Sonic Rum Boom


Jason Caddy delves into the rum category in Scotland to see what’s hot brand and trends-wise and ponders whether it’s ever going to eclipse its old nemesis gin.


Scotland and rum production go way back before the current sonic rum boom that’s almost deafening thanks to brand innovation and customers getting more of a taste for it. Sailors introduced it to the UK in the 17th century and it quickly went viral, then a sugar revolution eclipsed tobacco and up popped refineries in Glasgow, several housing rum distilleries.


But fast-forward a few centuries and is rum in Scotland destined to be forever the bridesmaid to the bride that is gin?


Said Fraser McIlwraith, Director at HOSPO Talent, Dark Art Drinks & Glasgow Cocktail Collective, “Rum has the potential to be as big. I think that one of the reasons that gin did so well is that male and female customers were happy with flavour profiles. Gin and tonic is pretty universal.


“Rum was seen as a masculine drink, but we have seen a change in this perception over the last five years, it’s got more flavoursome. Some great Scottish rums are ripping up the rule book by adding ingredients not traditionally associated with the spirit and this is widening its reach.”


How are sales of rum doing in the bars of some of his clients?


“In the last three months cocktail sales in Scotland’s bars have gone through the roof. My clients can’t believe how many of their customers are ordering cocktails and for efficiency and to keep up with demand, instead of say 20 cocktails on a list, a bar may have only six at the moment.


“Strawberry Daiquiris and Mojitos are two of the biggest hitters. Customers have missed good cocktails and because it’s a limited cocktail list, they are driven to the easy classics.”


Market Data Forecast says that the global rum market is worth $15 billion in 2021 and is set to grow to $21.5 billion by 2026. Statista predicts that in the UK, the rum category as a whole will see volume reach 26.9ML by 2025 with volume growth of 15.8% by 2022.


The number of rum brands in the UK has also gone from 50 in 2009 to over 200 in 2021.


Which rum brands are doing well across the bar across Scotland?


Michael Woods is the owner of St Luke’s and The Winged Ox and The Amsterdam in Glasgow has seen rum sales outstrip gin sales lately across his two venues.


He said, “Bacardi White, Bacardi Gold, and Sailor Jerry are our biggest sellers across both venues and rum sales have actually been slightly better than gin sales lately, despite the hot weather and customers associating gin and tonic with summertime drinking and dark rums with winter generally.”


Meanwhile, over in Edinburgh, it’s homegrown rums that are pretty much unstoppable at the moment – with a mixer and as part of a cocktail.


Said Scott Kirk, manager at Edinburgh’s Nauticus,  “Our top-selling rums are all from Scotland. Sweetdram Smoked Spiced rum is Edinburgh-made and our biggest seller. SeaWolf is second. Then it’s J. Gow Rum.


“We’ve also got a cocktail on the menu called Loose Canon that flies out the door and is popular with all ages and both sexes. It’s made of Sweetddram, lime cordial, Bon Accord ginger beer, and Angostura bitters. “


Stuart McPhee owns Aberdeen’s Siberia Bar & Hotel where it’s arguably chillier and where rum is yet to completely shake off its seasonal warming shackles that may stand in the way of it being a summer drink.


He said, “We do a decent volume of our house-pour, Bacardi Spiced. We also do a ludicrous amount of frozen daiquiris using Bacardi Carta Blanca so it’s nothing overly adventurous.


“I don’t sell as much dark month as used to which has more to do with changing demographics towards younger clientele whereas this is traditionally an older person’s drink plus rum is still seasonal – it’s got an ingrained warmth to it.


“Vodka has always been a year-round choice whereas gin was pigeonholed as a spring/summer drink but it’s broken out of that now and so might rum break beyond being a go-to on dark winter nights.


“I’m always being encouraged by reps to move into flavoured rums and I guess this will develop as we expand cocktails.”


Moving further north again, Cru Holdings’ MD Scott Murray, owner of seven Inverness bars, said,  “Customers are expanding their repertoires and understanding that there’s a difference between brands and that a rum is not just rum. There’s a drive toward quality and more Cuban rums too.


