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Rum the next Bourbon

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sailor22

There are a few notable differences to consider when comparing the Rum and Bourbon and their respective markets.

 

Almost all Bourbon (with the exception of small artisan distilleries)  is created in a very similar fashion.  Almost identical stills with subtly different mash bills distilled with similar yeast (obviously 4R is different) to very similar proofs, cut to similar proofs barreled in very similar barrels, aged in similar warehouses in mostly the same part of the country. The result is a notably uniform product.  To a large extent it's the batching and the vagaries of the aging process create the small differences that qualify the product as superior.

 

Rum is created from different source materials, fresh sugar cane juice, cane syrup and molasses that ranges from black and bitter to food grade. The range of stills in use is huge with everything from ancient wooden stills to copper pot to steel pot to antique coffy stills to modern coffy and column. The product comes off the still at percentages that are a hair away from qualifying as vodka to something barely above 45% and each when combined with the range of source material create a notably different distillate. Also consider that many producers infuse flavors into the distillate using techniques similar to the way Gin is made. The barrels being used for aging can be anything from totally depleted 50 year old leaky Beam barrels to brand new charred or uncharred stock.  Again vastly different end product. Most is aged on site, usually in tropical climate but a lot of product is aged at least some of it's life in Europe with vastly different climate influences.

 

There is a LOT more variation in the products called Rum than Bourbon.  As a result the offerings that you might think are excellent are often only available in very small volumes. To be sure there are industrial scale rum producers that generate volumes that would rival even the most efficient Bourbon distillers but their products are mostly destined for a different part of the rum market than a explorer from Bourbon is likely to find interesting.

 

Personally I don't find the Bourbon market as dire as you guys seem to think it is. Sure, the bottles I enjoy are more expensive than they were a few years ago and some of the bottles I particularly enjoy are no longer available except at secondary prices but that's what we expected 6 or 7 years ago when we saw this boom coming, plus the glut had us spoiled. I still find bottles that are worthy of reflective sipping at reasonable prices and there are lots of Bourbons on the shelf that qualify as excellent drinkers or mixers at very reasonable prices.

 

The rum market is actually two parallel markets. The Rum is Fun, anything sweet and smooth with no questions asked market that is characterized by flavored simple products is still the huge majority of rum drinkers. The competition from a manufacturing stand point is the race to the bottom as far as price is concerned. Money is made with inexpensive volume and "fun" marketing. These products are little more than rum flavored vodka or a cocktail in a bottle.  The parallel market is driven by whiskey drinkers who are exploring other spirits and are demanding more disclosure and a drinking experience closer to the grip and character of a fine whiskey.  The products available on this side have been limited and the prices are reflecting that scarcity.  

 

These same explorers creating the new rum market are bringing those same sensibilities and are currently creating something of a shift in the Brandy market as well although to a much smaller scale.

 

So is Rum the new Bourbon? not by a long shot, not enough volume of products that appeal to whiskey drinkers  Are very special bottles of Rum already out of reach price wise?  Often the answer is yup.  Will manufacturers wake up to the new market and create Rums that will be in demand? Foursquare has as has Mount Gay and I'm thinking the Jamaican products are there also. The problem for us consumers is that virtually all the manufacturers see us (the whiskey drinker market) as a way to sell premium products at much greater mark ups that they can get for their 40% shelf products. To his credit Richard (Foursquare) has released a series of barrel proof offerings at reasonable prices, it's the retail and secondary market that are driving the prices up. 

 

I think Mr Minick was close when he described Foursquare as the Pappy of Rum but I would call it the Stitzel Weller of Rum.... a distillery with range of products from low cost to premium that are not all special but a few that will stand the test of time and be considered classics. 

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tanstaafl2

A nice "distillation" of the current situation Steve. Not that I am surprised by that! :D

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The Black Tot

As much as I like Richard Seale, he doesn't make anything which will be retroactively named the best rum ever made, etc.

 

In order to be classified as the "Stitzel Weller" of rum, you have to have the category-leading product.

 

Foursquare makes great rum at most price points. But they aren't iconic in any sense of the word.

 

The Guyanans and Jamaicans are way over 4S, stylistically.

 

Is 4S great rum? absolutely, and I'd buy it any day of the week and I think Richard S is the man.

 

But is 4S the Stitzel Weller of rum? Absolutely not.

 

Believe me, I'm tempted to let everyone think so and to keep them out of the way of my future buying, but there is a line of truth I can't cross. Off you all go chasing Triptych and Principia. If you think that's the Stitzel Weller of rum, you're just wrong, but off you go!

