Image © Whisky For Everyone.
It seems that the price of spirits are always going up, especially when it comes to the super-premium sector. Of course, there are a number of reasons for this - market forces, tax increases, consumer expectations - but some categories seem more sensitive than others. Why does one dark spirit cost more than another?
Prices of high end cognac and whisky, particularly Scotch and Japanese, are skyrocketing while other dark spirit categories do not seem to be effected in the same way. Take rum for example. A rare or old limited edition will cost you a fraction of the price of its brandy or whisky counterparts.
So how can this be? A rare rum bottling can often include older spirits than present in similar brandy or whisky products and this should make it more expensive in theory.
One of the main reasons that prices of cognac and whisky prices have risen sharply is the emergence of the collector and investment market in the last decade. This has driven the birth of numerous auction websites and a dramatic increase in the number of 'collectable' products released by brands. Both factors are fuelling the fire, maintaining collector interest and pushing sales skywards.
We are now at the stage where brands are seemingly trying to out do each other with each super premium release. You are now no longer simply paying for the liquid in the bottle but the design of the bottle itself, the craftsmanship of the cabinet/box that it is housed in, the specially commissioned commemorative book and the precious metal adornments.
The simple fact is that rum is well behind. There is a much smaller market for collectable rums, but is this because there are less products out there in the first place? This is now showing signs of change as more and more brands wake up to the concept.
At the forefront of this movement are brands such as Havana Club and their Icónica Collection, a series of limited edition super premium rums specifically designed to appeal to spirits connoisseurs and collectors alike. This includes innovative products to spark interest such as the Unión, which has been created to match with a fine Cuban cigar, and the Maximo, a rum that contains some liquid that is over 100 years old.
Image © Whisky For Everyone.
These new products have started promisingly and have been selling well with consumers and collectors. The Unión is leading the way - 3000 bottles were produced in 2015 and this has now risen to 15000 for 2017 to meet demand. That is decent growth in a short space of time. The top-of-the-range Maximo is selling 1000 bottles per year despite costing £2500 each.
However, there seems to be a potential conflict. I spoke with Asbel Morales, the eminent Master Blender for Havana Club, recently about the collectors market. He expressed a sadness that these fine rums that he has created may potentially end up sitting in a cabinet on display rather than being drunk and enjoyed. It is a fine line I guess. I can see his point but once someone has purchased a bottle, then what he or she does with it is their choice.
So, what will happen? Will rum ever catch up with the cognac or whisky collectors market? It seems that they are certainly going to give it a go. More new products, such as the Icónica Collection, and the awareness and education of consumers about old or limited edition rums will naturally increase the market. This in turn with increase interest, collectability and desirability - this is simple human nature.
Could now be rum's time to shine? I think it might well be ...