Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Island-by-Island Guide To Caribbean Rum

Call it rum, rhum, or ron; just don't call it boring. (falsely) portrayed as uniformly saccharine, rum is one of the most diverse spirits on the planet. Today, in honor of National Rum Month (August) and the upcoming National Rum Day (August 16), we're going straight to the source to get the full story. Next stop, the Caribbean islands.
Caribbean rums range from crisp, complex Martinican bottles and subtly sweet Bajan blends to the bold, whiskey-like Haitian distillations. How can one three-letter word encapsulate so many discrepancies? Due to unregulated production laws, anything distilled from sugar cane or its by-products can be classified as rum. Couple that with the broad range of Caribbean cultures, histories, and topographies, and you've got yourself a veritable rum rainbow.
Jamaica: One of the only islands to create an official classification system for its rum varieties, Jamaica's bottles range from light and clear to dark and full-bodied. After distillation in clay pot sills, most Jamaican rums are blended and used in cocktails and seemingly ubiquitous punches. While Appleton is the country's best-known export, island experts like the Tryall Club's Jerome Dellon and Courtney Virgo champion local favorites like J. Wray & Nephew White Overpoof Rum, which has a smooth taste despite its 60+ proof.
Martinique: Arguably the foremost rum destination in the region, this French-Caribbean island produces only Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) rums. Translation? Martinican rum standards are so high that the French government monitors its products using the same type of strict guidelines it has for Burgundy wine or Roquefort cheese. Distilled from pure sugarcane juice, Martinique's rhums agricoles have a complex, almost vegetal quality, and range from the delicately spiced Saint James Royal Ambre to clear and crisp Clément Blanc.

Dominican Republic: For proof that all rums aren't sweet, consider Dominican distiller Brugal. The 125-year-old label produces a range of light and dark rums, culminating in the distinctive Extra Dry. Something of a gin-drinker's blend, this white Brugal is made from fermented molasses and aged for just three to five years in American oak casks once used for bourbon. The result is crisp, clear, and unlike any other rum from the region.
Barbados: Like Armagnac production, Bajan rums are distilled using both column and copper pot stills. The resulting blends range from light to dark, but al have a light, subtle sweetness. Barbados' best-known brand is Mount Gay, which dates back to 1663 and claims to be the world's oldest operating rum producer. The blended bottles make for great company--Bajan rum enthusiasts use them in carefully guarded rum punch recipes or mixed with fresh coconut water for a simple, straightforward, delicious cocktail.
Guyana: The only Caribbean country that is not, in fact, an island, South America's coastal Guyana is an outlier in more ways than one. Its rich, dark rums get their distinctive terroir from the Demerara River, where Guyanese sugarcane is picked before being crushed into molasses. Distilled in both pot and column stills, they can also be aged for remarkably long periods of time. Consider luxury brand El Dorado cask-aged, 21-year-old Special Reserve, which has a dark, honeyed taste, perfect for sipping straight.
Haiti: Made from pure sugarcane juice, Haitian rhums agricoles have a sharp, layered bite. National brand Barbancourt makes all five of its bottles using a French double distillation process called charentaise. Typically used for bottling cognacs, charentaise gives Haitian bottles a distinctive tang that makes them excellent for drinking neat or with a solitary ice cube. Care to sip with a conscience? As part of Haitian earthquake relief efforts, Barbancourt has created a foundation to house some 1200 displaced people. It continues to accept donations and distribute aid; find out more here. --By Emily Saladin

Monday, August 19, 2013

Brazil-A Social Marketer's Dream

By Nicholas Sutherland

Brazil was recently named the “social media capital of the universe” by the Wall Street Journal. A rapid uplift in Facebook users means the country is second only to the USA in terms of account holders, even Twitter recently set up a major office there. And Brazilian users are among the world's most engaged, spending an increasing amount of time on social media sites.
 Brazil is a nation of early-adopters – and not just in terms of technology. Political and economic stability are new to the country, which is only now beginning to experience a culture with an empowered middle-class.  This is a population for which so much is new that adaptability has become second nature. 
In many ways, Brazil is the ideal target for social media marketers – with a young, savvy, socially-connected population who are happy to engage with brands. While Facebook use reaches saturation point in North America and Europe, it’s still growing fast in Brazil.   

According to comScore's 2012 Brazil Digital Future in Focus report, more than 46 million Brazilians are now online, with an impressive 97 percent using social media. This figure doesn’t take into account the high number of mobile-only users, which pushes the figures up even higher.

After a slow start, Facebook has finally taken off in the country, with user numbers soaring to 65 million users in 2012, while the country is the second biggest market outside the US for Google’s YouTube. It’s also one of Twitter's fastest growing markets. 

Once they’re connected, users are bucking the global trend by spending more time interacting on social networks. While globally, the average time spent on Facebook dropped 2% to 361 minutes per month in September 2012 (according to comScore) it rose by 208% to 535 minutes in Brazil. 

As well as the major players, Brazilians have also embraced smaller niche networks. ComScore also reported that Vostu (a social gaming site) grew by 338% in 2011, while Tumblr use grew by 206%. Badoo, a site that combines social networking with online dating, is hugely popular with more than 14 million users.

Alexandre Hohagen, vice president of Facebook's Latin America division, puts the obsession with social media partly down to Brazil’s extroverted culture. It’s common for Brazilians to strike up conversations in elevators, restaurants, and other public places. People have always loved chatting about TV shows, sports and the news. Now younger viewers are turning tv series, soap operas and televised soccer matches into a shared experience, posting real-time updates to Twitter and Facebook.

In a country with a big rich-poor divide, social media bridges class divisions. Although broadband use is still patchy (and expensive), mobile phones provide a much cheaper way to get connected. Twitter has targeted mobile users since it first launched in Brazil. 
 Brazilian flavor
Brands that have tried to be successful with lots of hype but without having an adequate product or distribution, or without having a clearly defined reason for being here, have never worked well in Brazil. Global and international brands must acquire some ‘Brazilian flavor to work well there. 

Sponsorship of Brazilian events - with a digital element - is one relatively simple way of doing this.. YouTube’s Brazilian domain has sold sponsorships for live-streaming events such as Carnival in Salvador and Rock In Rio for the first time in 2011, allowing global brands such as Volkswagen, Garnier and Santander to access the marketing power of local events. With the FIFA World Cup coming to Brazil in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro hosting the 2016 Olympics this is an area that looks set to grow.