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Bacardi’s Lisa Pfenning On The Opportunity In Aged Rum

July 25, 2022

As vice president, Americas, for the Bacardi rum portfolio, Lisa Pfenning oversees Bacardi Ltd’s largest brand in the U.S. market, where it has annual volume of some 6.8 million cases, according to Impact Databank.  In recent years, Bacardi has moved to capitalize on the brown spirits boom to offer aged rum styles to a new generation of discerning drinkers. The largest aged rum in the range, Bacardi Reserva Ocho, grew by 21% to 28,000 cases in the U.S. last year. SND recently caught up with Pfenning to discuss the progress of Bacardi’s premiumization efforts.

SND: What role do you see aged offerings playing within the wider rum category?

Pfenning: Premium spirits consumption is on an uptick, including in the on-trade and at-home segments, so it’s clear that the pivot to home cocktail-making has influenced consumers to become more aware of the craft and quality of the ingredients in their drinks. This shift has also carried over to how they’re ordering at bars and restaurants, with a focus on quality and legacy brands and products. This is consistent with our Bacardi Cocktail Trends Report, which affirms that dark rums have experienced a wave of premiumization. Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez, aged a minimum of 10 years, has done consistently well in the ultra-premium segment, while Bacardi Reserva Ocho, aged a minimum of eight years, is continuing to gain share in the super-premium segment since 2020.

SND: Are any aged rum innovations planned for this year?

Pfenning: The introduction of our premium range in 2018 added Bacardi Añejo Cuatro and Gran Reserva Diez to the portfolio, and still serves as one of the most important stepping stones in the history of our portfolio expansion. To keep that momentum going, we announced the launch of our Reserva Ocho Sherry Cask Finish last year, which takes our Reserva Ocho rum and finishes the liquid in a series of casks, like sherry, adding a different level of complexity. We’ll continue to roll out new limited-edition cask finish bottles annually through 2025, including this year’s debut of Bacardi Reserva Ocho Rye Cask Finish.

SND: Which of your aged rums has gained the most traction to date?

Pfenning: Our most popular aged rum is Bacardi Reserva Ocho. Originally, it was an exclusive blend in the Bacardi family private rum reserves and remained so for over a century before it was released to the public. Since then, it has become the brand’s hero premium product that has enabled us to build our premium presence in the category to where it is today—consumers and bartenders alike continue to have an overwhelmingly positive response. Last year’s Sherry Cask variant performed extremely well during its limited release, so we’re looking forward to seeing how this year’s Rye Cask variant and those down the road perform as we continue to experiment with different casks.

SND: How do you see the future of aged rum?

Pfenning: There is absolutely an opportunity to entice dark spirits category drinkers with aged rums, both for sipping and in classic cocktails. Education is a pillar of focus when it comes to appealing to dark spirits drinkers who haven’t ventured beyond the whiskey realm, and many of our amplification efforts are aimed at driving that awareness through tasting events and sampling with the guidance of our rum aficionados around the country. We’re really aiming to bring this idea of a “sipping rum” drinking occasion to the forefront, and seeing the success of our premium range over the past few years is a promising indicator that we’ve headed in the right direction.

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