A Gentleman and a Distiller

Personal circumstances have led me to neglect Rumpundit, but Thierry’s death spurs me back to business and I will do more from now on.

I last met Thierry in New York at the Financial Times “Business of Rum” supplement launch. He was there, not because he was a huge financial player, but because all of us involved respected the quality that Barbancourt represented, not least because of the adversity of conditions in Haiti.

At the conference, I reminded him of what he had told me years before – and he had forgotten. Smiling, he told me in his soft French accent, “Ian, you know, Bacardi are very clevèr.”

“How?” I asked.

“If you look at zeir advertizements, they always want you to drink zeir rum with something else!” he said.

I have to say recent Bacardi products  from Facundo mean it is no longer true but it was a wonderful put down – that could be said of many other mass sale rums!




The man behind Haiti’s best-known export, Barbancourt rum, dead at 65

Barbados, the place to spend November!

From the 19th to the 22nd November Barbados, the original home of Rum, is hosting two complementary festivals…either of which would be worth travelling there for, but together make it irresistible.  I was supposed to go with RUM XP squad of travelling judges to the Rum and Beer Festival but was diverted to elsewhere in the Caribbean. But my spirit will be with them! And I could not have stayed away from the Rum, Food and Wine competition.

Rum and Beer Festival

Rum, Food and Wine competition.

Golden Rum Barrel Awards

I could not go to the London Rum Fest this year – I was supposed to be judging -and instead had to sample some rums up here in the mountains as a consolation. For the record, the London event is magnificent, definitely the best in the world, as befits the (former) heart of the empire that spread rum around the world – and which never had Prohibition to leave a legislative mess up that stops the USA arranging anything quite as good!

So, belatedly, here are the winners,


Best White Rum

  • Banks 5 Island Rum (Caribbean / Indonesia)

Best Super Premium White Rum

  • Oronoco (Venezuela / Brazil)

Best Flavoured or Spiced Rum

  • Elements 8 Spiced (St. Lucia)

Best Gold Rum up to 6 years old

  • El Dorado 5 (Guyana)

Best Premium Gold Rum up to 12

  • Dos Maderos 5 + 5 (Spain)

Best Premium Gold Rum (over 12)

  • El Dorado 12 (Guyana)

Best Super Premium Gold Rum minimum aged 15yrs

  • Mount Gay 1703 (Barbados)

Best Solera Rum

  • Atlantico (Dominican Republic)

Best Dark Rum, Black rum or Navy Styled Rum

  • Pussers 15 years (British Virgin Island)

Best Agricole Aged up to 4 years

  • Clement VSOP (Martinique)

Best Agricole over 4 years

  • Plantation Guadeloupe (France)

Best Cachaça

  • Beija flor Reserva Especial

Best North American Rum (inc Mexico)

  • Los Valientes 15 (Mexico)

Best South American Rum

  • Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva (Venezuela)

Best European Rum

  • Black Tot Black Tot Last Consignment (UK)

Best Australian Rum

  • Holey Dollar Cask Strength (Australia)

Best Asian Rum

  • Old Monk (India)

Best Caribbean Rum

  • Mount Gay 1703 (Barbados)

Best Central American Rum

  • Ron Abuelo 12 (Panama)

Best New Rum Brand

  • Zafra Master Reserve 21 (Panama)

Best Rum Package

  • St Nicholas Abbey (Barbados)

On the Whole, I’m glad I was in Philadelphia.

As I approached Adam Kanter’s Rum Bar and saw my name in lights (well chalk, actually) under “40 Years since Black Tot Day,” Sergeant Pepper began to run through my head.

“It was 40 years ago today

The Navy took the rum away.

But it’s never gone out of Style

Black Tot’s been around a while.”

A reverent group of aficionados including Robert Burr and Mike Streeter, the survivors of Adam’s excellent Rum on the River fest, gathered from round the country at the bar, and were so eager to sample the bottle of Black Tot, that they were prepared to listen to my disquisition on how Britannia had lost all pretence of ruling the waves once the Grog had stopped.

