|The Barcelo hostess trying some fruit with her rum
The next party for the VIP's was organized by Ron Barcelo from the Dominican Republic and their public
relations company Creativas. This party was held at the Epic Hotel, situated alongside the Miami River. Upon arrival the Rum
XP's were ushered upstairs to a private section of the bar which provided good views of the bar below and of the Miami River.
The Barcelo and Gran Anejo were to be main rums of choice for this event.
Once again the rum was
flowing and food was circulating. The pretty Barcelo hostesses (one shown left) were handing
out generous portions of both to the lucky attendees. This was a fun time for The Rumelier as Barcelo rums have long been
one of his favourites and it was a pleasure to meet some of the people behind the scenes at Ron Barcelo. Barcelo Anejo was
one of the first rums that originally sparked The Rumelier's love affair with rum, so this indeed was a special treat for
Some of the Rum XP's were provided with a small bar of their own where they were
invited to mix various cocktails for the thirsty guests and many of them obliged mixing up various concoctions. It was pleasant
to see the experts at "work" and to sample some of their unique concoctions.
couple of hours it was time to depart for the final official event of the evening, the Ron Atlantico party, which was held
on the rooftop of the Betsy Hotel, Miami Beach. After the bus-ride back to the Beach the XP's proceeded to the rooftop of
the Betsy Hotel where the Atlantico party was in full swing. Atlantico cocktails were being created and consumed in large
ammounts and cigars were being created and handed out to all the guests who wished to partake. There was also a chance
to meet the young owners and developers of Ron Atlantico, Brandon Lieb and Aleco Azqueta, who have managed to develop a fine
tasting, premium, solera rum from the Dominican Republic.
This was a nice relaxing party and made
a great finale to a busy day of travel and parties for The Rumelier. After a while it was time to head back to his nearby hotel
in order to get some much needed rest before Thursday's very busy scehdule of rum events.
|Fransico "Don Pancho" Fernandez from Zafra Rum.
an early rise and a hearty breakfast buffet accompanied by several cups of coffee, day two of Rum Renaissance began
for The Rumelier and many of the XP's with a stroll down the very famous Ocean "Deco" Drive, where they were to
have breakfast with the creators of one of the newest fine rums to hit the market in recent months, Zafra 21 Year Old Master
The refreshing stroll had the group of XP's walking south, down "The Beach"
to News Cafe, the setting for breakfast on the patio with Zafra's Master Blender, Fransico "Don Pancho" Fernandez
(pictured right) and many of his colleagues from Panama, home of this particular rum. One of
the important parts of the festival for The Rumelier was the opportunity to sample rums that he would not normally
have access to, this included many from Central and South America.
The XP's and other invited
guests who had assembled at the busy restaurant were given an ample breakfast and refreshments before they were given
a presentation about Zafra Rum including an interpreted speech by "Don Pancho" himself. It is always a pleasure
for any rum lover to listen to the people who are responsible for producing any rum, especially a rum so interesting as Zafra.
Unfortunately time was short for the XP's and it was not long after the group had a chance to meet "Don Pancho"
and ask him some questions before they had to head back up the "The Beach" to begin the first session of the tasting
competition. It had been a pleasure to meet the "Don", a Cuban by birth, who had been employed by Havana Club Rum
in Cuba for 40 years before he emigrated to Panama to develop his own fine rum. The XP's were promised a hand signed bottle
of Zafra Rum before they News Cafe.
|The Delano Hotel where the rum judging was held.
The most important part of Rum Renaissance for the Rum XP Panel was the judging of all the rums that
were partaking in the tasting competition. The XP's took the fairly long walk north to the Delano Hotel (pictured
left), home for the second straight year of the tasting competition. As for last year the tasting was to be held
downstairs in the Florida Room.
While the conditions in the Florida were not perfect for tasting
rums, the first tasting session began with white sugar cane spirits. Before the first session began the Rum XP Panel
had all been briefed by event organizer Robert Burr about each rum category and how each rum was to be scored. The judges
listened carefully as this the first ever Rum XP judging event and they all wanted it to be a success, but most importantly
they all wanted to be consistent in their grading of the rums to be tasted.
