Kelly Railean, Founder of ARAMrs. Kelly Railean, Founder of the American Rum Association (ARA). The American Rum Association was incorporated as a 501(c)(6) non-profit back in December of 2012. - www.americanrum.org
Exclusive Interview with Mrs. Kelly Railean, founder of the American Rum Association (ARA)
I would like to extend my gratitude to Kelly Railean for granting us this interview. I am happy to share it with our “Got Rum?” readers in July, a month when Americans celebrate their independence.
Kelly and Matt Railean are founders of a very important association and I find it very valuable to share the organization’s purpose and role with all our readers from the rum industry. I wish them both much success with the ARA.
-Margaret Ayala, Publisher
When was the American Rum Association (ARA ) established?
The American Rum Association incorporated as a 501(c)(6) non-prof it in December 2012. We are a trade organization representing the manufacturers of rum with production facilities and headquarters located in the United States of America.
What is the mission of ARA?
Our mission is to grow the domestic rum category to one that rivals the world’s imports by promoting the production and appreciation of American rum through education, marketing, and regulatory influence.
Who can become a member and what can they expect with their membership?
We have two types of membership. Trade Members are manufacturers of rum with production facilities and headquarters located in the United States of America. Trade members must be fermenting and distilling rum at their facilities, not simply rectifying. In addition to Trade Members, we have an Associate Member program for rectifiers, rum enthusiasts, suppliers, vendors, educators, and consultants.
What kind of feedback are you get ting from your current members about ARA ?
There is a lot of excitement. Although making rum is not new in the United States, it has had quite a resurgence in the past couple of years. Members are interested in promoting American made rum and its heritage. Most folks think that Whiskey was the original American spirit, when actually it was rum. Our members are very passionate about rum.
Have you encountered any obstacles since you founded ARA ?
Funding an organization such as ours is always an obstacle. Like most non-profit organizations, finding the time to focus on the ARA is hard when you are running a full time business. We are up for the challenge, because we are really excited about restoring the American rum industry and hope the US will be recognized internationally as a major rum producer, not just a consumer.
I know that one of ARA’s roles is to define the quality standards for “American Rum” to be included in TTB’s Standards of Identity. Why should this be important to American rum producers and what has been done thus far? In addition, are there any plans for ARA to interact with international associations of rum producers, such as WIRSPA, to get them to also recognize “American Rum”?
Yes, our first goal is to establish American Rum Standards and incorporate them into the TTB Standards of Identity. Just to be clear or intent is not to change the existing TTB Standard of Identity General Class definition of rum, but to develop a specific “Type” of rum as is the practice allowed for other spirits. We think we can accomplish this because just recently, the TTB has added Cachaca as a Type of Rum under the General Class Definition. It can get confusing but we do have a plan and we have spoken to the TTB about our intent.
This is very important to American rum producers because this will allow consumers to differentiate American Rum from all of the imported brands. Creating an American rum category will help manufactures compete on attributes other than just price, and this will in turn build demand internationally for American rum spirits. Most importantly, stricter standards will be better for consumers because they will have confidence that an American Rum it is actually produced in the USA under a set of quality and labeling standards that must be adhered to in order to be called “American Rum”.
We do have plans of working with other rum organizations such as WIRSPA but first we must get consensus among our Trade Members.
Are there any “hot ” topics that ARA is currently addressing? If so, what are the topics and how can members assist?
Hot topics right now are the American Rum Standards and working with legislators to address the US subsidies for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. We have spoken to a few legislators and we are putting together a positioning statement on how these subsidies affect the American Rum Industry. The likelihood of abolishing this long standing subsidy is futile to say the least, but we are considering our own legislation that may help to fund marketing and branding of American Rum. This funding could also assist in building the domestic rum category and supporting the American rum and sugar industry.
I know there is a big debate about the US subsidies Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands are getting. As a distiller, has this had an impact on your ability to make and/or produce rum? What is ARA’s stance on this matter?
Yes, the subsidies have an effect on our business two fold. First, the obvious is that these imports have a lower overall cost to produce a bottle of rum. They can either take a higher margin or lower their price to the consumer. If they take a higher margin they put this money to work building brand awareness. They may also pay their distributors incentives to focus on their brands. On the flip side, they could just decide just to have a lower price point and drive volume. Essentially there is a rum cartel that has total control over the supply and demand of the American rum market, how American is that?
Secondly, a good portion of these subsidies end up promoting rum from their respective county. For example, pick up any spirits trade magazine and you will see an advertisement for “Rums of Puerto Rico”. We can’t wait for the day when we have similar ads for “American Rum - Fermented, Distilled, and Bottled in the USA”.
If people want to know more about your Association and how to become a member, how may they reach you?
Here are my contact details:
Founder & President, American Rum Association
Phone: (713) 882-3091
Once again, Kelly, thank you for taking the time for this interview and for supplying such valuable information with us and our readers. I wish you all the very best .
- Margaret Ayala, Publisher