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Top Shelf - Bacardi

Ned Duggan is the SVP of Marketing atBACARDI premium rums, and at the forefront of the liquor industry. His exceptional career and insight into rums is something to cheers. Enjoy and be inspired to have a cocktail, perhaps rum, and perhaps BACARDI, while sipping on the story of Ned Duggan.

Where did your career in liquor and spirits begin?

I began working in spirits when I started at BACARDI in 2005 as an Assistant Brand Manager for the Dewar’s Whiskey portfolio. In that role, I managed Dewar’s White Label – a large and well-developed brand –and oversaw the U.S. launch of the brand’s Aberfeldy single malts. A few years later, I transitioned to Grey Goose Vodka where I led the media strategy, as well as overseeing the experiential and public relations programs, including the brand’s lifestyle platforms. It was a rewarding role with exciting brand partnerships at high-profile events like the Academy Awards, U.S.Open, and Kentucky Derby. After that, I landed a position in London as Grey Goose’s Global Marketing Manager. Over the past five years, I’ve overseen brands like D’USSE Cognac, Bombay Sapphire Gin, St-Germain, Cazadores Tequila and Martini & Rossi Sparkling Wine and Vermouth. Most recently, I’ve stepped into the role of Global Senior Vice President for BACARDÍ Rum, whereI lead both the Premium and Carta rum portfolios, as well as our HAVANA CLUB brand.

What sets Bacardi apart from the other premium rums?

What makes BACARDÍ premium rums truly unique is the practice of tropical aging. All of our rums are barreled and aged under the Caribbean sun, which allows the liquid to mature and age faster than other dark spirits like Whisky and Cognac that are aged in colder regions. Few people know this, but in the tropics we can create the same level of depth and character as other aged spirits, but because our rums are aged where the climate is hotter and has higher humidity, the evaporation rate and aging process is accelerated – sometimes as much a two or three times as a fast as spirits aged in Europe and cooler climates. Therefore, a bottle of BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho might have the same level depth and smoothness of a 16 or 18-year-old whisky. Something else we are extremely proud of, and what also sets BACARDÍ apart from all other rums, is the aging statements on our bottles. The age statement on any bottle of BACARDÍ rum reflects the age of the youngest rum in the bottle. This isn’t widely seen in the rum category, where many brands will blend rums together and put the age of the oldest rum on the label. As the leaders of the category we want to see this change. It’s all in a broader effort to help set a precedent on defining “premium” for the entire category. Each of the numbers on the bottle of BACARDÍ – 4, 8, and 10 mark the minimum age for the liquids in each bottle, though there are actually older rums in each of those blends.

What does premiumization mean for Bacardi?

Premium spirits are undoubtedly on the rise – people have increasingly become more interested in drinking higher quality products as they seek to upgrade their experiences. As a result, every spirits category has risen to the occasion. Last year with the launch of our aged rum portfolio, BACARDÍ really brought rum to forefront of that conversation.We’ve been the rum category leader for generations, and the introduction of our BACARDÍ premium collection marked a turning point for our brand and for the category. If there was any brand to lead the rum premiumization movement, it was BACARDÍ. This move was also extremely personal for the company. Some people may forget, but BACARDÍ is still a family-owned business and so we’re fiercely proud of our history as the leading producer of the best rums in the world. This launch marked our most significant portfolio expansion since BACARDÍ flavored rums were introduced in 1995. Our premium rums are now available globally so from our classic BACARDÍ Superior all the way through to BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Limitada, BACARDÍ now truly has a rum for every type of spirits enthusiast.

What challenges come with marketing premium rum?

The biggest challenge and opportunity for us lies in education. Rum has been synonymous with summer and tropical drinks for decades and with the movement toward premiumization, we’re now trying to show drinkers that rum is so much more. Yes, rum can always be enjoyed in a frozen daiquiri on a beautiful beach, but it should also be sipped, savored, and appreciated for its rich flavor profile as well. With education also comes the potential to recruit new rum drinkers and convert dark spirit enthusiasts to sip on premium rum. At the end of the day, we still want people to feel the energy and joy that rum and rum cocktails tend to evoke, but in a way that gives the drinker a more elevated experience. The evolution of the Tequila category is an incredible success story, as it has rapidly developed both Premium and Ultra-Premium segments. This was a category that 10 or 15 years ago was best known as an ingredient in a frozen margarita. We see rum as having a similar opportunity to showcase its craftsmanship and quality. Through our premium line, we’re excited to lead what we like to call the “rum revolution,” and are using tequila’s success in premiumization as an inspiration for the rum category.

What have you seen change about the global liquor market as it has changed over the last 12+ years of your career?

Over the course of my career, I think the global premiumization of the spirits industry has been the huge change that all categories have needed to respond to in order to meet the consumer demand. We have seen this in Gin, Vodka and most recently Tequila thanks to premiumization. Consumers are becoming connoisseurs and spirits that were once thought of as a shot are now being appreciated and savored during sipping occasions. We see that same path for rum as our consumers mature, our brand can grow with them. Part of the beauty of Rum is its versatility. It can be mixed into cocktails, but it can also be a beautiful sipping spirit neat or on the rocks.

What changes do you expect to see in the rum market in years to come?

Rum is gaining traction! We are really excited that interest in rum is coming back. We are seeing dedicated rum bars and rum menus popup all over the US and around the world. The future looks bright as well for our premium rums and we will continue to make big bets in that space. There are also clear signs that consumer are re-embracing flavors and having fun with cocktails again. We recently launched BACARDÍ Lime in North America and BACARDÍ Ginger in the UK, so we will always look to innovate, but will be disciplined about what we bring to market. Overall our goal is to continue to introduce and reintroduce BACARDÍ to the next generation of rum drinkers.


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