And then, carefully we stripped the wax from the bottle top and took out the cork, worried as one is at a mishap with a bottle costing close to a $1,000. Speciality Drinks had obligingly provided a more conventional stopper to replace the one designed to keep the rum for posterity.

This was genuine Navy rum, guaranteed to be at least forty years old. It had been matured and blended in wooden casks, to a formula chosen by an Admiralty committee, (membership of which was one of the most hotly contested postings in the Royal Navy). And then it was decanted into the large stone flagons intended to preserve its flavour before being dispensed daily at Spirits Up on ships around the globe. Speciality Drinks bought the lot at auction and bottled it, packaging it memorably and stylishly.

However, I have always defied conventional wisdom, that bottling spirits “freezes” the process. Those long chain molecules slowly break down and recombine in the bottle or flask, smoothing out the sharper edges of the spirit, bringing new complexities and subtleties, in this case to a strong rum whose flavour and aroma was designed to last dilution by 100 to 200% addition of water.

There was a touch of irony: W. C. Fields (Of British parentage) came from Philly and one of his catch phrases was “on the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” but he famously eschewed water because, he alleged, fish did unspeakable things in it.

But nonetheless, we added water, and as it was suspected, so it came to pass. Sniffing the bottle produced blissful smiles all around, as did judicious sipping by the assembled worshippers at the altar of Great God Grog.The molasses was there, but restrained, a faint hint of licorice, and then all the good things we associate with rum. In keeping with tradition, we tried it mixed with water, and, “Lo! A miracle!” It was like turning water into rum. The flavour and nose were enhanced if anything.

As a follow-up Adam dispensed a tot of Pussers to all participants in the ceremony, and even a miniature commemorative takeaway flask of Pussers. I wonder what it will taste like in forty years? Unless I’m pickled in the stuff, I suspect I will not be around for the experiment.

Burr, baby Burr, rum tastings!

Cartavio Rum Tasting
Thursday, August 12

at the Mai Kai Polynesian Restaurant

The Robs will be hosting a tasting event featuring outstanding rums from Peru. You’re invited to sample these rums with us at the Mai Kai on August 12.

The Cartavio line of rums is gaining much attention lately, winning awards and turning heads among rum enthusiasts. Be among the first to sample these outstanding products now available in South Florida.

Save The Date: Thursday, August 12, 6 to 8pm.

Join us for some fine cocktails designed by the Mai Kai bartenders, sip on some excellent luxury rums and enter your name in the contest to win a bottle of Cartavio XO rum.

Space is limited, so please RSVP online soon using the link below.


date    Thursday, August 12
time    6:00 to 8:00pm
location    Mai Kai Molokai Bar
address    3599 N. Federal Hwy
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
cost    $10
Drop us a line anytime. Let’s talk about rum!

Rum Renaissance

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival
May 5-9, 2010
A Global Gathering At The Raleigh South Beach Resort

May 5-9, 2010

Join us for a discovery of the world’s best rums.

Rum is experiencing a Renaissance around the world as savvy consumers discover the incredible flavors of fine rums from every Caribbean island and every region of the Americas.

Miami is uniquely positioned to host this unique international festival — a celebration of cane spirits in the new world.

Mark your calendars now for one of the premier international rum events in May as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival presents a unique and exciting celebration of the finest rums in the world, featuring a slew of great VIP parties, an exhibition of ourstanding cane spirits, seminars and workshops, an opportunity to rub shoulders with dignitaries and notable experts, plus a special series of beach and pool party events celebrating island cultures with live music, great food and an amazing array of tropical libations.
The Raleigh South Beach Resort
Our Grand Tasting event is held at the world famous Raleigh South Beach Resort with a fabulous pool and private beach, directly on the ocean. You’ll find the Raleigh chic, yet warm and inviting; glamorous, yet without attitude; historically iconic, yet tastefully modernized. Here is a legendary and world-renowned art deco hotel that lives up to its copious accolades. Special Rum Renaissance room rates start at $250.

