The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show arrives in late September. This is a good thing. So important is this particular whisky show, it might be called the Big Show. If the organisers are reading us though, they’d need to talk to WWE about trademarks, since that outfit has a wrestler called Big Show on the books, real name Paul Donald Wight II.
Even so, the Whisky Show is bigger than the Big Show for us, and that’s saying something, because Paul is over 7ft tall and has an employment history that includes bouncing and bounty hunting. All of which is big.
So, the Whisky Show, we’ve established it’s a big deal. It runs in London on September 29-30 and it attracts the leading whisky brands in the business, a genuine A-Z of the spirit. Seriously, we looked at the exhibitor list, everyone from Aberlour to Zuidam, although we didn’t see an ‘I’ in there. Or a ‘‘Q’. Or a ‘U’ yet. Still, loads of whisky from all over the world.
But this year, what caught our eye was the inclusion of rum. We know. Rum, at a whisky show, how dare they? Well, they dare folks, and with sound reasoning, because discerning drinkers have now agreed that rum should be treated with the same reverence as whisky.
If you read this column regularly, you’ll know where we stand on this. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, and again, and again: customers need to be educated on the sipping potential of rum. If you stock the best, then you need to communicate the finer points of the spirits – yes, it remains the party potable, but it can also be a refined recommendation. If you don’t stock the best, get some on the go, because it’s an incredible evocative category with extraordinary narratives and, increasingly, a luxury potential.
This year’s Whisky Show will feature a zone dedicated to rum, which is a first for the event, now in its 10th year. The rums themselves speak volumes about what the category is aiming at, with luxury liquids including the Diplomatico Distillery Collection, Foursquare, Transcontinental and Trois Rivieres. These are brands that can raise the sniffy eyebrow of any connoisseur. Such brands showcase not only the vast global reach of this spirit, but also the variety in production with independent bottlings, vintages, unique distillation methods and small batch all available. With as many as 40 likely to be promoting their wares, retailers will get a true sense of how rum can be presented on shelves.
Founder of the show, and co-founder of The Whisky Exchange, Sukhinder Singh says: “There are certain styles of rum that, like great whiskies, make this category exciting. Agricole rums made from sugar cane with big earthy flavours, aged pot still rums which are rich and complex, single estate blended rums with finesse and balance for everyday drinking and, of course, single cask rums from around the world.”
The success of Rumfest has proved there’s an appetite for this category, but this step towards luxury is evidence rum has an audience in the whisky world, which can only help elevate its credentials further. And for us, that’s big.