Miami Rum Renaissance
May 14th to 17th 2009
The Rum Renaissance held in Miami is now history, but surely can be viewed a great success by all those involved.
Congratulations must be extended to all the members of the Burr family, Robert, Robin and Robert Jr. for getting this event up and running in such difficult economic times.
A big pat on the back must also be given to the Minister of Rum himself, Ed Hamilton, for hosting the rum tasting competion.
Below you will find a brief description of most of the weeks activites, along with many photographs of the events and the characters involved. Hopefully this great event will become an annual attraction in Miami.

A View of the Miami Beach Skyline.

The Miami Rum Renaissance was held from Thursday May 14th until Sunday May 17th.

The first official event was a get together for all the judges (The Rumelier was one) in Ed Hamilton's Rum Tasting Competition at the historical Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables on the Wednesday evening. This was a great chance for the international panel of judges to meet each other for the first time, in many cases, in what was a fantastic setting.

The Rumelier and Ministry of Rum member Hank Koestner from Orlando, Florida, hooked up earlier in the day at South Beach for a side trip to Little Havana and some authentic Cuban food at Cafe Versailles, along with Rum Renaissance organizer Robert Burr. After a fine lunch and a mojito it was off to Robert's house in Coral Gables to taste many of the "gifted" rums from his personal collection and talk rum and also about what we could be expected from the upcoming events in South Beach.

After sampling many of the fine rums in Robert's collection it was a short trip back to the hotel to freshen up for the nights events. Hank was proving to be a great guide to the Miami area and was keen to find the Biltmore Hotel in time for the nights first event, after the short pit-stop. After sampling some Zacapa 23 Year Old Rum and consuming a couple of cocktails it was time to move onto the Orantique On The Mile Restaurant in Coral Gables for some apetizers and more cocktails. There was much interesting conversation about the noble spirit, as well as more introductions to judges and other VIP's in the group.

The Rumelier decided to have a fairly early night and save himself for the Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition the following morning, to be held in the Florida Room at the Delano Hotel, Miami Beach.

The Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables.
The first get together was held here for the judges.

The big day had finally arrived, the rum tasting. After The Rumelier had spend some time tracking down a couple of local liquor stores, it was off to meet up with Hank at the Albion Hotel for some much needed breakfast. Neither Hank nor The Rumelier had partaken in one of Ed Hamilton's tasting events before and they were both excited about the prospect. There was also some trepidation at the thought of tasting 65 rums in two days. Would they be up to the challenge?
The Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition was to be held in the Florida Room of the Delano Hotel on Miami Beach, which was only a couple of blocks away from the Albion Hotel in the heart of the Art Deco District. The Florida Room is in the basement of the Delano Hotel, near the swimming pool, in the rear of the building.
The rums being tasted in the competition were divided into two sessions a day, for two days. The rums would be judged for their aroma, their initial taste, their body, and finally their finish. Each of these categories would be scored on a scale of 1 to 25 points each, making for a possible score of up to 100 points. There would be at least 20 judges at each session, who were encouraged to take their time to get to know the rums. Talking was not allowed, so that judges could not influence each other with their comments.
The judges for the day met in a seperate room from where the tasting was being held. The reason for this being, that this was a blind tasting and the judges were not allowed to see the rum being poured or to see the bottles of rum.

The Delano Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida.(left)
The Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition was held in the Florida Room.

Minister Ed explained to the judges the rules for the competition and the expected etiquette for each session.

The first rums to be tasted were the gold/aged rums.

(Unfortunately no photographs of the tasting will be allowed to be published on this site)

The judges were escorted to the tasting room where they would be seated in groups of two. Each judge had numbered sheets with circles in front of them and a score sheet. On each circle there was a glass of rum.

The judges also had supplies of crackers and bottled water to help prevent palate fatigue.

The competiton was a go. The judges patiently sipped their way through the mass of rum samples in front of them, sniffing, swirling, and swallowing, or spitting in many cases. The rums varied in colour from light brown to very dark molasses coloured brown. There was a great variety of rums on display not only in colour but also in taste. This indeed was quite a challenge. None of the judges are compensated for their time or effort and they travel to the competition out of their own pockets. So while this was a serious event it was also intended to be an enjoyable one for all those involved.

