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A sip at a time

Parish Ambassadors getting a closer look at one of the tanks.

by Latoya Burnham

Despite the fact that 90 to 95 per cent of the rum produced at West Indies Rum Distilleries is exported, the manufacturers say the recession has still been challenging.

Operations Manager, Don Benn, told a group of parish ambassadors during a tour of the facility today however that they were discovering a new trend in young consumers of the product.

The rum manufacturer is one of the sponsors of the Community Independence Celebrations and the tour was to give the ambassadors a better idea of what is involved in the process.

Benn said Barbados still had a pretty strong brand where rum was concerned and the tag “Made in Barbados” still held sway in the market. But he said there were competitors who were noting that they could produce rum cheaper.

It is in this respect, he said, that West Indies Rum Distilleries had been able to play to its strengths of quality and customer service.

“We then try to play on our strengths and use our strengths more… Barbados is a brand right now. The other thing we pride ourselves on is quality, the ability to give our customer what is required.

“There are not many distilleries in the Caribbean that have the laboratory capabilities that we have and sometimes you have a problem with your product and you can’t tell what is going on. So our quality is our main thing,” he said, adding that even if a distillery in Ecuador sold a cheaper product, “made in Ecuador” was not the same as “made in Barbados”.

The operations manager said as well that while there was also still a market for the aged rums, it was now coming down to a question of preference by the different customer bases.

“You might have a customer base that values that very woody taste the longer you keep it in a barrel. We find now, younger people, in their late 20s, early 30s, want a cleaner product. So you don’t even have to age it.

“They may want some flavour like apple vodka or something like that. So you don’t have to age it, just make the alcohol and add flavours. So it depends on your market, but what you have to be careful of when you aging rum is that the longer you age it the more it evaporates.”

In places like Barbados, the hot temperature allowed the rum to age faster, but the downside was that more was lost in the heat, than in humidity which allowed the barrels to swell and sealed up the cracks in the casks.

“Quite a lot of what we export comes directly from the process, maybe blending two types of rum. It may be aged or put in a bottle right away, add a little flavour and put it right out for the market.” There were still markets though, he said, that would take the product shipped in tonnes and age it to suit their own customers tastes.

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