There is no doubt that the UK rum market is rapidly growing, you may have heard it yourself “rum is the next big thing”. As one of the very few producers of British-made rum in the UK we are always being asked if rum is going to be “the next gin” and where is the rum market going?
To put rum growth into perspective there are currently over 200 rum brands in the UK, whereas 12 years ago there were only 50. We also know that there is an 8-10% annual increase in rum sales of which 50% is spiced rum and this is what we are going to delve into in more detail in this blog: the production and direction of the nation’s favourite, spiced rum.
One of my favourite things about hosting experiences here at the distillery is talking to our customers about what they like about rum, their perception of it and what qualities they like to find in a spiced rum. I tried to do as much as possible before we started making Jester Spiced and this feedback, combined with our own taste and expectation of the product, really got us thinking about what we wanted our Jester Spiced Rum to be like. Firstly, we knew that it needed to be natural, meaning not pumped with sugar, sweeteners, and flavourings after production. For those of you that have tried our range of gin you will know that we don’t over sweeten anything, we like to be able to taste our base Stratford Dry and use natural flavours and ingredients. This well-balanced approach is something we wanted to replicate when spicing our rum. We also knew that it had to be complex as many spiced rums are nice, pleasant but arguably slightly forgettable or boring in flavour. I believe this is because their flavour profile is dominated around a singular spice, so creating a complex 3-dimensional spirit was something we really challenged ourselves to achieve.
There are multiple ways you can spice a rum. The first is maceration, also known as compounding, which is something that you might have tried yourself. This basically means that you start with a base spirit and throw fruit, berries, spices, whatever you fancy in and then leave it for a period of time to allow the alcohol to extract both flavour and colour. For those of you that like to make sloe gin at home in a jar, there is no denying that this does work. However not all spices and botanicals release their flavour at room temperature.
This takes us onto distillation. The best thing about distilling is you are effectively boiling the botanicals and spices and extracting all the flavour and collecting them at a higher alcohol percentage. We know that distillation is the separation of liquids when heat is applied but it is also purification and concentration of flavour. What this creates is a product with greater flavour, with more complexity and we don’t have to leave our rum “in a jar” for months. It is because of this that many brands will make their rum through distillation.
However, we have something they don’t have: our British-made Jester White Rum! As you know from my previous blog, we make our white rum from scratch. This means we have full control of the base of our spiced rum and ensures we start with a stunning smooth spirit. This is in contrast to most distilleries in the UK, who struggle with their imported base which tends to be mass produced and because of this, quite harsh. What that means is that after they have re-distilled it with their spices, they will have to add lots of essence, sugar, caramel or vanilla to get rid of the harsh base spirit and sometimes even bad flavour. In the wise words of Mary Poppins “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. You may think of spiced rum as being a sweet, thick and syrupy spirit but I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be!
We take our Jester White Rum and distil it with what I like to call classic rum spices, these are the flavours people associate finding in a spiced rum. Flavours such as cinnamon, clove, all spice and ginger – we love to taste these in rum and when talking to our customers these were the spices that kept cropping up. From there, we look at balancing the spirit. This basically means choosing complimenting flavours to both soften the spice and add complexity. Straight away citrus comes to mind, look at any classic rum cocktail, most have lime in and rum punches often use orange juice. The lime will bring that classic rum citrus flavour and the sweetness from orange zest will help tone down the intensity from the spice. In theory we now have a good spiced rum and have arguably “ticked all the boxes” however we know we can go one step further.
Shakespeare Distillery is inspired by the town in which we’re situated and the Tudor era that makes Stratford so famous. Whenever we look at producing new spirits we often look to the traditional ingredients used in this era and even by the Bard himself. Mulberries were a very prevalent ingredient used during the 1600s as King James I encouraged people to plant mulberry trees to help the British silk industry compete with the rest of Europe. Shakespeare supported this cause and planted a mulberry tree in his garden, in which descendants of this tree still stand today. We love mulberries and it was an ingredient that our founder, Simon, quickly fell in love with when playing around with gin and led him to create our Mulberry Gin Liqueur! We decided to take this stunning fruit and introduce it into our spiced rum recipe to help soften the spirit, introduce sweetness which compliments the orange and add a middle mouth fruity complexity. Mace is our last and final ingredient to finish off our Jester Spiced Rum and it was one of the spices used primarily in cooking during medieval England. Mace is the outer shell of nutmeg, meaning its flavour profile suits a spiced rum beautifully.
Since the launch of our Jester Spiced Rum we have been delighted with the customer feedback, we take so much pride in the quality of our products. The amazing thing about rum is we can develop new and exciting flavours and styles based off what we know and have learnt from making gin. It gives us an opportunity to create something unique and special to release onto the market. Over time I see the rum market changing and there being an increase in fruit, botanical, and citrus based rums. We are so excited to be part of the UK rum movement and can’t wait for you all to try the products we have in the pipeline.