Rum was the focus of the first UK industry and inaugural event Think Rum!, last Monday in London.
It’s where rum brands, exhibitors, keynote speakers, on-trade and retail trade buyers gathered to discuss the rum trends and activity. Supported by the leading UK trade sector publications including Harpers, Off Licence News and CLASS.

Topics covered, included the categorisation of rum and also a look at sugar cane derived spirits
such the French Rhum Agricole and Brazilian Cahaça (both are made from sugar cane juice and not molasses) by international rum judge and writer Peter Holland of The Floating Rumshack.

Roger Barnes of Spirits Elite gave a presentation on Jamaican rums, with a series of tastings and rum appreciation sessions explaining the difference between column and pot still rums.

These were just of few of the masterclasses and events held on the day, before the awards were
handed out later. Also present was a tasting table of various rums on offer for all attendees to
sample, compare and make notes.

Included in these rums for tasting were the newer category of UK produced rums coming into the

Peter Townsend rum entrepreneur and founder of the Morant Bay Rum company represents one of these
new breed of UK producers, but unlike many of the English and Scottish rums brands, his heritage
and background give him some robust credentials for entering into this sector.

Morant Bay Rum Cocktail Pouring

Peter Townsend CEO and Founder of Morant Bay

Townsend has molasses in his blood, his family have owned a sugar estate in Jamaica since the late
1800’s, that previously supplied the Tate & Lyle owned refinery. His British produced Signature Edition Spiced Red Rum is infused with rosa de Jamaica and other botanicals to create its signature colour and taste. A departure from the standard white, dark and golden rum categories.

“Being present at the first Rum industry event of 2017, is an important start for the year, gaining visibility and a presence to follow up leads and potential sales for our first quarter.”

We caught up with two event attendees to get there opinion on the event and their thoughts on the rum industry in the UK.

First up Peter Holland

Peter Holland Think Rum 2017 – Speaker from The Floating Rumshack

In what capacity did you attend, what were some of the areas you covered or discussed?

I was pleased to be a part of Think Rum in a number of capacities – I hosted two masterclasses. ‘Time for a new categorisation’ and ‘Understanding Rhum Agricole and Cachaça’. I was also happy to be asked to join the debate panel.

Regarding categorisation where do the newer British and Scottish rum fit into this?

I believe that all the rums currently being produced (rather than sourced and finished) in the UK utilise pot still distillation, which means they would be in the top level, ‘Pure Single Rum’ section.

However, if I were allowed to further refine that categorisation, I would need to further compare it against the Scotch or Cognac model and say that to properly qualify – the spirit needs to be aged. And I mean authentically aged, not rapid maturation using crude wood chips or zig-zags etc.

With the busy UK rum festival schedule this year, how can British and Scottish rums take advantage of this?

Perhaps now is the time to be bold and seize the ‘New World Rum’ tag for themselves. But for those who have pot still rum as your base – make sure that people understand why this is going to deliver a heavier hitting flavour, the consumers at your stand might not be aware of the variations in production method.

Allen Daly of Gerry’s of Soho wine and spirits retailer

Allen Daly - Gerrys of Soho

Allen Daly – Gerrys of Soho – Think Rum! 2017 Award Winner

What do you make of the newer British and Scottish rums coming onto the market?

The new British and Scottish spiced rums that are now appearing are made to a high standard and unlike the big brands, they have interesting and varied tastes. This may not be to the taste of the regular spiced rum drinkers.

The selling prices for the new rums are a bit high (yes I know about small batch production), so I think it will be a bit challenging.

You received an award yesterday what was it for and how important or significant is that for your retail outlet.

The award was for independent rum retailer. I think that it gives us inspiration to continue our love of all things rum .

This year will be busy with Rum festivals, how important are events like this for sourcing new rums and the sector?

Rum fest is very important to the awareness of the whole rum category we tend to meet new producers and some characters, not just their rums.

Think Rum! 2017 winners on the night included:

    Best Independent Rum Retailer – Gerry’s of Soho
    Best Multiple Rum Retailer – Sainsbury’s
    Best Communicator – Ian Burrell
    Best Independent Rum Bar/Venue – Merchant House
    Best Multiple Site Rum Bar/Venue  – Mitchells & Butlers

Next month, February 9th is another industry award event for Rum, at the Rum and Cachaca Masters, that ties in with start of a series of rum festivals taking place across, England, Scotland and Wales running through to December.

We would like thank Peter Holland – The Floating Rumshack and Allen Daly – Gerry’s Of Soho for their time.

Peter Holland previously worked in the world of mechanical engineering before taking the step into the full time world of ‘all things’ rum. Peter is a judge for the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) and the International Spirits Competition (ISC) and regularly judges at International Rum Festivals such as Paris and Berlin.

All commercial activities are run through his VAT registered company: Team Holland Limited.

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Allen Daly is the manager of Gerry’s of Soho with over 30 years of wine and spirit retail experience.

**Disclaimer commentary given by individuals in this article is not an endorsement for Morant Bay, but support for the appreciation of rum and the rum sector.