Spice World – Is rum the new gin?

Spiced rums have gained popularity over the past few years with more variants being available on the high street and in bars and restaurants, but what is it about the spirit that appeals to consumers and how does it compare to other types of rum?

A quick history of spiced rum

The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th Century.  Plantation slaves first discovered that molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process, fermented into alcohol.  Soon blends, spices and fruits were added, using the best of the Caribbean flavours.

Rum and Fizz
Peaky Blinder Black Spiced Rum. Picture courtesy of Rum and Fizz in Cardiff

Which spiced rum is best?

Spiced rum may be a small fish in a big spirits pond but thanks to increasing innovation and heightened consumer interest, the category is creating waves on the trade – which is good news to rum lovers like me.

Last year, dark and spiced rum sales grew by 16% volume and 12% value, where 1.4 million bottles were sold to the tune of £116 million according to figures gathered by Wine and Spirit Trade Association.  I remember when I started working on the bar, the only rum that would be available was Barcardi and a little bit later, Captain Morgan, but now there are so many more available.

Where is Captain Morgan spiced rum from?

Captain Morgan is famous today as the face of the spiced rum, but did you know he is a Welsh pirate?  That’s right, he’s real.  Sir Henry Morgan was born in Llanrumney in Cardiff in 1635 to a wealthy farming family.  When he came from Wales to the West Indies is uncertain, but he owned sugar plantations in Jamaica and became a man of status on the island and spent much of his time there battling the Spanish.  He spent the end of his life in Port Royal, a city infamous for piracy, where he spent his time on politics and drinking rum with his privateer comrades.

Sir Henry Morgan known as Captain Morgan
Portrait of Sir Henry Morgan known as Captain Morgan

Why is spiced rum so popular?

Now, bars have taken an interest in rum especially as more customers are coming in and looking to see what spiced rums are out there too.  Drinkers are starting to seek out more unusual spiced rums, and the big reason for the growth in the category is its accessibility as a spirit.  The addition of sugar, sweet spices, vanilla, lemon, ginger, cinnamon, etc. has made spiced rum a popular choice because of our predilection to sweet tastes.  As they are sweeter in style, they appeal more, and you do not need to be a connoisseur to appreciate the subtleties when you are drinking it.

Most consumers are starting to look beyond drinking gin or vodka, which is used as a stepping stone to drinking spirits.  For some, the jump to whiskey can be too harsh, and spiced rum does not have the ‘burn’ that whiskey does.  While those responsible for making and serving spiced rum are under no illusions that it will be the ‘next gin’, they do see parallels between the two.  There may not be the same boom, but producers are experimenting more and more blends are coming to the market.

Spiced rums versatility and mixability make it the perfect contender to gin.  New fruity-style spiced rums offer an easy alternative, and it also works well in cocktails and blends.  It mixes with nearly everything, with the help of a squeeze of lime or some sugar.

Can you drink spiced rum straight?

Absolutely.  If you want to take a shot of just rum, which is called drinking it “neat” or “straight up”, stick to a high-quality rum with a 40% ABV. Pour that rum into a small glass, warm it between your hands, and sip at it slowly so you can enjoy its full flavour.  If you want to drink it “on the rocks” an aged rum works well with one or two ice cubes to develop its best flavours.

Spiced rum and coke

Even Coca-Cola has got in on the act, for the first time in 134 years, Coca-Cola has collaborated with top mixologists to create Coca- Cola Signature Mixers.  Coming in 200ml bottles; Smoky is ideally paired with bourbon and dark rum, Spicy with dark rum or silver tequila, Herbal is excellent paired with vodka and silver tequila and Woody with whiskey or a dark rum.  As Coca-Cola is the number one mixer in volume, ahead of tonic, it is understandable that they want to stay ahead of the game.

Coca Cola Signature Mixers
Coca Cola Signature Mixers

What to mix spiced rum with besides coke?

