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Inu Ā Kena: Six Years On

November 16, 2017

Seriously, where does the time go?

6 year anniversary badge

 On Blogging

If inuakena.com were a child, it would be a first grader. It really puts time in perspective when I think of it that way. Continuing the analogy, it would be fair (and sad) to say most rum blogs die in infancy. It’s hard to toil in obscurity while you build an audience—especially with all the pressure of a day job, family, etc. I found this out early on, and fortunately was encouraged by other writers to stick it out (and I’m still grateful).

Nowadays, new spirit and cocktail writers are essentially “blogging” on other platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Those are great, but I hope that’s not the only future. I don’t want to read an article-length piece on Instagram—sorry, the text is just too small, and I want to be able to stop in the middle and come back to it later. Nice photos, though!

The great thing about web sites is that they are evergreen. Some of the articles I wrote years ago still get boatloads of traffic. People find these and interact with them as if they are new, which provides a continual stream of joy for me.

You have likely noticed I don’t write nearly as often as I used to, but I like to think the few articles I write are of interest to other rummies. The long-form stuff like my piece on the history of French Caribbean rum is way more fun and interesting to work on than another review of a dodgy rum, but it’s much harder to come up with those ideas than it is to take a sample from a PR firm or buy something at the store. That said, I’ll still be reviewing new rums and cane spirits that are of interest to me and my readers. (Distillery visits are still my favorite things to write about, however, such as this summer’s visit to Manulele Distillers.)

On Rum

So what about the state of rum? I would say it hasn’t been this strong in decades. You may read that rum case volumes are dropping, but that’s not a bad thing from where I sit, as the losses are all at the bottom end of the market. The biggest growth is happening in the “super premium” category, and many of them are actually deserving of the title.

Why super premium? There are three main drivers:

  1. Growing familiarity with and appreciation of brown spirits
    • What Sex and the City did for Cosmos, Mad Men did for brown liquor in a glass. Rum is a brown liquor that many find more palatable than whisk(e)y, Bob’s your uncle.
  2. Tiki 2.0
    • Tiki is huge right now, and where there is no tiki bar, there is at least a tiki night at a non-tiki bar. Nothing drives rum depletions like tiki drinks, so that is a big deal. (All of these folks should be sending royalty checks to Jeff Berry, BTW).
  3. The lack of fun in American whiskey
    • Fantastic deals on long-aged, high quality Bourbon and rye were once omnipresent, but those days are gone, and now your everyday dram has probably become unobtanium (for me it was Weller 12). This bummer of a market condition has pushed some Bourbon folks more into Scotch whisky, but it has also pushed many into the tippy top end of the rum market.

So what’s next for rum in the US? In short: more.

  1. More indie bottles and blends
    • Independent bottlings of cask-strength Caribbean rum are generating the most excitement right now. Expect to see more of these, as well as more “full strength” releases direct from the distilleries. The number of blended products from Amsterdam will also continue to rise, but will they differentiate themselves enough to prove successful over the long term?
    • With Velier setting up shop in New York City, we should finally be seeing some of the goodies the Europeans have been enjoying for years. Having bought more than a few bottles online from England and France, I am personally very stoked about this.
  2. More cane juice rums
    • Cane juice rums from the United States are catching on, and I for one am excited about it. Beginning with St. George here in California and KoHana on Oahu, we are now seeing new cane juice rums from the American Southeast and Louisiana.
    • Cane juice rums from Mexico are hitting the states now, beginning with Puerto Angel, and continuing with Paranubes (from the folks who brought you Mezcal Vago). The scarcity of agave will continue to drive the agua de caña business forward.
    • Velier’s entry into the American market also means we get Clairin! Look for this category to open up as people discover the wonders of Haiti’s spirits beyond the venerable Barbancourt.
  3. More flavorful white rums
    • The burgeoning success of Hampden Estate’s Rum Fire proves some people actually like congeners in their white rums. Expect to see more flavorful white rums from small mainland distilleries (Roulaison comes to mind) as well as blends from Amsterdam and elsewhere.
  4. More transparency
    • The days of decrying anti-additive crusaders as sticks in the mud (or worse) are over. People want to know what’s in the rum they drink, and producers are slowly responding in kind. Transparency is one of the key reasons independent rum bottlers and brutally honest rum makers like Richard Seale of Foursquare are doing so well, thus proving there is tangible value in transparency.

Onward

Like many of you, I’m incredibly passionate about rum, and I still hope to make it my living one day. I mean hey, if you know of any opportunities, send them my way…

Until then, you can find me here occasionally and on social media frequently. If you don’t follow @inuakena on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, please do! You’ll be kept up-to-date on all things rum and have all the crummy content filtered out before it hits your screen.

Thanks again for reading, and for your sustaining support. You rule.

Cheers,
Josh

 

 

 

 

 

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