David Gluckman on "Chasing Big Bacardí"

This article, by David Gluckman, garnered a lot of comment on other platforms, so now’s the chance for s&c.c to take a crack at it.

We often discuss distillers and how they create spirits, but David comes from the dreaded marketing side of the business, which of course is just as likely, if not more so, to be the origin of many beverages. In this essay, he talks about some of the rums that “got away.”

From the ’60s through the ’90s, attempts were made to market premium rums to compete with Bacardí. It’s interesting to think where we might be now if a greater audience for rum had been discovered a bit earlier.

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I guess Gluckman’s successes prove that you can create successful liquor products from the top down, but looking at my home bar, I don’t see many such examples there. Bacardí didn’t start that way, either, even if at this point they might as well have.

By nature, I gather that top-down brands tend to be blender products constructed through contract distilling, rather than products created by actual distillers. (I suppose a few distilling operations are large enough and sufficiently marketing-driven that the distinction can be erased.)

If you’re marking-driven, then it seems to me that what’s actually in the bottle is only important until it isn’t. One of my favorites to beat up on is the lost, un-lamented 10 Cane. There was a lot of marketing talk about what was in that very custom bottle that never quite added up, nor quite expressed itself in the glass. (To be fair, 10 Cane made a serviceable daiquiri.) The Oronoco mentioned in the article struck me as a similarly indistinct and vacuous packaging exercise.

As counter examples, I can think of some blender rums that were created to fill a niche and have done so nicely (e.g., Smith & Cross), but is that marketing-driven, or simply market-driven? Banks Rum appears to be respected by some folks, though I have no idea how much product they actually move. Denizen seems to be getting along.

What am I overlooking?