The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2014

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Page 38 of 134

july 2014  /  the tasting panel  /  37 "I invented this at my kitchen table," said Tom Maas, founder and Master Blender of RumChata, the rum cream brand that's hit the nation by storm. From the kitchen table to now, a mere five years since hitting the market, the company is celebrating its millionth case sold—and anticipating its early emergence as a world- class brand. After 30 years in new product develop- ment in the spirits industry, Maas retired from Jim Beam in 2005 thinking he was just going to play golf. Finding that all his friends were still working, he fought boredom by experimenting with different spirits and trying to sell his creations to the big players in the industry. After discovering horchata, the Mexican rice-based sweet milk drink, Maas found the cinnamon and vanilla notes in rum were a perfect match. He perfected the formula, and RumChata was born. Maas decided not to sell the recipe because, as his wife said, everyone likes it, which hadn't happened with previous mixes. "That was six years ago," he said, "and within a year I got the product on the market." Maas imagined a much smaller end game when he and his wife started out hand-selling RumChata. But last year they brought on 15 sales agents and did $52 million in business. "It's insane," said Maas about the brand's spiraling growth. All the flavored vodkas flooding the market confirm Maas's belief. "Consumers don't drink categories. They drink what they like. They drink tastes." RumChata tapped into consumers' ever-present urge to try something new. "We did a ton of sampling. We challenged people to make recipes," and consumers responded. Now some call it the "bartender's best friend" because it's so mixable. "We have maintained our premium pricing and price integrity so that everyone can make a fair profit on a very hot brand," said Maas. RumChata with cof- fee—hot or iced—is the next planned inroad into consumer consciousness. Maas figures once they train people how to make iced coffee without diluting the coffee flavor when they chill it down, pairing with coffee will assuredly take them global. And he credits the tastemakers of the industry with much of RumChata's suc- cess. "We appreciate the support the trade has given us as the little guy," he said with a smile. Tom Maas, creator of RumChata, celebrates the brand's millionth case sold at Smith & Wollensky in Chicago with a Tiramisu Martini. At a recent celebration at Chicago's Smith & Wollensky, RumChata cocktails displayed the product's diversity. Here were a few favorites, created by Patrick Brin, who's been behind the stick there for five years and loves playing with RumChata. Lemon Cake ◗ 3 oz. RumChata ◗ 1 /5 oz. Limoncello ◗ Shake with ice and pour into rocks glass. Tiramisu Martini ◗ 3 oz. RumChata ◗ 1½ oz. espresso vodka ◗ Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass. Sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Bourbon Cream ◗ 4 oz. RumChata ◗ 1½ oz. aged bourbon ◗ Combine over ice in a rocks glass. RumChata Iced Coffee ◗ 2 oz. RumChata ◗ 6 oz. cold or room temperature coffee ◗ Shake with ice and pour into a tall glass. A Million Milestone RUMCHATA CELEBRATES ITS MILLIONTH CASE SALE by Barbara Payne / photos by Ken Carl EVENT RECAP

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