[10 years of Rumporter] Cyrille Lawson, Sales Director at HSE

20 personalities decipher the last 10 years, and provide food for thought for the next 10.

Cyrille Lawson

How has the rum market changed over the last 10 years?

It’s difficult to give a simple answer to such a vast question, but I’ll try! What has struck me over the last two years is that there has been a threefold move upmarket: by distilleries, by wine merchants and by consumers. It’s hard to say who started the movement – it’s a bit like the chicken and the egg story.

10 years ago, wine merchants usually stocked a few rums, but not many more. Then they started to take a real interest, at the same time as the first rum fairs (Rum Fest) and the first rum magazine (Rumporter) were being launched. This increase in knowledge and interest on the part of wine merchants was correlated with a constant concern for quality on the part of distilleries, particularly French ones. And this has enabled them to embark on increasingly advanced and interesting experiments. At HSE, for example, we can mention the work on plots, different toasts and finishes. Without the wine merchants to explain these innovations to customers, it would have been complicated for us.

As a result, our customers have become increasingly discerning and are looking for new, cutting-edge products. This process came to a climax during covid, when the wine merchants made very good sales, because people who could no longer go to restaurants still wanted to treat themselves by buying good products. That’s very French!

How will it evolve over the next 10 years?

This period of euphoria is over. We’re in a slightly more difficult period, due to events beyond our control (economic crisis, international crises, etc.), which are putting a strain on the purchasing power of the French. As a result, they are making choices, and we can see that the average basket is tending to be less well-stocked… But they continue to have confidence in premium rums, particularly from French distilleries, which have done a fine job of regulating rum and their production processes over the years.

So I think that even if this gloomy economic trend continues, we’ll get through it. As long as we stay strong on our fundamentals and keep our identity. Another trend that I see developing is the need for experiences. Consumers need to be told the story of the product, to know where it comes from, to understand it. The corollary of this is the success of spirit tourism and wine fairs.

Do you have any news you’d like to share with us?

We even have six at the end of the year, but I’m going to mention three of them! We concocted them with Lionel Lampin, the cellar master, and Aurélie Bouton, the quality manager. With this 3rd cuvée, HSE continues to explore the exceptional qualities of its 2016 ‘Canne d’Or’ harvest parcel white rum. Over 3 years in selected American white oak casks, but with lighter toast than usual, give this rum elegance, finesse and complexity. I was talking about experiments earlier.

If you get the chance, taste the white 2016 parcellaire, the ESB and the vieux side by side. You can really feel the parcel effect! Next comes ‘The Beauty & The Beast’, which has been aged for over 5 years in the purest tradition of HSE rums and finished for almost 6 months in 2 exclusive Kilchoman Scotch whisky casks. In collaboration with their cellar master, a Sanaig cask (200 litres) and a Loch Gorm cask (550 litres), the iconic references of their Single Malt Whisky Sherry finish, were selected for this finish.

This double maturation gives the juice exceptional complexity. Finally comes the HSE Extra vieux ‘Brume cuivrée’, which further explores the world of French cooperage and the impact of the cask on the organoleptic qualities of the rum. This 2013 vintage was aged in French oak casks at the exclusive ‘Brume Cuivrée’ toasting facility, and is a brut de fût. And I can’t resist telling you that we’ve also made three cuvées with V&B!

What does Rumporter mean to you?

Rumporter has grown up at the same time as the industry has become more premium, and consumers have become enlightened enthusiasts. I always look forward to the new issues, it’s a bit like the Pif Gadget of my childhood. You’re always surprised, there are interesting angles and real connoisseurs at the helm.

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