Is Bacardí taking aim at Captain Morgan (or Starbucks) with its latest offering?

The back story: These days, when Americans reach for a bottle of rum, it’s often one with an added boost of flavor. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, an industry trade group, reports that 55% of the rum market is now made up of rums that have been infused with spices, fruit or other flavorings.

All of which sets the stage from the latest offering from rum giant Bacardí — namely, Bacardí Spiced. Actually, it’s not so much a new bottle as a repackaging of Oakheart, a spiced rum that it introduced in 2011, says Lisa Pfenning, Bacardí’s North American vice president. The idea, she says, is for the bottle to “better fit” into the larger Bacardí family. But we can’t help wonder if putting “spiced” front and center allows the 158-year-old company to compete more directly with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum DEO, -1.01%, the behemoth in the category. Pfenning doesn’t get into such specifics, but she notes that “some of the larger players” in spiced rum “have shown vulnerability over the past few years.”

Either way, there is no set definition of what constitutes a spiced rum. “Every rum maker follows a different recipe,” Pfenning says. In Bacardí’s case, it begins with taking an aged rum, then adding what the brand calls a “unique blend” of spices. The release of the repackaged bottle is being timed with the fall — certainly, it’s a season all about flavoring, as in the ubiquitous pumpkin spice (Starbucks SBUX, -0.60% already has its latte out).

What we think about it: We generally prefer rums that are flavored like, well, rum — meaning ones with nothing added. But America is a flavor nation, so we understand why the market is moving in this direction. Bacardí Spiced is about as low-key as a spiced rum can get — we taste some vanilla, some nutmeg, maybe a hit of cinnamon, but nothing that overwhelms the palate. There’s also a very slight degree of smokiness — the liquid is aged in charred American oak barrels, Bacardí points out. Some might find the rum too lacking in flavor to truly be called spiced, but we like its subtleness.  

How to enjoy it: Spiced rums are very cocktail-friendly — basically, just add one mixer (cola, juice, iced tea, you name it) and you’ve got yourself a party. But we were pleasantly surprised how this rum held up on its own — say, with a cube or two of ice — as a mellow autumn sip.

Originally published on MarketWatch

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