Paul McFadyen from
England was very generous in taking charge of the distribution of the first flight of rums. The Rumelier's judging partner
this year turned out to be local Miami native Joey Casanova, who was judging in his first event. As always, the judges took
their time tasting and scoring the rums infront of them, giving respect to the peolpe who have often put their life's work
into many of the rums.
|Rum tasting session number one.
The first group of rums tasted consisted of white molasses based rums, agricole rhums and cachaca's (pictured right). There was a great variety of flavours and tastes amongst this group and it is
probably the hardest group of rums to judge, as most people do not normally drink white rum straight up as it is mostly used
as a mixer in a favourite cocktail. Very few white rums are often drunk or sampled on their own. This challenge was good to
have as the first group of rums while everybody's pallett was fresh and healthy.
the rums had been poured it was time to judge them. The Rumelier took his time giving each rum a fair tasting. After all the
judges had finished scoring the rums and all the score sheets had been handed in, the bottles of rums were presented
to the judges so that they could see how they graded the rums as this was conducted as a blind tasting with no judges
seeing the bottles before tasting the rums.
After the judges had compared notes and discussed
any surprises amongst the rums, the judges were given an hour off to go and have a quick lunch and refresh their pallets before
the second session of tasting began.
The second session in the afternoon was to be the flavoured
and spiced rums, which is probably the least favourite group of rums amongst the judges. Once all the judges had re-assembled
in the frigid conditions of the Florida Room they got down to work, tasting the wide variety of spiced and fruit flavoured
rums. The session passed fairly quickly without any real surprises once the rums had been revealed to the judges after the
session had been completed.
|R&D Rum Reviews taste Martinique Rhums.
Another quick break was afforded the judging panel before the first VIP party of the day was to begin.
This gave the judges a chance to go and freshen up and change clothes before they assembled at the Raleigh Hotel where they
would catch their "Rums of Puerto Rico" courtesy bus to the Ritz Carlton on Key Biscayne. The first party
was sponsored by rhums of Martinique, Rhum Clement and Rhum JM. The party was held in the beautiful Rum Bar inside the foyer
of the Ritz Carlton. The bar can only be described as every rum lovers dream. The wooden glass cases that surrounded the beautifully
ornate bar contained rums from all over the world. Each shelf was labelled with the country of origin for all the rums. There
was also several smaller glass cases where patrons could store their personal favourite bottles of rum and other mementos.
Scattered around the walls were old black and white photographs of sugar cane fields, tobacco fields and various other related
old photographs that gave the room an old feeling.
The party itself was hosted by two
of the better known agricole rhums from Martinique who were sharing the party. Rhum Clement and JM Rhum were sampled in abundance
with many special cocktails being made available to the guests. This was a beautiful, relaxed setting for a rum party, made
better by the interesting cocktails made with agricole rum.
However time flew by and
before long it was once again time to hop on the courtesy bus and head off to the next VIP party.
|The Rumelier meets the Diplomatico hostess.
After a short bus ride the Rum XP's arrived at the location for the second party of the night, which
was once again at the Epic Hotel alongside the Miami River. This time the party was on the 16th floor and was being sponsored
by Diplomatico rums from Venezuela. From the vista deck of the 16th floor their were amazing views of Downtown Miami and all
the skyscapers that dot the landscape.
The Rum XP's made themselves welcome and began sampling
the very fine rums of Diplomatico. Over his years of travelling and tasting various rums, Diplomatico rums have always
stood out as amongst some of the best rums in the world. Along with the great rum there were some delicious food
creations made only better by the view of Downtown Miami. The beautiful hostesses circulated often with samples of food and
rum making it a party to remembe,r with many Rum XP's taking the opportunity to have a photograph taken with the hostesses or
with the models showing off their traditional dancing costumes. There were also several small satellite bars that several
members of the Rum XP Panel decided to take full advantage of and proceeded to make cocktails for the assembled crowd of party
goers. Watching some of the most creative and knowledgeable bartenders at work was an experience not to be soon forgotten.
However, once again it was time for the Rum XP's to bid their farewells and head off to the last VIP party of the
night at the Raleigh Hotel, Miami Beach.
|Beautiful Abuelo hostesses display their rum.
After another bus ride back to the "Beach" the Rum XP's arrived at the Raleigh Hotel where
Ron Abuelo from Panama was hosting a party poolside at the rear of the hotel, right next to the world famous Miami Beach.
Once again there were beautiful hostesses (pictured left) handing out samples of rum and
food. This location was where the Grand Rum Tasting event would be held later in the week.
