal Brands Inc. in Florida that shares a name with the Cuba’s best-seller on the island.

Universal Brands President Raul Diaz said his company has held a U.S. trademark for Cubita since the early 1990s and is confident it will stand regardless of any change in America’s Cuba policy. But he acknowledged that “at some point, if Cubita from Cuba is sold in the U.S., one of the Cubitas is going to suffer.”

More than 3,000 U.S. brands continue to hold trademarks in Cuba, with everything from McDonald’s to Macy’s to Mr. Peanut paying periodic registration fees in case the island one day embraces the free market, according to a 2002 list compiled by U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Inc. in New York.

Experts worried the 2006 decision to nullify Cuba’s Havana Club trademark in the U.S. would prompt Cuba to stop respecting American brand names on the island – especially after Castro famously threatened to produce Cuban Coca-Cola.

So far, there has been no retaliation.

Colvin said Cuban leaders know that violating U.S. trademarks will weaken the island’s case before the World Trade Organization and other groups, where it claims American laws have allowed multinational companies to trample its trademarks.

“They’ve always made the case that they are right on this issue and they are the victims,” he said. “If they start violating trademarks, they lose the moral high ground.”

Felberbaum reported from Richmond. Associated Press Writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report from Havana.

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
Related articles

Grumpy Rumpundit welcomes the news. The whole point of rum is to add the flavours after – if you really must, and to sip it straight if its any good.

Smirnoff Ice pours cold water over Diageo profits
Catherine Boyle

Times, London

Drinkers are cutting down on ready-mixed alcopops, in favour of conventional vodka and rum brands, against the backdrop of the global financial crisis,according to Diageo.

Sales of products such as Smirnoff Ice and Archers Aqua at the world’s biggest drinks company fell by 8 per cent globally and by 17 per cent in Europe in the year to June 30, as the economic downturn and changes in fashion took their toll. Andrew Fennell, chief marketing officer at Diageo, acknowledged: “In some places, consumers have moved away from it.”

But Paul Walsh, chief executive, said: “We have made a lot of money out of that category in the last few years.”He added that the company would be interested in buying the 66 per cent of Moët Hennessy, the French-owned champagne and cognac house, that the British group does not already own, if it was available at the right price. But Mr Walsh stated that the stake was not for sale at the moment.

Pre-tax profit at Diageo fell only slightly to £2 billion, even though volumes were down by 4 per cent. The company’s sales were boosted by £1.1 billion owing to exchange rate fluctuations as sterling lost value.
Related Links

* Diageo makes £2.7bn profit but defends job cuts

* Plan to save half of threatened Diageo jobs

At the same time, sales of Diageo vodka, particularly Smirnoff, the flagship brand, rose by 8 per cent around the world, while sales of its rum, including Captain Morgan, went up by 6 per cent.

Anthony Bucalo, analyst at Credit Suisse, commented: “The worst may be behind the spirits companies, and Diageo is best positioned for a rebound in sales trends.”

The Spanish and Irish markets have been particularly badly affected by the financial crisis. Andrew Morgan, head of Diageo Europe, said: “The recession has added to lifestyle changes where people are going out less and not staying out as late. There has been a consumption decline pretty much across the board.”

Sales of the company’s Scotch whiskies could also suffer if American consumers boycott Scottish goods in the wake of the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi. Mr Walsh said: “We don’t really know what we are looking at yet. We will see if it gains traction.”

The company is also battling with the continued controversy over 700 proposed job losses at its Johnnie Walker plant in Kilmarnock. Unions and local politicians have protested against the plans and have submitted further proposals to the company, which may include public money being spent to keep Diageo at the plant.

Mr Walsh confirmed that he had received a letter yesterday and said that the company would look at the proposals in an “open-minded” way.

He added that he was “in favour of free markets” rather than subsidies but that he would consider the proposals.

“It’s never easy to make these kind of decisions, but we owe it to the other 4,000 employees to remain competitive. The future is in emerging markets where we have to compete with local products.”

