Over the last 20 years American bars have seen a renaissance in high-end liquors across almost every category: bourbon, vodka, gin, tequila, even mezcal. Missing among the list, though, is that old standby, rum. There are good and bad rums, but there is little innovation within the rum world itself, and little competition in quality.
Instead, there is consolidation. It's partly a consequence of geography: The vast majority of the world's rum supply is produced by small Caribbean island countries; rum exports represent a significant amount of their GDPs. As the global liquor industry has consolidated, so too has the rum sector: Today several countries are down to a handful of producers, which either age and market their product, or sell it in bulk to middlemen. Nor does it help that the sector overall is dominated by Bacardi, Diageo (makers of Captain Morgan), and Pernod Ricard (makers of Havana Club), which together account for over 30 percent of the market and largely dictate its direction.
At the same time, local consolidation has gone so far that each island's producers dominate their own markets; there is no way you'll find Guyanese rum in Barbados, and vice versa. The West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association is fairly weak, meaning that new ideas and techniques, let alone products, are rarely shared—unlike in, say, the Scotch world, where barrels and ideas change hands frequently, resulting in a constant procession of new flavors and techniques.