Some of the many rums waiting to be tasted.

When the judges had finished tasting their samples and handed in their results to the Minister, they were given an hour to rest their palates and enjoy a quick lunch at one of the many nearby restaurants. The Rumelier and Hank stayed nearby and grabbed a sandwich, and even had time to hunt down a couple of bottles of rum to add to their respective collections.

Before long it was time to head back to the Delano Hotel for the second session of tasting, which was to be white rums, cachacas and agricole rhums.

The white rums were the vast majority of rums tasted during this session and they were up first. After the white rums were finished with, there was a small group of cachacas to be sampled. The final category was white agricole rhum. All three groups were judged individually and were not competing against each other as one large group.

Once the tasting was finished, the judges helped with the clean-up and handed in their results once again.

This session was a little shorter than the morning session, so the judges had a period of free time before it was time to attend the first sponsored party of the festival. This was to be held at 8oz Burger and was sponsored by Atlantico Rum.

The Mixologist at 8oz Burger.
Atlantico Rum was the sponsor for the party at 8oz Burger.

After a short rest and some shopping The Rumelier and Hank decided to grab some dinner on famous Licoln Road and take in some local sights while sipping a couple of cocktails before their stroll down to 8oz Burger for the next official function.

8oz Burger is a relatively new restaurant and when The Rumelier and Hank arrived the music was pumping and the party was in full swing. Cocktails were being created in large volumes for the raucous crowd. Food was also being served to the rum lovers in attendance. Atlantico rum was being poured in various cocktails or neat if you preferred it that way.

Once this party was winding down it was then off to the next party, that was being sponsored by Castries Peanut Rum Cream. This party was held at Sunset Lounge in the Mondrian Resort, which was only a short walk away from 8oz Burger. The groups of rum lovers took the short walk over to the Mondrian and into the beautiful Sunset Lounge, that has some of the best views over the water to the skyline of Downtown Miami.

Once again many cocktails were being created by the bar staff, with the main ingredient being Castries Rum Cream. There was live music for the crowd to enjoy while sipping their cocktails. Introductions were made with many new rum lovers from all over the world in the quieter setting of the Mondrian. Many of the guests walked out by the pool to take in the great views of the Bay and Downtown Miami.

After this party was winding down The Rumelier and Hank went back to Licoln Drive for a nightcap before departing to their hotels for some needed sleep.

The Sunset Lounge at the Mondrian Resort.
The Rum Ambassador, The Rumelier and The Minister of Rum.

The Friday morning came around quickly and this was the second day of tastings. Once again this was held in the Florida Room at the Delano Hotel, South Beach. Another hearty home-style breakfast was the order of the day, followed by several cups of strong coffee.

After a good nights sleep the majority of judges were looking forward to what should be the highlight of the tasting competition, the premium aged rum category. This was the most anticipated event of the week for many of the judges, a chance to taste some of the finest rums in the world alongside some of the most knowledgeable rum experts in the world.

Once again the rums were poured in secret whilst the judges chatted about their adventures the previous night.

When the Minister of Rum was ready for the judges they assembled in the tasting room for the third session of tastings. The expected etiquette was once again explained to the judges. Session three was a go.

There was twenty individual rums to be tasted in the third session, which was the most of any category.

The Famous Delano Hotel, Miami Beach.
The Rum Tasting Competition was held here.