The drinks company offered little hope of green shoots. Mr Walsh’s most optimistic prediction for recovery was a fundamental improvement in the first half of 2010.

Although the group has made a number of acquisitions of “super premium” brands such as Cîroc vodka — which is advertised by rapper Sean Combs, perhaps better known as Diddy, and before that Puff Daddy — in the United States, Mr Walsh said that Diageo would focus more on its value brands in the next year or so.

New Posh Rum for India

ABD to uncork premium rum
27 Aug 2009, 0232 hrs IST, Sarah Jacob, ET Bureau

BANGALORE: Kishore Chhabria-led Allied Blenders and Distillers (ABD) — the makers of Officer’s Choice whisky — is adding a premium twist to its
spirits portfolio by launching a premium rum brand in Q3FY10.

ABD will apply for labeling approval in the October-November period and thereafter introduce the brand in eastern India, executive vice-chairman and CEO Deepak Roy said.

The brand, which will be launched in the traditional rum markets of Assam and West Bengal first, will retail around 25% higher than USL’s top-selling McDowell’s Celebration rum. “There exists a loyal customer base for the spirit in India. The increase in disposable income has prompted regular rum drinkers to upgrade their consumption preferences, but there are not many premium dark rum brands to cater to this yet,” Mr Roy said.

The Rs 700-crore company’s portfolio expansion seeks to tap the not-so-large premium rum segment where liquor major Diageo’s Captain Morgan and Bacardi’s Reserva have not gained much traction.

The rum category is currently dominated by USL’s Celebration and Old Cask rums, Mohan Meakin’s Old Monk and Radico Khaitan’s Contessa rum in the lower-medium price segments. “We waited for more than a year as we did not have adequate resources to power the rum launch. ABD has reported good profits in the past two years,” Mr Roy added. ABD, which is targeting a turnover of Rs 950 crore, is also confident of picking up the 10 million cases tag for its Officer’s Choice whisky by reporting sales of 11.5 million cases in the current fiscal.

Nepal’s Kukhri rum vs moonshine

’30 percent of alcohol available in the market is counterfeit’

Amit Goswami is the CEO of Nepal Distilleries, the manufacturers of Khukuri Rum. Goswami has been with the company for the last five years. Prior to joining Nepal Distilleries, he worked for various reputed Nepali companies. In an interview with myrepublica.com, Goswami talked about the company´s performance, its future plans and effects of the distribution of spurious liquors in the liquor market.


Myrepublica.com: How do you evaluate the performance of Nepal Distilleries over the years?

Amit Goswami: Nepal Distilleries is the oldest distillery in operation in Nepal. We will be completing 50 years of our operation this year. In all these years, the sales of our most renowned product, Khukuri rum, have increased constantly and this year, we have set a target of selling 100,000 cartons of our celebrated rum. This is an increment of more than 400 percent compared with the sales of five years ago. We also export around 50,000 bottles every year to around 18 countries including the US and Japan.

Myrepublica.com: Rum is basically a seasonal drink in Nepal. What do you have to say about this consumption pattern?

Goswami: There is also a misconception among people here that rum is a winter drink. That´s why we sell 65-70 percent of our products in five months from mid-September to mid-February. But people in the Caribbean — where rum was originated — drink rum throughout the year. We are slowly trying to change consumption pattern here as well. This is why we have introduced spice rum, which goes very well with colas and ice — a perfect drink for summer.

Myrepublica.com: What measures are you taking to increase overseas sales?

Goswami: Export of 55,000 bottles a year is not so remarkable in terms of volume. But we are working on increasing overseas sales, especially in countries like US, UK, South Korea and Malaysia. We are also eyeing the huge Chinese market, especially the Tibetan side, and the Russian bloc. We are currently looking for distributors who can introduce our products there.

Myrepublica.com: Do you have any plans of diversifying your product range?