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RWBadley

Interesting topic. A good number of years back I liked Pappy/Stitzel Weller enough in most all it's forms, but never thought of it to become the PVW of todays desire. Port Ellen, Rosebank, AH Hirsch, and pre closure Ardbeg I envisioned taking off.

 

PVW was quite good and generally available at a mostly reasonable price. Until it wasn't.

 

To be class leader the product may not need to be the 'best' by discerning taste.  Mystique and rarity seems the builder of desire. Also- somebody with the voice of authority and the bully pulpit to announce it as such. So in theory if enough of the right people say it's so- then that's all that's needed in some cases- within reason... Yay the Edsel- buy one today probably not.

 

Having said that, I do think a few bottles of the pre '10 vintage PVW 15 were Among the best I have tasted. 

 

I have loved spirits for a long time, but have yet to see any of the Rums, Mezcals, or Tequilas break into that realm of limited rare collectible mystique desire like some Scotch, Japanese, and Bourbon have done. Maybe it's time has come.

 

Funny, some of the Mezcal and Rum lately sure has been floating my boat. Yet it's unlikely to be much more than a sometime sipper and 'Hey let's make Mezcalritas' sort of thing- rather than OMG I need to get down to TW and stand in line for a bottle of the latest...:D

 

 

 

 

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The Black Tot
14 minutes ago, RWBadley said:

Funny, some of the Mezcal and Rum lately sure has been floating my boat. Yet it's unlikely to be much more than a sometime sipper and 'Hey let's make Mezcalritas' sort of thing- rather than OMG I need to get down to TW and stand in line for a bottle of the latest...

It doesn't really matter, because by the time the general spirits market returns to its natural sales levels and in Mexico they address the agave shortage, nobody will again care about the premium tequila or rum markets for many years to come.

 

I don't give a damn about whether people respect rum or tequila or how many people will line up for it, I just want good bottles of it available at good prices for those who know what the good stuff tastes like. If good rum doesn't make you want to line up then great - more for us. Don't bother!

Edited by The Black Tot

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sailor22
2 hours ago, The Black Tot said:

As much as I like Richard Seale, he doesn't make anything which will be retroactively named the best rum ever made, etc.

 

In order to be classified as the "Stitzel Weller" of rum, you have to have the category-leading product.

 

Foursquare makes great rum at most price points. But they aren't iconic in any sense of the word.

 

The Guyanans and Jamaicans are way over 4S, stylistically.

 

Is 4S great rum? absolutely, and I'd buy it any day of the week and I think Richard S is the man.

 

But is 4S the Stitzel Weller of rum? Absolutely not.

 

Believe me, I'm tempted to let everyone think so and to keep them out of the way of my future buying, but there is a line of truth I can't cross. Off you all go chasing Triptych and Principia. If you think that's the Stitzel Weller of rum, you're just wrong, but off you go!

So just to clarify - To my personal preference I have yet to run across any more than one or two rums (thinking of a couple of Velier) that are the equal of a great Bourbon.  There is a lot of potential in some current bottlings from some manufacturers , FS 2004 and Criterion, Appleton 21 and Joy, MG XP bp come to mind but nothing save a few super exotics show the overall grip, depth, intensity and balance that a great Bourbon possesses.

 

As  to the SW FS comparison - Not being a SW fanboi it seems to me Stitzel Weller made a plenty of product that was at best  average and the bottles we treasure today weren't huge hits in the market of the day and in fact may not even have existed without the glut.  Time and education of consumers in the market made them assume the mantle of classic.. I anticipate the same thing is going to happen to some bottles released by FS as they will be pointed to as early examples of manufacturers understanding and shooting at the target palate of the Bourbon explorer.

 

Edited by sailor22

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kevinbrink

Seems to me a better comparison in comparing Rum is with Scotch/Single Malt than with Bourbon. Bourbon allows for very little in the way of flavor variation in reality when compared to spirits like Single Malt and Rum which have much broader stylistic variation. Because of that I don't think any Rum could be the "Pappy" of Rum, because you would still have a "Pappy" of Rhum. Just like if I'm a peat head chances are the best Speysides in the world are not going to be my holy grail.

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RWBadley
42 minutes ago, The Black Tot said:

It doesn't really matter, because by the time the general spirits market returns to its natural sales levels and in Mexico they address the agave shortage, nobody will again care about the premium tequila or rum markets for many years to come.

 

I don't give a damn about whether people respect rum or tequila or how many people will line up for it, I just want good bottles of it available at good prices for those who know what the good stuff tastes like. If good rum doesn't make you want to line up then great - more for us. Don't bother!

I thought the thread topic was  "Rum the next Bourbon" and thought to give my $.02

 

I didn't quite understand your first paragraph. I think the same people that have always liked them will continue to. Always a place for the good stuff.