Along with the other judges The Rumelier had been greatly anticipating this third session. The Rumelier took his time, enjoying the majority of the rums being tasted. The variety was quite amazing, from dry to sweet, light to dark, heavy body to light body. Some of the rums were easily recognizable while others were a complete mystery.
Although most people would think this is an easy task, to sit down and sample and judge 20 various premium rums in one sitting, is not as easy as it sounds. Many thousands of people have put their life's work into producing these amazing rums and it is very important to give them the respect and time they deserve. Most judges agreed that they normally spend a great deal more time trying to judge and review a rum. However, for any serious rum enthusiast this has to be the experience of a lifetime.
The time flew by and before we knew it the tasting was over and the results were handed in for counting. Once all the judges had finished their tasting all the rums that were poured were revealed to the judges who remainded. As expected there were a few surprises, rums that were not expected to do well that did, and rums that were supposed to stand out that did not.
After the morning session it was time for a short lunch break before resuming for the final session, flavoured rums.
The final tasting was probably the least anticipated of the sessions by the judges. Flavoured rums are not the regular drink of choice for the majority of the judges. The session did pass quickly and their were one or two pleasant surprises amongst the group.

The Beautiful Bacardi Building, Miami.

The tasting competition was over for 2009. A very enjoyable time was had by all the judges and special thanks must be given to the Minister of Rum Ed Hamilton for organizing and hosting this great event.

Another much anticipated event was the VIP party held by Bacardi at their Downtown Miami Headquarters, that was held on the Friday evening. Prior to the main party Ron Zacapa held a party at the Sunset Lounge in the Mondrian Resort. There was live music and cigar making on display, aswell as large ammounts of Zacapa cocktails for all the VIP guests. The fantastic view of Downtown Miami at sunset was viewed by many outside by the pool.

When this party started to wind down it was off to the Bacardi Headquarters for the next one. The short drive Downtown passed quickly and the Bacardi buildings were very eary to find. (see above)

On arrival the guests passed through the Bacardi family museum and out to a cocktail bar for some refreshments while all the other judges arrived. Once the group was together they were given a very informative guided tour of the museum by one of the Bacardi family members. There were all sorts of momentos and artifacts to be seen, from the family's arrival in Cuba all the way to the present day. Old bottles, barrels, stills, photographs, etc. made for a very interesting tour for any rum lover. Many of the judges left feeling a better appreciation for all that the Bacardi family have done for rum over the last 150 years.

A Bacardi Family Member Acts as Historian.
One of the VIP parties was held at the Bacardi Headquarters.
The Outside Wall of the Bacardi Headquarters.
The Bacardi Headquarters are moving to Coral Gables in the near future.

After the guided tour of the museum had finished it was time to go upstairs to the executive bar and lounge for some snacks, cocktails and live guitar music.

There were more VIP's in the lounge and the party was in full swing when the judges arrived. The lounge was very impressive and had a very large famous painting at one end of the room that depicted scenes of the Caribbean. The painting made you feel like you were actually in the sugar cane fields on a small island somewhere.

Many cocktails were consumed and the crowd was even treated to a sample of Bacardi's Reserva Limitada, Bacardi's premium rum, once only available at the distillery in Puerto Rico.

Richard Seale talking during a seminar about rum.

When Saturday finally rolled around, it was time for the main event, Rum Renaissance. This was held at the Shore Club on Miami Beach. The judges, various VIP's and the media were given early access to the event. They were allowed two hours of unrestricted access to the grand rum tasting. This gave everybody a chance to talk to the distributors or producers of the various rums before the main crowd arrived.

Chester Brown, Rum Ambassador for Mount Gay.

The Rumelier once again hooked up with Hank Koestner (pictured below) and together they sampled many of the fine rums being displayed at the event.

The rum producers and distributors were situated in various locations around the outside bar area of the Shore Club and also inside in the "Red Room". Some of the major companies also had bungalows in the grounds where they were handing out samples of rum and food. Upstairs in the conference rooms of the hotel various interesting seminars all about rum were held throughout the afternoon.

When the judges arrived at the event many rushed straight to the Mount Gay booth to see if there was any of Mount Gay's latest offering, 1703. Fortunately there was a good supply of this new rum for everyone to sample. All the judges were impressed with their sample, but all wished they could take a bottle home with them. The Rumelier managed to get a second glass from Mount Gay's Rum Ambassador Chester Brown. (pictured above) This rum will definetly be added to The Rumelier's collection when it finally arrives in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Right across from the Mount Gay booth was probably one of the most surprising rums in the tasting competition Dos Maderas Rum. Here not only were they showing off thier 5+3 rum but also their latest rum 5+5 that was not available commercially. These rums are originally from Barbados and Guyana where they are aged for five years and are then shipped over to Spain for an extra three years of aging in sherry barrels.