Goswami: We do have plans to diversify our brand portfolio to white spirits like white rum and gin. We will soon be manufacturing white rum and gin later on. This being the company´s golden jubilee, we are also bringing out a commemorative Khukuri rum brand called the Khukuri Gold. This will be a premium brand and will cost a bit expensive — at the range of Rs 800. Recently, we also launched Khukuri spice rum in the market. In fact, Nepal is the only country in south and south-east Asia to produce spice rums.

Myrepublica.com: How big is the damage created by the distribution of spurious liquors? What are you doing to aware your consumers?

Goswami: In fact, almost 30 percent of the alcohol available in the market is spurious. And no one can control this. In fact, our company also faced a setback due to a menace created by spurious liquors around six months ago. But to control our customers from getting duped, we started using tamper-proof cap seals even before the recent episode of the distribution of spurious liquors began. Later, we started using plastic shrink wraps on the cap. In fake products, these seals tear up when the cap is opened. But again shrink wraps can also be duplicated. From this Dashain festival, we are planning to put our holograms with secret codes on the caps of all the bottles. After this arrangement, it will be difficult to duplicate our brands.


Tasmanian baby waits head wetting

Competition to Name Barrel O’Rum

The Shout, Australia

By Rebecca Harris

Bars&clubs magazine, in conjunction with the Sydney Rum Club, have launched a competition to name their soon-to-be barrelled home-made pot-distilled Tasmanian rum.

The rum, whose new-make spirit hails from The Lark Distillery, will be formally laid-down at the next meeting of the Sydney Rum Club at Eden Bar & Restaurant on Monday September 14.

Those interested in tasting the rum can buy a share in the 20 litre barrel for $50, which includes regular monthly samplings of the rum’s development and a personal 700ml bottle with a personal label, at an official bottling in one year’s time.

The rum, however, needs a name and bars&clubs magazine and the Sydney Rum Club are offering a great prize package to the person who sends in the most creative name.

The winner will receive a prize package consisting of a free stake in the barrel, including monthly samplings, a 700ml bottle in 12 months’ time, their winning name on the bottle and a fun and interactive three hour bar school for them and seven friends at Eden Bar & Restaurant, including cocktails on arrival, learning about the history of rum and Tiki culture, canapés, and rum tasting.

To enter, simply email your suggestion by clicking here and be sure to include your name and a contact phone number.

Entries close Tuesday September 7 and the winner will be announced at the next Rum Club meeting on September 14.

The judges’ decision is final and the prize cannot be exchanged for cash.

[Wed 19/08/2009 02:07:16]

Black Sheep of Rums

Corby introduces the black sheep of its rum family

August 18, 2009 | By Matt Semansky |
Corby Distilleries has launched an out-of-home advertising campaign in support of the latest addition to its Lamb’s Rum product line.

Black Sheep Spiced Rum hit liquor stores in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador earlier this summer. An advertising campaign to introduce the brand, including outdoor, in-bar and in-store creative, has also begun in those markets. The ads play on the idea of the “black sheep” in a family, including copy such as “You’re a butcher. In a family of vegetarians” and “Grandpa had a farm. Dad had a farm. You think bacon comes from cows.” The copy runs over a simple product image, underneath which reads the message, “Here’s to you.”

Toronto’s John St. handled creative duties for the campaign.

Corby’s objective was to establish a distinct personality for the brand while connecting to a younger consumer demographic, said Adam Zolis, account director at John St.

“Lamb’s in the past has been more associated with older drinkers on the East Coast, and as we expand to try and find new markets, it has become apparent that younger drinkers relate to rum because it’s so versatile,” said Zolis. “[Black Sheep] is a fairly down-to-earth product in the way that its personality comes to life, and we’re looking for that kind of [down-to-earth] consumer.”

Black Sheep Spiced Rum is also featured in materials related to the Lamb’s “Pimp My Shed” promotion in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the brand’s “Pimp My Party” contest in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Those promotions began in June.

Serrallés is losing Captain Morgan and so has a big incentive to boost sales of its Don Q product.
I have to say that the Don Q Grand Anejo is an excellent way to boost sales.. wonderful stuff.

