UK RumFest is billed as Europe’s only festival to celebrate my favorite spirit. It’s a collection of rum producers, marketers, sellers, distributors, and consumers, all coming together in London to sample products and cocktails, listen to seminars on everything from the history of the spirit to matching it with chocolate, watch cocktail competitions, and just simply enjoy the world’s most varied spirit.
RumFest is the brainchild of Ian Burrell, a restaurateur, mixologist, recording artist, basketball player, and fierce rum advocate (you can understand why I like him). Ian is known by many as the Rum Ambassador, and along with the folks at IPBartenders, has traveled the globe to promote and educate about rum. In 2007, Ian put together the first ever RumFest for the United Kingdom and Europe. The event features many of the biggest names in rum – both in terms of companies and personalities.
On October 24, after an evening with no sleep and a 10 hour flight across the continental US and the Atlantic Ocean, I finally arrived in London for The Rum Experience’s second RumFest. The festivities had not officially started yet, but I met with Tatu (aka Count Silvio) from Refined Vices, and we headed down to IPBartenders to meet with Paul McFadyen and a number of other rum luminaries, including Ed Hamilton, Paul Artrip, Ben Reed, Ian Williams, and others. The group spent the first part of the evening sampling the incredibly wide selection of rums and other liquors and liqueurs. Rum was poured, cocktails were mixed, pizza was ordered (although not until we had discovered that Ben Reed had forgotten to order the pizza the first time around).
Following the time spent at IPB, our large group meandered down the street to Trailer Happiness, one of the premier tiki bars in the UK. Our merry band was treated to a number of excellent tiki drinks and continued conversation, and was even joined by Chesterfield Brown from Mount Gay Rum. The highlight of the visit to Trailer Happiness had to be the volcano bowl. The darkly lit room combined with a unique approach to lighting the bowl on fire made for quite the spectacle. I’ll apologize up front for the fact that the video starts off upside-down, as I was racing to pull my camera out and just hit the button as quickly as possible.
From tiki drinks to classic cocktails, we rounded the corner and headed to the Portobello Star. The drinks continued to flow, and the group continued to talk loudly and enjoy the evening. As time wore on, the group’s size continuously dwindled until at last-call I looked around and realized that Tatu and I were the only ones left as the room lights were switched on. I had almost decided against going out at all because of the level of exhaustion I had felt earlier in the evening. I seriously considered staying in my hotel room, sleeping through the night. Somehow, however, I ended up turning the key to return to my hotel room at 2:30 in the morning.
As I changed from “Dood: Party-Goer Extraordinaire” back to “Matt: Exhausted Traveler”, I couldn’t help but consider the glut of hospitality and generosity that we had been shown by our British hosts, and wonder what could possibly lay ahead. My weekend was off to a dizzying start…and the conference didn’t start for another 9 hours.