The Grand Tasting Event May 8
The Grand Rum Tasting Exhibition on Saturday, May 8 will include a plethora of fine rums from the Caribbean and beyond, presented in the context of a luxurious, tropical setting of the Raleigh South Beach Resort. Sample the finest rums from each island, from each category and from each notable brand.

The Celebrity Seminars
Seminars and lectures will be presented by a veritable who’s who list of experts from the rum manufacturing, distilling and blending world, as well as luminaries of the cocktail mixologists universe, offering insightful programs to consumers and members of the trade.

The VIP Parties May 5-9
Be there for these very special rum-themed events, hosted by the best rum companies in the world and great locations around Miami, featuring fine rums, great food, music and island culture.

The Rum Tasting Competition
Rum Renaissance is host to the International Rum Expert Panel (RumXP) tasting competition, where more than one hundred rums from around the world will be judged by an all-star international cast of distillers, mixologists and spirits journalists gathered in Miami Beach.

The International Tiki Face-Off Competition
From around the world and from down the street, some of the world’s best tiki mixologists will duel for bragging rights to the best international tiki team title with a series of challenges, culminating in a big finale at the Grand Tasting Event.

The Tropical Libations
The world’s finest bartenders and mixologists will be in attendance, producing exotic libations with world-class rums to delight and amaze rum enthusiasts.

The Big Bang Beach And Pool Party
On Sunday, May 9, we’ll all gather around the pool at the Raleigh South Beach Resort from noon to 5pm to enjoy the sun and fun. Chill out, decompress, mingle with rum experts and enthusiasts from around the world and enjoy living the great rum lifestyle on the beach.

Make plans now to experience Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, May 5-9, 2010.

For more information, contact:

Robert or Robin Burr
p: 305-443-7973
f: 305-447-0745
email: rob@rumrenaissance.com

Nepal and Panama ace out at Tampa

For Immediate Release Media contact:
March 22, 2010 Dori Bryant
(727) 947-3522

5th Annual Polished Palate International Rum Competition
Fifth Annual Polished Palate International Rum Competition Awards Announced

TAMPA, Fla. (March 22, 2010) – The results are in. The competition, held on March 18-19 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ybor City, was hosted by Jack Robertiello/Drinks Ink, along with judges Arturo Sighinolfi/SWS, Luis Ayala/Rum Shop, Stephen Beaumont/World of Beer, Harriet Lembeck/Wine & Spirits Educator, Ben Montgomery/St. Petersburg Times and Anthony Nasso/Republic National Distributing Company. Judges evaluated 42 rums based-upon five criteria: appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel & finish.

Judges sampled the spirits before selecting possible Best of Show, Best of Category, Gold, Silver and Bronze level award winners. A Best of Show is not always awarded. For a brand to receive this acknowledgement, each judge has to rate the spirit with a score of 90+. 21 years in the making, Master Distiller Francisco ‘Pancho’ Fernandez has done it again; he’s created a masterpiece. Zafra Master Reserve 21 Rum from Panama received the 2010 Best of Show award.

This year’s competition featured 7 categories including White Rum, Gold Rum, Dark Rum, Rum Aged up to 8 Years, Rum Aged 9-15 Years, Rum Aged 15+ Years and Flavored Rum. Of special note, one particular rum has entered the competition all five years, Khukri Rum from Nepal, and earned their 5th consecutive Gold Medal as well as their 2nd Best of Category Award.

Dori Bryant, President of the Polished Palate said, “It is obvious that Rum’s star has already risen. The qualtiy of new products entering the market, including those from Panama, Venezuela, Florida and Hawaii, bodes well for the industry”.

Congratulations to all of 2010 winners.