August 12, 2009 10:45 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Serrallés USA Teams with USBG, Elevating Spirits Knowledge Worldwide

DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Serrallés USA, exclusive importers of Don Q, Puerto Rico`s Premium Rum, is proud to announce an educational partnership with the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) supporting the elevation of the craft of bartenders in the US. Don Q will work closely with individual chapters and their membership, providing education on the history, allure, production and usage of rums of all types while providing beverage professionals with the educational support they need to journey through the three levels of the USBG Master Accreditation Program. Since the beginning of the year, the United States Bartenders’ Guild has offered a testing system created by a board consisting of the country’s foremost beverage alcohol professionals and spirits education leaders creating a standard of accreditation for aspiring Master Mixologists. The program was developed to raise the standard for the beverage alcohol industry and elevate bartending to a recognized profession.

The Master Accreditation Program consists of three tiers USBG Spirits Professional, USBG Advanced Bartender & the USBG Master Mixologist levels respectively.

“We are excited to be associated with the USBG as it is such an established and prestigious organization” said John Eason, VP, National Sales Manager “There is much we can learn from each other in this partnership, as Don Q is one of the world’s most established spirits brands, rich in over 150 years of tradition & heritage. As rum is one of the most versatile and mixable of all spirits we are pleased to offer our authentic Puerto Rican Rum, as a base for some of the world’s great bartenders to work with.”

John Meisler, Midwest Regional Manager For Serrallés USA will work closely with the Ponce, Puerto Rico based Master Blender, Silvia Santiago, to provide the most relevant information to each chapter on a consistent bases, as well as serve as an ongoing reference asset to the USBG for the rum category.

“We are looking forward to bringing in depth rum education to our chapters through our partnership with Don Q. The brand’s deep tradition and heritage will be a great inspiration to share with our members.” Liz Edwards, National Director of Brand Partnerships for the USBG.

About Don Q Rum

Since 1865, the Serrallés family has consistently produced the finest rums in the world under the Don Q brand, including Don Q Cristal, Don Q Gold, Don Q Añejo, Don Q Grand Añejo and Don Q Limón. Serrallés USA announced it will welcome Don Q Mojito and Don Q Coco, its newest additions to the flavored rum category.

About USBG

The USBG is the largest network of professional bartenders in the U.S. who come together to share the craft of mixology. With over 60 years of presence in the United States and International coverage in affiliation with the International Bartender’s Association (IBA) in over 50 countries, the United States Bartenders’ Guild is setting the standard for the profession throughout the country.

With the resurgence and increasing popularity of the cocktail, there is a high demand for creative and professional bartenders. As an industry leader, the USBG is responsible for educating its members about current trends while encouraging them to start new ones. Please visit us at www.usbg.org.

About Serrallés USA

Headquartered in Dallas, TX, Serrallés USA is the exclusive importer of Don Q, Puerto Rico`s Premium Rum. Serrallés USA imports Don Q Cristal, Don Q Gold, Don Q Añejo, Don Q Grand Añejo and Don Q Limón. Don Q Rum dates back to 1865 and is the original premium rum from Puerto Rico. Its flagship brand Don Q Cristal is the #1 selling brand in the island, where more than 70% of the rum consumed in the U.S. is produced. Don Q is manufactured by Destilería Serrallés Inc., Ponce, Puerto Rico. Please visit us at www.donq.com.


Catch 21 Consulting
Michael Dennehy, 201-370-8057
William Branley, 917-403-9979
Liz Edwards
Permalink: http://www.businesswire.com/news/google/20090812005783/en

Rum Rises From the Cocktail Shaker to Challenge Scotch, Bourbon
Bloomberg News

Review by John Mariani

Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) — Rum is going up in class. More often seen in the company of its proletarian partner Coke, the sugarcane-based liquor is mixing instead with the elite sipping spirits, the single malts, XO cognacs and aged bourbons.

According to Adams Liquor Handbook, rum, with an 11.5 percent share of the U.S. brown liquor market, outsells brandies (6.6 percent), Scotch (7.7), and American whiskies (9.0) — spirits that have garnered far more prestige by promoting their high-priced single barrel, reserve, and even vintage bottlings.

