The State of Premium Rum
Import and sales of premium rum in China have been on the rise in recent years. This is primarily due to the growing demand among young Chinese consumers. In the first half of 2017, rum imports were valued at US$3.6 million, with 57.5% year-on-year growth. The average price is US$2.86 per liter.
The biggest sources of premium rum in China are Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, the United States, Cuba and Guatemala. Meanwhile, Shanghai is the largest trading area for rum. Beijing and Tianjin, Guangdong and Shandong are also major players in China’s total rum consumption.
The Rising Star of China’s Cocktail Scene
In the past, rum’s reputation not only in China, but in Asia, was that of a cheap mixer. Many consumers have yet to enjoy premium rum just like they do with whiskey and cognac.Distillers have to work hard to establish rum’s image as more than a party drink with no history or culture.
For mature drinkers, rum can be drunk neat or on the rocks. Aged in oak barrels, premium rum has unique flavors such as vanilla and honey. For the younger, more adventurous consumers, however, the liquor is a good base for cocktails. As China’s cocktail scene continues to expand, rum’s popularity is only expected to increase.
Chinese consumers have fallen in love with its sophisticated flavors, further enhanced when combined with local ingredients. One popular cocktail, the Five Spice Rum Punch, is a zesty, tropical drink that features aromatic elements like star anise, fennel seed and Sichuan peppercorns.
Premium Rum: Worth the Expense
Premium rum can be expensive, but the price is no object for drinkers who value high quality liquors. Known as the “noble” spirit, it is the world’s oldest commercially produced liquor. The first rum distillery was established in the Caribbean in the 1650s. Just like wines, rums are defined by the environment of their “terroirs.”
For instance, those from Barbados in the Caribbean has hints of orange peel and coffee that are abundant on the island. All rums are distilled from sugar cane juice, syrup or molasses. For the highest quality ones, distilleries use only sugar cane juice and exercise care in handling the plants from harvest to extraction.
Aging is done in oak casks anywhere from one to 30 years. As rum ages, it turns darker in color, absorbing the flavors and colors of the casks. Sometimes, caramel is added for color consistency. Rum mixes well with anything, from fresh fruit juices to beer and tonic. Plain rum is even gluten-free since they made from sugar cane, not from grains like wheat or barley.
While rum has yet to reach the same popularity as brandy and whiskey in China, the consumers’ changing tastes in liquor are making distillers optimistic for its future. They are positive that with consistent promotions and marketing campaigns, the Chinese will soon consider rum as one of their go-to spirits, whether during special occasions or a simple night out after a hard day’s work.