There’s no need for rum to try to shake its pirate image, according to experts who gathered together in London yesterday for DRN’s annual Think Rum event.

When asked whether rum should shake its pirate image to help consumers take the category more seriously, a panel of rum experts was unanimous in its answer.

Sly Augustin, owner of ‘rum lounge’ Trailer Happiness, said: “I think rum will be fun with or without pirates. I think consumers are smart and savvy enough to understand that something exists beyond that. Rum has a tradition that is directly related to fun.

“I don’t think it will ever be as straight-laced as whisky and I don’t see this as a negative thing. We are not trying to be whisky and we don’t want to lose the essential element of rum.”

This was a sentiment echoed by John Vine, Waitrose’s spirits buyer. He said: “If we can get people to come into the rum category via work from the bigger producers such as Diageo or Pernod Ricard and that revolves around the pirate image with brands such as Captain Morgan, then that can’t be a bad thing. It is a fun category and let’s just make it fun.”

Dawn Davies, the head buyer at Speciality Drinks (and former spirits buyer for Selfridges), said: “If we look at the gin category then Hendrick’s is one of the brands that really took people into gin and upwards into the premium sector and it managed this because it is fun. I do think ‘bring on the pirate’, but in a controlled way.”

The annual Think Rum event is designed to help both retailers and on-trade operators improve their range, boost margins and broaden their knowledge, and this year’s event included a series of talks supported by co-chairman, Peter Holland, who runs The Floating Rum Shack.

Rum sales have soared in the UK over the past five years and broke through the £1 billion barrier in 2017, according to the WSTA.

In the last five years, rum has grown 18% in volume and 38% in value, as Brits increasingly opt for premium options.