As well as being amazing in cocktails such as mojitos, daiquiris, martini, long island iced tea, pina colada, dark and stormy and other amazing creations, you can serve spiced rum or dark rum with so many different mixers:

  • Apple juice
  • Cider
  • Coffee
  • Cranberry juice
  • Dr Pepper
  • Elderflower
  • Energy drink like Red Bull
  • Fizzy orange like Fanta
  • Ginger ale or beer
  • Iced tea
  • Lemonade
  • Lime
  • Milk
  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Root beer
  • Sangria
  • Smoothie
  • Soda water
  • Tonic
  • Vanilla

Can you cook with spiced rum?

I do.  It is a fantastic addition to sauces such as pulled pork, glazed ham, chilli, BBQ ribs or as a spiced rum reduction.  One of my favourite starters is fresh prawns with chilli, garlic and a generous glug of spiced rum added to the pan – my boyfriend loves it too, and often asks me to cook it for him.  It is also fantastic in a spiced rum pineapple upside down cake, in fruit cake, in cupcakes and in truffles or fudge.

Who makes spiced rum?

Bacardi was a latecomer to the spiced rum party, only launching Bacardi Spiced in February 2019.  The company say that it was a natural choice and after conducting customer surveys, however, I believe this was a reaction to dropping sales.  Their timing may be right, as it appears that the majority of consumers have not realised that ‘it had been missing’ all this time, and are choosing the recognised brand.

There is even a hemp rum!  The advert is close to the bone with the slogan ‘dealers wanted’, and is backed by a £2 million advertising campaign.  Dead Man’s Fingers have crafted a version of their classic Caribbean rum infused with natural hemp and CBD.  They say that grassy herbal back-notes are supported by hints of cola, coffee, hops and pine, and is best served with coke or ginger ale.

Dead man's fingers
Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum with their slogan ‘Dealers Wanted’.

Is spiced rum gluten free?

Along with vodka, gin and tequila, rum is gluten-free. Gluten is removed during the distillation process, and therefore, most spirits are gluten-free. As gluten is used in the process, however, it is recommended that if you do have an intolerance or allergy to approach with caution.

Can you drink spiced rum with a nut allergy?

You can.  Spiced rums are suitable for nut allergy suffers and sesame allergy sufferers.  However, I would highly recommend double-checking the label and the with the manufacturer before consuming.

Is spiced rum vegan?

It is easy to find vegan alcohol these days, but you have to do some research since beer and wine can be processed using animal products such as egg whites, or gelatine. Fortunately, virtually every spirit – bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum—is vegan.  Some products do mention honey on the label, which some vegans will not eat or drink, so it always best to check.

Does spiced rum have carbs?

Straight rum is very low carb, if not zero carbs.  If you are drinking spiced rum, the nutritional information you need to consider is a 30ml shot is on average 69 calories and is fat-free, carb free and protein free.

My favourite spiced rums

Barti Ddu Rum
Barti Ddu Spiced Rum, named after the Welsh pirate, it is infused with Pembrokeshire seaweed.

Are there any Welsh spiced rums?

Barti Spiced – this is one of my favourites too.  It is infused with Pembrokeshire seaweed.  It is full of flavour, smooth and more memorable than any other.  There are different rums in the collection, and they are named after Barti Ddu the Welsh pirate, who raided ships off the Americas and West Indies in the 1700’s.  I found out earlier in the year shares my birthday on the 17th of May:  It’s my birthday! Some facts about the 17th of May

Wreckers Welsh Rum – from the Pembrokeshire Distillery it blends together craft rum with dark Caribbean rum and local Welsh spring water.  It is produced in tiny batches, only 30 bottles at a time.

Welsh Rum – from Coles, it is the first ever rum made in Wales from sweet blackstrap molasses fermented with authentic Caribbean rum yeast.

Swellies Spiced Rum – from the Llanfairpwll Distillery it was released earlier this year.  The craft spiced rum ‘gives a nod to some of the most treacherous waters in the world’ and is infused with vanilla, cinnamon, French oak and Anglesey Honey.

National Rum Day

You guessed it, there is even a day of the year to celebrate the drink.  Each year, on the 16th August, it is National Rum Day.  What more of an opportunity do you need to sample some varieties of rum, and decide on some new favourites?!


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