Abuelo is a very unique style of rum from Panama that is very distinct in its flavour profile, rather unlike any other
type of rum and could be described as very light in body and style. The Rumelier was keen to try the older versions of this
rum as they are not normally available to him in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
the rum samples were flowing and the food was being distributed to all the guests. The music was pumping and the crowds began
to roll into this lively party. Miami is a late night party town and this party was a signal for the real party goers
to start arriving. For the Rum XP's the day was beginning to wind down. It had been a long day of rum tastings,
judging and VIP parties. Slowly but surely many of the XP's started to head back to their respective hotels so that they would
be relatively fresh the following morning and ready to repeat the day all over again. The day had been a very long one, but
one that most people who had been involved will remember for a lifetime. The Rum XP's were creating a special bond ignited
by the Burr family and flamed by the noble spirit rum.
Rumelier decided he should also head back to his hotel via the famous nightlife on Lincoln Road and managed to take a
brief visit to a bar that stocked over 200 imported beers. After sampling a cool Kalik from the Bahamas he decided to call
it a night and headed back to the Albion Hotel. Day two of Rum Renaissance for him had concluded.
The schedule for day three was to be very similar to day two. For The Rumelier
he rose early for his usual buffet breakfast and numerous cups of black coffee, so that he would be prepared again for the
day's very full schedule of events.
The first official event of the day was a
breakfast hosted by Ron Cartavio from Peru, on the beautifully austere outside dinning deck of the Delano Hotel. Ron Cartavio
were to unveil their brand new XO Rum (pictured right) to the eagerly awaiting group of
international rum experts.
This event was hosted by Artisan Brands, the US imported for Ron
Cartavio. To help with the presentation Cartavio had invited international renown spirits expert Jurgen Deibel from Germany
to explain the in and outs of how this rum is produced and the reason for introducing their XO Rum to the market. Jurgen
proceeded with the presentation while the Rum XP's enjoyed their breakfast refreshments and licked their lips at the potential
tasting of this outstanding Peruvian rum. Peru is not thought of as being a country at the cutting edge of rum production,
but this rum coming from Destilerias Unidas, who began production in 1929 can quickly change ones perception of traditional
rum producing countries.
Master Blender Federico Schulz also gave a brief speech
through an interpretor to the gathered group before the buffet breakfast was presented to all those gathered.
After breakfast it was time for the XP Panel to once again gather downstairs in the Florida Room for session
number three of the rum judging competition. Session three were the gold/amber rums, one of the judges favourite groupings.
|Joey Casanova, The Rumelier's judging partner.
While many people may think it is easy tasting a group of well over 20 rums, this is a more difficult
task than may first appear. The judges are not only tasting the various rums, but they are trying to give an unbiased, fair score
for every rum they taste. The nose and the pallet become easily fatigued, so regular breaks, such as smelling coffee beans,
drinking lots of water, or eating crackers are often necessary to refresh the senses. The most difficult task is trying to
compare the first rums in the group to the last rums in any group and trying to remember how the early rums tasted. Many judges
will go back regularly to the early rums so as to refresh their memory on each rum.
began on time and was to come and go very quickly for the judging panel. This is the category that is one of the
most pleasant to judge. Once the judges had finished scoring all their rums they handed in their score sheets and waited
for the rums to be revealed. Once the rums were revealed the judges compared their individual scores with the rums, noting
any pleasant surprises or any disappointments.
Straight after session three of the rum judging
the Rum XP's were to take the short walk upstairs to the Blue Room of the Delano Hotel where they were to be given a
presentation by Ron Botran of Guatemala. Ron Botran is made by the same company as Ron Zacapa in Guatemala but is distributed by the
parent company, unlike Ron Zacapa.
Ron Botran were to reveal two new rums (one
shown right along with their representative) that have not been released to the US market at the time. Along with the presentation the Rum XP's were provided with delicious cocktails and a superb buffet lunch.
|Botran representative displays her fine rum.
Along with the cocktails, samples of the two fine new rums were also being made available. The presentation
by Ron Botran included many informative details about the complex production and aging system developed
by the company over many decades. Once the presentation had finished, the Rum XP's were each presented with a beautiful
wooden gift-box that held two smalls bottles of Botran Rum.