Hank Koestner and fellow rumlover.
The Rums of Puerto Rico had some great rums to taste.

One of the pleasant surprises of the Grand Tasting was that the Rums of Venezuela had got together to display their fine rums. Many of these rums were sampled inside the Red Room along with some fantastic Venezuelan chocolate. One of the newest rums on display was Diplomatico Blanco, this has to be one of the oldest and smoothest white rums available currently and was a big hit with many of the judges.
There were many other fine rums to be sampled in the Red Room where The Rumelier and Hank Koestner spend considerable time trying to taste as many as possible.
One of The Rumelier's favourite types of rums are rums from Trinidad and Tobago. One Trinidad rum on display was Zaya, which was previously made in Guatemala. Not only was this a great rum to taste but they also had the prettiest and friendliest representative to serve their rum.(shown below)

The beautiful Zaya Rep. shows off her rum.

One of the most interesting booths was the American Rums booth that had a variety of rums produced in the United States and was being manned by "Rum Daddy" himself, Paul Artrip, who was also one of the judges in the rum tasting competition. Most of these rums were being tasted for the first time by The Rumelier, as they are not usually available outside of the USA. Many of the rums he had heard of before, but had never had the pleasure of tasting them. There were some pleasant surprises in the group.

Another rum to be found and given a long sample in the Red Room was Vizcaya VXOP Rum from the Domincan Republic. This is a very smooth, easy drinking rum The Rumelier hopes to start drinking on a more regular basis very soon.

Domincan rums are beginning to gain respect around the world for their outstanding quality and another fine example of this quality is Ron Atlantico Private Cask. The Rumelier chatted for several minutes with one of the partners who are producing this recently launched rum, Aleco Azqueta and of course sampled a couple of glasses of their Private Cask rum. This rum is not widely available outside of Florida yet, so this was a real treat.

After spending a great deal of time in the Red Room discovering all the rums on offer, it was time to move onto the bungalows and booths outside close to the pool. While inside the red Room the weather had changed for the worse with several small rain showers passing through the area. Some of the booths that were outside had had to seek shelter inside from the rain. The Rumelier and Hank decided to head towards the "Rums of Puerto Rico" bungalow where they sampled some great rums and food that were available inside the room. 

The Burr's in the Bacardi Museum.

After visiting numerous other booths and tasting more great rums The Rumelier decided to seek out a nearby restaurant to take a short break from the rum sampling. He managed to find a small European where he enjoyed a great, quick meal. At this point he decided to head back to his hotel to freshen up before the nights activities.
On the menu for the evening was a party sponsored by Appleton Rums at the Florida Room in the Delano Hotel. This was followed by an all-star music concert featuring many famous TV and movie stars back at the Shore Club.
On Sunday there would be a VIP party poolside at the Shore Club. Unfortunately The Rumelier had to fly back to the Turks and Caicos Islands early Sunday morning, so was unable to attend this final function.
The Rumelier must congratulate Robert Burr and his family Robin and Rob Jr. for organizing and hosting such a fantastic event. It has to be recognized that this was not the easiest economic time to be hosting an event of this size. Miami was a great location for all the parties and for ease of finding hotel rooms. Also, many of the rum producers from the Caribbean found it easy to travel to Miami, with many having offices in the vicinity. There was a great mix of rum experts, mixologists, distillers, ambassadors, distributors and rum lovers in attendance, that made for a fantastic four days of rum themed events. Hopefully this event will be a annual fixture on the rum festival calender and will grow into something huge, it certainly has the potential. Well done Rob.

The Judges Assemble for a Photo at the Mondrian.
ipBartenders Taking a Break at the Delano Hotel.
Playing speed chess before a rum tasting.
"Bacardi This Way."
Rolling Cigars at the Sunset Lounge, Mondrian.
Bacardi's David Cid talks about Reserva Limitada.
Hank Koestner busy tasting rums at the competition