Covering everything from book signings, to seminars, to private talks and tasting sessions, this year’s 10th anniversary UK RumFest was something of a spectacle. The venue was dressed and designed to combine a professional convention style with a more robust carnival atmosphere.
However it remained difficult to entirely forget the fact that you were in a large business like venue. The result was a slurry of merry attendee’s touring isles of rum sampling booths, jolting in-between Brazilian dancers and venue organisers, overlaid with Caribbean music being pumped out through an inadequate sound system. This year’s RumFest venue was packed with attendee’s from booth to booth, illustrating the festival’s growing popularity with rum aficionados and amateur fans in London.
The venue was split between tasting booths and a staging area where master talks and discussions took place. The back of the auditorium was dedicated to lining the stomachs of those that visited with authentic Caribbean food, helping preserve the dignity of visitors that saw the experience as an excuse to drink more rum than they could handle. It has to be said that all the information, food and rum’s were of the highest quality this year. The knowledge each booth was able to provide on the formation and fermentation of their rum’s was one of the most interesting parts to this year’s festival.
The 10th anniversary of RumFest saw talks conducted by Levi Roots, the Dragon’s Den entrepreneur and rum enthusiast, and Joy Spence, the first woman to hold the title of Master Blender in the distilled spirits industry. Each speaker was accompanied by the same humorous and knowledgeable host that rarely faltered in asking all the relevant questions, making sure that the most was taken from the opportunity to interview each figure head of rum.
Other speakers included Allen Smith, a master blender that lead a discussion on a limited edition run of Mount Gay column and still rums, not yet released before, and Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry, who recounted his early days as a restaurateur-to-the-stars in 1930’s Hollywood and his selection of exotic rum’s for his menu. The events that took place on the main stage were only second to the experience of tasting and learning about all the diverse rum’s in the auditorium.
One of the staples of this year’s RumFest was the staggering inclusivity of rum’s from around the world that saw selections displayed from Japan, to India, to Trinidad. A real sugary addition that allowed visitors to experience the differences between blends and what each country adds or subtracts to give their rum a distinctive and select taste.
Outside the regions of South America and the Caribbean, some of the best world rum’s that need a mention were, Nine Leaves and Wild Tiger Rum, with the former being made in Japan and the latter being made, you guessed it, in India. Adding their unique culture staple to the traditional rum recipe, each rum boasted both an remarkable and altering taste that made them stand out from the other rums.
Despite the venue being filled with music and clad in festival colours it was difficult to disregard the business style of the convention, however, the venue excelled to a certain extent at replicating an authenticity that surrounds Caribbean/Brazilian culture, which is almost entirely wrapped around the image of rum. Performances by Brazilian and Cuban dance troupes allowed visitors to overlook their place and setting, which ultimately made the experience more authentic and fun.
We selected a few of our favourites from the festival this year and listed them below. We only wished we could have had the stomach to have sampled more!
1. Ron Diplomtico
2. Plantation Rum
3. Havana Club
4. The Real McCoy
5. White Tiger Rum
Ultimately, the allure for the Rum Festival specifically boils down to the information each vendor provides about their signature rums. For any rum aficionado or fan this is clearly the appeal and outcome you get. If you do decide to attend next year, you’ll emerge from it more educated and interested than before. I guarantee you!
Words and images by Joshua Gill.