“Our biggest sellers are Brugal Blanco rum because of all the amount of daiquiris we sell, and Old J Tiki Fire rum because of its strength.”



In the beginning, there was Dark Matter and its Banchory distillery in 2015. This was the first rum to come from Scotland and now it’s in good company.


J. Gow Rum takes its name from the infamous Orkney pirate John Gow. His short, violent career began in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and ended in Orkney. The distillery sits metres away from the sea, on Lamb Holm, a tiny Orkney island, just 0.15 square miles across.


Head Distiller Collin creates a range of rum styles on what may well be one of the smallest rum-producing islands in the world. J. Gow Rum focus on cask-ageing and unique fermentation techniques to produce a range of rums that are full-bodied and decadent. Their range currently consists of Spiced Rum, Fading Light – a chestnut cask-aged rum and their newest release, Revenge – an ex-Bourbon and Virgin Oak cask-aged three-year-old rum.


William Grant & Sons’ Discarded Spirits arm includes Banana Peel Rum.  This one embraces sustainability by creating cocktail recipes with ingredients that have been repurposed and is part of the green spirits revolution. It’s a cask-aged rum with the extract of banana peel.  Discarded Spirits is also sponsoring the Cocktail Bar/Initiative of the Year at this year’s Scottish Bar & Pub Awards.


Kopparberg, sponsor of Best New Bar and Best and Most Improved Outdoor Area at the awards, recently expanded its spiced rum range with the launch of Dark Fruit Spiced Rum.


The new Dark Fruit Spiced Rum is the second rum from Kopparberg, following the release of Cherry Spiced Rum in June 2020.


Rob Salvesen, head of marketing at Kopparberg, said, “Following the success of our Cherry Spiced Rum launch earlier this year, our new Dark Fruit variant allows existing and new Kopparberg Rum fans to discover a new way to enjoy the bold fruit flavours the brand is famous for.”


Elsewhere on the wider brand front, Pernod Ricard expanded its Havana Club range in the UK this year when it introduced Havana Club Cuban Spiced and hopes that the new product will also attract millennials and ‘Gen Z’ drinkers into the rum category.


It supported the launch with on-trade activity which has included bar takeovers in Glasgow and Edinburgh – as well as consumer-facing social media activity.


Said Ian Peart, commercial director at Pernod Ricard UK, “The launch is well-positioned to capitalise on the growth opportunity in spiced rum, and we will be focusing on educating and inspiring UK bartenders on the liquid’s versatility to establish menu visibility across the on-trade.”


The final mention should go to some of the newest Scottish rums to have entered the market in the last year or so.


Freddy Drucquer, Dougie Jeffries and Chris Dowdall united in their enthusiasm for rum to create Brass Neck Rum, based in Glasgow and develop a recipe for a spiced rum that combines Scottish botanicals like nettle and milk thistle with tonka bean and orange peel. The label features an urban fox, elements of the Glasgow skyline and the Scottish countryside.


Thurso’s North Point Distillery was founded in 2020. It produces small-batch, sustainable Scottish spirits that boast Caribbean-style rum, aged using Scotch Whisky maturation techniques.


Askival Botanical Rum based on the Isle of Rùm. Establishing Eos Distillers Ltd a year ago, Fergus, Josh Kerr and Ali Gray have teamed up with Scottish chef Craig Grozier to bring their product to the market in November 2020. They are importing five-year-old rum from the Caribbean to make the botanical product initially while the business grows to finance its own distillery where it can produce the product from scratch.


Edinburgh’s Harpalion Spirits launched a new rum brand, ‘Cabal’ in May this year, and more than half of the first batch of its first expression No.1513 sold during the pre-order phase.


Livingston-based Matugga Distillers owned and operated by husband-and-wife duo, Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa has unveiled Liv Rum that is ‘inspired by the nation’s love for craft spirits and locally made produce, is handcrafted from start to finish using natural and seasonal ingredients.’


The range includes two white rums and a black spiced rum infused with Scottish heather.  The artisan collection also includes. Raspberry and Hibiscus Rum Liqueur, made using seasonal hand-picked raspberries and Honey and Lavender Rum Liqueur created using Scottish honey and locally sourced lavender.