UK RumFest, a festival of all things rum, was hosted in the UK by the Rum Experience at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London last week. For its second year, the event billed as the world’s premier rum festival brought rum producers, enthusiasts, and fanatics together in London to sample, discuss, and then sample some more rum. Ian Burrell, the driving force behind RumFest, probably explains it best:
This was my first year in attendance – and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I spent the night before out with many of the VIP’s that would be giving presentations, manning booths, and demonstrating bartending techniques over the following two days. Somehow the “How does this show work?” never came up.
Like any trade show, RumFest has a show floor for exhibitor booths. In this case, the exhibitors are the rum producers, their importers, and their distributors (for the most part). Walking the floor is like walking through a cubicle-ized representation of the Caribbean. One passes by booths for Appleton Estate (Jamaica), El Dorado (Guyana), Havana Club (Cuba), St. Lucia Distillers (St. Lucia), and many others.
Walk up to any booth and be prepared to have all of your questions on that rum answered – including the “how does it taste?” question. Samples are handed out, both with the rum by itself or (at some booths) with mini-cocktails. Some booths even boast entire bars manned by some of the most respected bartenders in London. For the full cocktails, drink tickets are issued to attendees.
If you’re interested in learning more about rum in general, there are seminars held upstairs to help to educate the attendees on everything from the vast history of rum, to the process of making it, to how communities like the Ministry of Rum operate and promote the spirit. I spent most of my time upstairs, either attending seminars hosted by the likes of Ian Williams, Richard Seale, and Paul McFadyen. I even spent a little time participating in the forums on the Ministry of Rum and Paul Artrip‘s presentation on American artisinal rums (never a bad session when you’re getting more free samples).
There is a center stage as well, where one can catch presentations at various times through-out the day. These presentations cover brand-specific mixology, as well as general rum information and mixology. The presentations are great, and you hardly get distracted at all by the Brazillian dancers just to the right of the stage. Ehem.
One of the main events at RumFest, however, is the Tiki competition between the staff at Trailer Happiness and the folks at Mahiki. This is a two-day event that really steals the show at RumFest in terms of entertainment as the two bars square off in drink-mixing, creativity, and showmanship. Regrettably I missed most of the competition attending seminars, but I was there for the grand finale – during which Trailer Happiness ripped out a man’s heart (not really) and Mahiki set the stage on fire (really). In the end, Trailer Happiness emerged victorious for the second straight year. No bartenders were harmed in the conducting of this contest.
All in all, RumFest was an incredible time. My time there was informative and the very definition of a good time. If you’re someone that enjoys rum, or is a complete, frothing fanatic such as myself, this show is a “must attend” every year. I look forward to seeing some of you in London next year…cause I will definitely be there.