 

No disrespect meant to Rum, Mezcal, or Tequila. I have studied, appreciated, and consumed many many and enjoyed the gamut from better to worse.

 

I am also fine with it's relative lack of appreciation by the masses- as I feel like you do-  I'd rather not have my few favorites become sought after, allocated and overpriced.  I think demand for better will create sales of finer expressions. I'd sure like to see more available at higher proofs. Rum and Tequila. The demand has grown and now my local does have more that isn't floating at the 80 proof floor. Both Tequila and Rum. A good thing.

 

Having said that- in my town we have a new bar going in that will cater to exotic Rum tastes. I plan to be there and enjoy for sure. Is it a sign of Rum being the new Bourbon? I don't know.  ya never know.

 

 

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The Black Tot

My first paragraph means that we're in a high end spirits bubble, and the only reason people are reaching into good rums or tequilas right now is that they can't get or afford the good bourbons and single malts that would be their first choice. When production levels address the latter, the former will fall back into obscurity, and happily, for those who really love the taste of fine rums and tequilas.

 

There are a lot of "new rum bars" out there. Are they any good, or true to the spirit at all? I have a hard time imagining so when the category is getting slammed. The supply just isn't there for a new "rum bar" to get their supplies.

 

I'm sitting here typing this with a Cadenhead's 175th anniversary Caroni in my glass, which is basically a delicious cinnamon bomb. Can a "new rum bar" deliver this experience? No way, the bottles aren't available in enough quantity for them to stay in business.

 

What they'll be forced to do is peddle sugared mass produced dreck. That's the business and the industry at present. So will rum be the new bourbon? No, there isn't the requisite volume.

 

And there is zero chance that 4S is a Stitzel Weller equivalent.

 

Just no.

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sailor22
29 minutes ago, kevinbrink said:

Seems to me a better comparison in comparing Rum is with Scotch/Single Malt than with Bourbon. Bourbon allows for very little in the way of flavor variation in reality when compared to spirits like Single Malt and Rum which have much broader stylistic variation. Because of that I don't think any Rum could be the "Pappy" of Rum, because you would still have a "Pappy" of Rhum. Just like if I'm a peat head chances are the best Speysides in the world are not going to be my holy grail.

Good point

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The Black Tot
1 hour ago, sailor22 said:

So just to clarify - To my personal preference I have yet to run across any more than one or two rums (thinking of a couple of Velier) that are the equal of a great Bourbon.  There is a lot of potential in some current bottlings from some manufacturers , FS 2004 and Criterion, Appleton 21 and Joy, MG XP bp come to mind but nothing save a few super exotics show the overall grip, depth, intensity and balance that a great Bourbon possesses.

 

That is my point. SW is SW because it put out the All Stars, no matter what regular stuff it put out in the interim. In rum, the All Stars ain't 4square products, and you know it, because you have drank them, hence your reference to the "super exotics". At this point I'm only objecting to your statement because it's not helping people who won't know otherwise figure the rum world out.

 

1 hour ago, sailor22 said:

As  to the SW FS comparison - Not being a SW fanboi it seems to me Stitzel Weller made a plenty of product that was at best  average and the bottles we treasure today weren't huge hits in the market of the day and in fact may not even have existed without the glut.  Time and education of consumers in the market made them assume the mantle of classic.. I anticipate the same thing is going to happen to some bottles released by FS as they will be pointed to as early examples of manufacturers understanding and shooting at the target palate of the Bourbon explorer.

 

If you ain't a "SW fanboi" then you have no place stating what is the "SW of rum". Am I missing the point in this?

 

SW ain't SW because they understood and shot at the target palate of the bourbon explorer. They were just out to make bitchin' bourbons, and they hit the mark a few times and those bourbons were understood to be the best of the best. 4S isn't about this. Like at all. You have done a lot for the rum category. What is up with this narrative?

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sailor22
10 hours ago, The Black Tot said:

 

That is my point. SW is SW because it put out the All Stars, no matter what regular stuff it put out in the interim. In rum, the All Stars ain't 4square products, and you know it, because you have drank them, hence your reference to the "super exotics". At this point I'm only objecting to your statement because it's not helping people who won't know otherwise figure the rum world out.

 

If you ain't a "SW fanboi" then you have no place stating what is the "SW of rum". Am I missing the point in this?

 

SW ain't SW because they understood and shot at the target palate of the bourbon explorer. They were just out to make bitchin' bourbons, and they hit the mark a few times and those bourbons were understood to be the best of the best. 4S isn't about this. Like at all. You have done a lot for the rum category. What is up with this narrative?