Rum has always been more of a versatile liquor for making cocktails like daiquiris, pina coladas, mai tais and the good old rum-and-Coke. Now, rum makers are beginning to promote their own top-grade products as drinks to be savored on their own, or cut with a dash of water.

Made by distilling the fermented cane, usually at 80 proof, rum has been made throughout the Caribbean since Christopher Columbus brought the plant to the West Indies in 1493. By 1775 Americans were drinking four gallons per person a year, and on British ships it was the base of the daily grog ration.

Americans now consume 134 million 9-liter cases of rum per year, overwhelmingly white or silver rum mixed into cocktails, says the Adams handbook. While many Caribbean islands make rum, Bacardi, with its main operations in Puerto Rico, sells a whopping 43 percent of all rum in the U.S., 38 percent under its own brands.

Havana Contraband

Some well-established names, like Gosling’s Black Seal Dark Rum, have always been sold on the basis of their intense, caramel-like, woody flavor and color, even though Gosling’s is just 80 proof. And there are cult favorites like Havana Club, whose principal appeal is that you can’t buy it in the U.S. because it is considered Cuban contraband. (Bacardi, however, has a license to use the name and, they contend, the original recipe for Havana Club made in Puerto Rico.)

I sampled an array of premium, aged rums and tasted them neat, then cut with a dash of filtered water. I was amazed at the distinctions among bottlings from different islands, though that has more to do with the distilleries than with the soil the sugar cane grows in.

Here are my favorites.

Ron Zacapa Centenario Solera Grand Reserve ($39-$45)

A Guatemalan rum blended from stocks 6 to 23 years old, distilled from the “virgin press” of the sugar cane. It has a huge bouquet, and if you like natural sweetness in your liquor, this has plenty of caramel flavor and, underneath that, tasty tobacco notes. A very lush rum, nicely mellowed with water.

Flor de Cana Grand Reserve ($22)

A tropical, Nicaraguan beauty, pale gold, with a mild piney aroma and some fruit flavors that make it better served neat. It would also make a fine addition to a daiquiri, but not a pina colada.

Depaz Blue Cane Rhum Agricole ($50)

This Martinique rum is worth every penny, a fabulous example of complexity, balanced sweetness and dryness, and as sophisticated as cognac with some of the dash of Armagnac.

Gosling’s Gold Bermuda Rum ($21)

Far lighter than Black Seal Dark, this is delightfully spicy, though not artificially “spiced,” with light caramel. Very good cut with water or on the rocks as an aperitif.

Bacardi 151 ($24)

The label reads “WARNING: FLAMMABLE,” and that’s a good description of what happens if you slug back this 151 proof Puerto Rican rum too fast. It packs a wallop, and its aroma bounds out of the glass. You may want to smoke a cigar with this just to counteract its massive flavor. Bacardi’s 8 Year Old ($24) is also a beauty, with good spice and real elegance in the finish.

Clement Rhum Vieux ($40) and Tres Vieux ($150)

Clement “rhums,” made in Martinique, have always touted their French connection, so that Rhum Vieux, made from white rums, takes the old cognac insignia of “VSOP” (Very Superior Old Pale), and the company’s Tres Vieux, at 88 proof, is called “XO” (Extra Old). The former is a perfect expression of the power of rum without going over 80 proof: exploding on the palate, with a dry-sweet balance that reminds me of the finest Irish whiskies.

The Tres Vieux, which comes in a gorgeous teardrop-shaped bottle that makes it a perfect gift, was the most complex rum of those I tasted, with an enchanting sea-salt component, a pleasant bite, and a long finish. You could cut this with water, but this is definitely a rum for sitting around in a white linen suit and straw hat watching the green flash of the sun setting in the tropical sea.

(John Mariani writes on wine and spirits for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: John Mariani at john@johnmariani.com.
Last Updated: August 10, 2009 00:01 EDT