However, it was quickly back to
work for the judges, who made their way back downstairs to the Florida Room, for the very much anticipated final and fourth session of tasting, the extra old/aged rums. This proved to be a very large group of rums, but at
the same time very enjoyable. It was enjoyable to save the finest rums until last. Once again the judges took their
task very seriously, taking their time evaluating ech and every rum. The Rumelier recognized many of his favourite rums, but
was also pleasantly surprised by many new rums he was tasting for the very first time.
of the judges had also been pleasantly surprised at the quality of many of the new rums they tasted especially the
growing amount of homegrown rums that are popping up all over the USA.
session four came quickly to an end, which meant the tasting competition had been completed by all the judges. The competition
had been very ably organized by the Burr family of Robert, Robin, Robert V. and his girlfriend Amanda, who kept track of all
The "work" for the judges was over and it was time to head off to the
first VIP party of the night. The Rumelier and the other judges made a very fast sprint back to their respective hotels for
a quick change of clothes and headed off to the Raleigh Hotel where their courtesy bus was awaiting them.
The first party of the night was at the Penthouse of the brand new Bacardi Headquarters in Coral Gables.
|An old Bacardi barrell in the Bacardi Museum.
Last year the Bacardi VIP party was held in the old Bacardi Headquaters in their beautiful, historic downtown
location, where partygoers were given a special treat by being allowed in to the Penthouse to see the famous Cuban mural on
the wall and also receive a guided tour through the extensive Bacardi family museum. Over the last year Bacardi have
moved their headquarters to a new location in Coral Gables and the Rum XP's were all looking forward to exploring this new
Once the courtesy bus had arrived in Coral Gables and the group of judges had figured
out where the entance to the well hidden new building was, they had to pass through tight security before proceeding to the
first party of the night.
As usual the rums were flowing and food was circulating. The Rumelier
managed to join the first group of people to be given a guided tour of the newly located Bacardi Family Museum. The Bacardi
historian, Pepin Argamasilla would be the personal guide through the somewhat smaller but information packed museum. The group
listened attentively as the party began to liven up in the main room.
In a small section of
the museum Bacardi Brand Master Apprentices David Cid and Juan Coronado were providing samples of Bacardi's premium rum, Reserva
Limitada. The Rumelier has spent a great deal of time with these two very knowledgeable Bacardi representatives
in Puerto Rico in recent years and it was a pleasure to be reacquainted with them in such a beautiful location.
Unfortunately time passed by very quickly and it was time to head off to the nearby historic Biltmore Hotel for the
second party of the evening.
|Ron Matusalem owner Dr.Alvarez.
The second party for the night was hosted by Ron Matusalem from the Dominican Republic. It was held in
a very large, ornate room overlooking the beautiful grounds of the hotel. Matusalem were showcasing their brand new 18 Year
Old Rum. The Rumelier was eagerly anticipating the unveiling of this rum, as Matusalem's Gran Reserva has always been one
of his favourites in years passed. The new 18 Year Old did not disappoint, a premium rum from a company that has experienced
many difficulties since the Castro regime took control of Cuba.
After some short speeches
The Rumelier had a chance to speak to the owner of the company, Dr. Claudio Alvarez (pictured right),
great grandson of the original founder of the company Evaristo Alvarez, who has managed to resurrect the company after
the family were forced into exile from Cuba.
These days their rums are aged using the
solera system in the Dominican Republic by Cuban Ron Maestros, who use Trinidadian rums for their base, a real example
of Caribbean teamwork coming together to produce a unique style of rum.
Once the speeches
had concluded an enormous cake with a replica of the 18 Year Old Rum acting as a crown was cut up and distributed amongst
the guests. Once dessert had been devoured it was once again time for the Rum XP's to board their awaiting bus
and head off to their final destination for the evening.
The final party was hosted by the
Rums of Puerto Rico Promotion Board at the Evolution Room of the Ritz Carlton in South Beach, Miami. Upon arrival the group
of judges were given the VIP red carpet treatment with many photo opportunities for group photographs. Once inside the the
judges found the party was in full swing and as expected the rum was flowing. Trying to decide what to drink at the end of
a very long day was probably the most difficult decision for many judges as they did not want to miss any of the fine rums
and cocktails that were available.
