Mount Gay Rum Thrives At The Luxury Tier

The established brand is shifting focus to its Black Barrel expression.

Made in Barbados at the world’s oldest rum distillery—established in 1703—Mount Gay rum is reinventing itself in its fourth century. The Silver and Eclipse expressions are the volume drivers for the 200,000-case brand, but the focus is now firmly on Mount Gay Black Barrel. “We’ve built a loyal base, particularly in the yachting community, but Black Barrel is our primary conduit for recruiting new drinkers,” says Gene Song, Rémy Cointreau USA’s vice president for Mount Gay. Black Barrel ($30 a 750-ml. bottle), finished in heavily charred ex-Bourbon barrels to create a richer taste, is projected to deplete around 25,000 cases this year. Mount Gay XO ($45) and 1703 ($100) round out the higher tiers. “Rum’s luxury end ($25 and above) is small, but it’s showing 15- to 20-percent growth,” Song says. Led by Mount Gay’s seven regional brand ambassadors, marketing emphasizes localized tastings and consumer and trade education. Top markets include New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco, with the on-premise being a particular focus. “Cocktails are a great trial driver,” Song says. For the holiday season, Mount Gay will debut the second iteration ($95) of its Origin Series. The limited release aims to illustrate the craft of blending and includes a 375-ml. bottle of pure pot still rum alongside a 375-ml. bottle of pure column still rum. Song sees sipping rum as an area with major potential. “People are seeking out brands with history and a sense of place,” he says. “Bourbon has been earlier to the game in communicating this, but sipping rums are just starting to do it.”