Sukhinder Singh: get ready for the rum revolution

Rum has come of age and for collectors, the party is just getting started. Sukhinder Singh, co-founder of The Whisky Exchange, talks to MoneyWeek.

Vivacious and fun, rum has long served as the base spirit for tropical cocktails – the ones in the silly glasses with the tiny umbrellas and pineapple wedges. Now, as we saw in a recent article in MoneyWeek magazine, rum has come of age. (If you’re not already a subscriber, grab your first six issues free.) It’s not too late for collectors to get involved, Sukhinder Singh, co-founder of The Whisky Exchange, tells MoneyWeek. The party is just getting started. 

MoneyWeek: The roaring trade in rare whiskies is well known. Is there a comparable market in aged rums?  

Sukhinder Singh: The "rum revolution" is just beginning. Over the last few years a lot has been happening in the rum world with distillers and brands reformulating products to make them more interesting and challenging to people’s palates. They’re adding character, often focusing on pot still rum, and more work is being done to categorise rum, which in turn is helping to drive understanding on the spirit. 

All of this work is helping collectors to see rum as a premium spirit worth investing in – and although this market is still in its infancy it’s building at a great pace. At the moment, rum collectors are most interested in lost distilleries such as Caroni (in a similar way to the interest in closed whisky distilleries such as Rosebank or Karuizawa). 

One big benefit of rum over whisky to collectors is that there isn’t as much of it available and price points haven’t reached those of whisky yet – and therefore collectors can still  "accomplish a mission" by collecting everything.

MW: How has the market developed and where could it be heading next?  

SS: At the moment rum bottlings can fetch around £1,000 – with very few selling for higher prices. In this way the market still has a long way to go to match whisky for several reasons. 

Firstly, the interest in aged rums hasn’t been there, and therefore brands haven’t been creating these products so the physical bottlings that would sell for big prices don’t always exist. Secondly, rum ages much quicker in the tropical climates where it is traditionally produced, and therefore a 20-year-old rum would be equivalent to a 40-year-old whisky in terms of the flavour it gets from the barrel and the amount of liquid that is lost during the ageing process. 

A lot of education will need to be done on this before collectors are willing to pay higher prices for rum. That said, as people are beginning to understand this a little more, prices are spiralling. For example, bottles that used to sell for £200-£300 five years ago are now reaching that £1,000 price point.  

MW: Who are the biggest buyers? Is there much interest from Millennials?

SS: Those investing in rum are of all ages. The prices aren’t as expensive as whisky so new investors can get involved, but we’re mostly still seeing the collectable rums selling to a demographic similar to whisky investors.

MW: Which are the most collectable rums? Is there one island that makes better rums than the others or does each island/region have a style of its own?

SS: The different regions producing rum can be compared to the different regions of Scotland – each has its own style but no one region is better or worse than another. The rums that are becoming most collectible are those with a higher pot still content because this has been rarer in the past. Caroni is becoming particularly sought after as it is a closed distillery and therefore there is a finite amount of bottlings on the market. Foursquare is building quite a following due to some superb small batch bottlings.

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