The Rumelier decided to leave this party early and try
and retire at a reasonably early time by taking the short walk back to his nearby hotel, this way he would be relatively fresh
for the Grand Rum Tasting the following day. Day three had been an amazing day of rum tastings, presentations and parties.
Could the Grand Tasting possibly manage to top this?
|Flor de Cana hostesses showing off their rums.
Day four began with some much needed free time for the Rum XP's. The Rumelier took full advantage of
this by partaking in by now his usual buffet breakfast with friendly hotel chef Juan, before he headed out onto Lincoln
Road to find some presents for his family. After this feat was accomplished it was time for a stroll along Ocean "Deco"
Drive, taking in all the views that Miami Beach had to offer. After an entertaining walk, The Rumelier headed back to
his hotel to meet up with his fellow Rum XP's to plan the rest of their day and try and squeeze in a little lunch before heading
off to the Raleigh Hotel for the most anticipated event of the week.
Just after midday a small
group of judges headed off on the short walk to the Raleigh Hotel. The Raleigh was to be the setting for the Grand Rum Tasting.
This is where all the partaking rum companies have a booth or tent where they give away samples of their rums, often along
with cocktails and various advertising items to keep as a souvenir. Upon arrival at the Raleigh Hotel the majority of
Rum XP's held a short meeting to discuss the scores of the Tasting Competiton, amongst other topics. Many were keen to begin
their tour of the Grand Tasting before the general public were allowed in two hours later, so the meeting was kept as brief
as possible before all the XP's sprinted out to be poolside at the rear of the hotel.
|Zacapa hostess with her fine rum.
Upon arriving poolside The Rumelier hooked up with Scottish friend John Sterling who had flown in to Miami
earlier in the week especially to experience his first Rum Renaissance. Together they began to tour all the rum
tents, taking in the views and sampling many of the rums on display. The weather was clear this year, but extremely hot and
uncomfortable near the beach. There was only one thing to do, drink more rum!! Another tour of the Grand Tasting was undertaken
incase the pair had missed any of the tents the first time around.
Slowly the venue filled
up with rum enthusiasts from all over the world, the music started getting louder and the rum was really starting to flow.
Lines grew longer at each tent and it became easy to see which rums were the most popular.
Rumelier and John took what they thought would be a short break from drinking rum by attending a Bacardi Seminar hosted by
David Cid and Juan Coronado. This was held in a conference rum upstairs in the Raleigh Hotel and was, as expected, a very
interesting seminar hosted by the two Bacardi experts, where even more rums and cocktails were sampled.
Eveybody appeared to be enjoying themselves in the sweltering heat of Miami Beach. Time passed by quickly and before
long the sun was setting on what can only described as a fantastic afternoon of rum tasting and newtworking between rum enthusiasts
from all corners of the earth.
Before everybody started to leave the Grand Tasting
there was the final leg of the Tiki Face-Off between Team USA and Bacardi UK Tiki Team. This was held on the main
stage poolside and was highly entertaining for the gathered crowd. After much acting, mixing and performing the eventual winners
turned out to be the visiting Brits and Bacardi UK Tiki Team. A day to last in the memories for deacades had come to an end
for many. It was time to try and wind down for many. The final party of the week was to be held in the Florida Room of the
Delano Hotel, sponsored by Appleton Rums from Jamaica.
Although The Rumelier had every good
intention of heading south to the Delano Hotel with drinking partner John, they never made further than the National Hotel
which is adjacent to the Raleigh Hotel where another party was in full swing. Miami Beach proved to be a very active,
lively location on Saturday nights.
For many of the Rum XP's day
five was an early trip to Miami International Airport for an early flight to various corners of the globe. For a lucky
few who remained behind they had a chance to spend a few hours back poolside at the Raleigh Hotel, where they were given the
use of a few cabana tents for a relaxing few hours of camaraderie and of course copious amounts of rum. This proved to be
a chance to compare notes from all the events from the week, aswell as the previous night. It also provided a chance to talk
about future events, especially the upcoming Rum Festival in London, England being organized by Ian Burrel, one of the Rum
Credit must be given to the whole Burr family of Robert A., Robin and Robert V. They
did an amazing job of organizing such a great rum experience for all those lucky enough to be involved. How this festival
will get better is hard to imagine, but as many people who know Rob A. Burr will testify, he will certainly try his best for
next year and beyond. Rum was done proud on South Beach, May 2010, a festival to live long in the annuals of rum history.