Last week after a group of bartenders took a boat ride from San Francisco to Oakland, where we were treated to a rum debate starring:
- Ed Hamilton, founder of the Ministry of Rum.
- Martin Cate, tiki expert and owner of Smuggler's Cove
- David Cid, Bacardi brand master apprentice
- Gerry Schweitzer, founder of Leblon cachacha
It wasn't nearly as boring as Cate and Cid make it look in the picture below.
The event was called the Great Rum Debate, but it was more of a nice focus group on what's happening and what should happen with the rum industry.
Here were some of the topics discussed:
The future of the rum industry
- Schweitzer says that regulation should be coming to Brazil as the country reemerges into the world. He said, "I think we're looking to other sugar cane producing and Caribbean countries for cues."
- Cid says, "What I would like to see is more standard definitions between the major producers."
- This topic came up a few times- there is no standardization of statements on rum- bottles, what 'vieux' means, dark rum vs. aged, etc. Yet nobody seemed to think that the brands would all get together and agree on anything. They all want it to be done to match what each individual brand is already doing, which makes it impossible.
Is the industry prepared for increased rum production as consumers get more turned on to aged rum?
- Hamilton says the rum industry benefited from the price increases of the single malt scotch industry.
- Cid said Bacardi spent over 100 million dollars in the last 10 years increasing production capacity and in environmental improvements.
- Cate said that the fast aging of rum in the tropics helps, as they don't have to think as far out as the scotch industry does. In terms of where the industry is in improving its image and production, he said, "It feels like rum has been lagging about 10 years behind tequila... and fortunately I think that gap is getting a lot shorter."
The direction of the rum industry
- Schweitzer says, "More education, more communication is needed to break down the pirate thing (image of Captain Morgan and partying associated with rum). With transparency comes knowledge."
- Cid agreed with Schweitzer's last statement. "My position didn't exist three years ago," he said. (More on Bacardi's increased transparency on yesterday's post. )
- Cate said the challenge now is to raise rum's credibility, and noted that there is no flavored scotch- the industry prevents it. "If you think it's a big party and this is not a spirit to be taken seriously then it's not good for the industry," he said.
- Cate and Hamilton also noted how many rums obscure their origins and how hard that makes it to learn about them. Cate said, "I love a rum that's proud of its country of origin."
A great panel and lots of good information. Thanks guys!