Well I think we just have a difference of opinion and perhaps perspective. I can give you more details of my reasoning but I don't expect I'll change your mind much. Still, it's interesting to compare our thoughts as that's the fun being spirits geeks. I hope we can meet sometime and share our thoughts over a few drams.

 

The short version - My personal opinion is that a lot of those special Bourbons from both SW and some others were the product of the era as much as the manufacturer. A lot of small things contributed but that's been discussed a lot and is a long narrative. In short I don't think anyone there was omniscient or a distilling genius. obviously YMMV

I compare FS to SW because both offer(d) a broad range of products in an attempt to gain market share and both have some stand outs mostly at the top of their range. 

 

My personal opinion is that while the current limited releases are very good the best from FS is still to come as stocks age.  I trust Richard (and Luca when he gets involved) to get it right and release it at a proof big enough to give it some character.   

Joy at a Appleton can blend some truly excellent juice and they are sitting on huge stocks of much older product which portends well for the future but until someone there understands that palates like mine prefer a little more grip, complexity and proof their products will come up just a whisker short.

Worthy Park is good but hasn't shown me anything complex enough to stand out.

Long Pond is back in operation and Gabriel has loads of old stock but if history is any indicator you can expect it to be sugared and largely neutered by the time it reaches the bottle.

Some of the DT Long Pond sb offerings are among the exotics I referred to earlier, truly special rum.  

St Nicholas Abby has a decent amount of old FS juice - perhaps some of the oldest - but in a truly bone headed move they cut the entire stock to 40% and tanked it.

 

St Lucia uses three different stills, two different pots and a column and use all kinds of source from cane juice to molasses then they use a wide variety of used and new barrels for aging. They have old stocks, some very old.  The blending opportunities are exciting but there is an in house mind set agains higher proof.  Perhaps one of the very best Rums I have ever had was a bottle of St Lucia 1931 4th edition at barrel proof that was pulled from the batch just before they cut the entire batch to bottling proof and tanked it. A complicated mash up of a blend it was everything a great spirit should be. Now that the market has moved to a point where it will pay for barrel proof and there is some in house interest in marketing something like that they have tried to recreate the product but none of the samples they have sent me match up. A testament to how hard blending spirits actually is.  However if their blender happens to create another like the first one it will certainly turn some heads.

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kevinbrink
3 hours ago, sailor22 said:

Well I think we just have a difference of opinion and perhaps perspective. I can give you more details of my reasoning but I don't expect I'll change your mind much. Still, it's interesting to compare our thoughts as that's the fun being spirits geeks. I hope we can meet sometime and share our thoughts over a few drams.

 

The short version - My personal opinion is that a lot of those special Bourbons from both SW and some others were the product of the era as much as the manufacturer. A lot of small things contributed but that's been discussed a lot and is a long narrative. In short I don't think anyone there was omniscient or a distilling genius. obviously YMMV

I compare FS to SW because both offer(d) a broad range of products in an attempt to gain market share and both have some stand outs mostly at the top of their range. 

 

My personal opinion is that while the current limited releases are very good the best from FS is still to come as stocks age.  I trust Richard (and Luca when he gets involved) to get it right and release it at a proof big enough to give it some character.   

Joy at a Appleton can blend some truly excellent juice and they are sitting on huge stocks of much older product which portends well for the future but until someone there understands that palates like mine prefer a little more grip, complexity and proof their products will come up just a whisker short.

Worthy Park is good but hasn't shown me anything complex enough to stand out.

Long Pond is back in operation and Gabriel has loads of old stock but if history is any indicator you can expect it to be sugared and largely neutered by the time it reaches the bottle.

Some of the DT Long Pond sb offerings are among the exotics I referred to earlier, truly special rum.  

St Nicholas Abby has a decent amount of old FS juice - perhaps some of the oldest - but in a truly bone headed move they cut the entire stock to 40% and tanked it.

 

St Lucia uses three different stills, two different pots and a column and use all kinds of source from cane juice to molasses then they use a wide variety of used and new barrels for aging. They have old stocks, some very old.  The blending opportunities are exciting but there is an in house mind set agains higher proof.  Perhaps one of the very best Rums I have ever had was a bottle of St Lucia 1931 4th edition at barrel proof that was pulled from the batch just before they cut the entire batch to bottling proof and tanked it. A complicated mash up of a blend it was everything a great spirit should be. Now that the market has moved to a point where it will pay for barrel proof and there is some in house interest in marketing something like that they have tried to recreate the product but none of the samples they have sent me match up. A testament to how hard blending spirits actually is.  However if their blender happens to create another like the first one it will certainly turn some heads.

My personal picks at this moment would be St Lucia, Hampden & Appleton but that would be subject to change by as soon as this evening.

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