5th Annual Rum Competition Results:
(Bold denotes Best of Category. Note: Not all categories received a Best of Category award in 2010):

White Rum
Gold: Don Q Cristal/Puerto Rico
Diplomatico Blanco/Dominican Republic
Silver: Siesta Key Rum/Florida
Ron Barcelo Gran Platinum/Dominican Republic
Bronze: Carta Viejo Claro/Panama
Koloa White Hawaiian Rum/Hawaii

Gold Rum
Silver: Bacardi Gold/Puerto Rico
Koloa Gold Hawaiian Rum/Hawaii
Bronze: Don Q Gold/Puerto Rico
Old Lahaina Premium Gold Hawaiian Rum/Hawaii

Dark Rum
Gold: Khukri Rum (Nepal)
One Barrel Rum/Belize
Silver: Koloa Dark Hawaiian Rum/Hawaii
Carta Vieja Anejo/Panama
Bronze: Old Lahaina Premium Dark Rum/Hawaii

Rum Aged Up To 8 Years
Gold: Ron Abuelo 7 Anos/Panama
Bacardi 8/Puerto Rico
Ron Abuelo Anejo/Panama
Ron Medellin 8 Year Old/Colombia
Silver: Ron Barcelo Imperial/Dominican Republic
Plantation Barbados 5 Year Grande Reserve/Barbados
Ron Medellin 3 Year Old/Colombia
Ron Viejo de Caldas 3 Year Old/Colombia
Ron Viejo de Caldas Grand Reserve/Colombia
Bronze: Don Q Anejo/Puerto Rico
Ron Carupano Oro Reserva Especial/Venezuela

Rum Aged 9-15 Years
Gold: Ron Abuelo 12 Anos/Panama
Don Q Grand Anejo/Puerto Rico
Ron Carupano Solera Centenaria Reserva Limitada/Venezuela
Silver: Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva/Venezuela
Plantation 20th Anniversary/Barbados
Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 Cuban Style Rum/Dominican Republic

Rum Aged 15+ Years
Gold: Zafra Master Reserve 21 Rum/Panama BEST IN SHOW
Ron Anejo Carupano Legendario/Venezuela
Silver: Bacardi Reserva Limitada/Puerto Rico
Ron Millonario Solera 15 Reserva Especial/Peru

Flavored Rum
Silver: Don Q Coco/Puerto Rico
Don Q Limon/Puerto Rico
Bronze: Aguardiente Antioqueno Sin Azucar/Colombia

About The Polished Palate
Since 2005, the Polished Palate has been hosting spirits competitions and cutting edge Tasting Events, educating the consumer on all aspects of each distilled spirit category. Through events and seminars hosted by recognized industry professionals, guests learn about the history & culture of each spirit, their impact on society, current trends and appropriate tasting techniques, while promoting responsible consumption—all in a festive format. ###

Tampa, Vth Polished Palate International Rum Competition

As the rum controversy heats up between Puerto Rico & the USVI (Modern Distillery Age, March 9) rum is about to make more headlines. The 5th Annual Polished Palate International Rum Competition takes place this week in Tampa’s Ybor City at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Hosted by Jack Robertiello/Drinks Ink, judges Arturo Sighinolfi/SWS, Luis Ayala/Rum Shop, Stephen Beaumont/World of Beer, Ian Williams/Author & Rum Pundit, Harriet Lembeck/Wine & Spirits Educator, Ben Montgomery/St. Petersburg Times and Anthony Nasso/Republic National Distributing Company will be evaluating dozens of rums based-upon five criteria: appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel & finish. While all criteria are important in establishing a rum’s signature profile, aroma and flavor rank highest in scoring, and, of course, mean the most to rum lovers.

‘Nosing’ a spirit is a science—and there are specific techniques employed to ascertain scores. Lorena Vasquez, Master Distiller of the highly regarded Ron Zacapa rums, approaches the glass first within a breadth of the front rim, then moves her nose to the middle of the glass and finally against the far rim. Trying this for the first time is an eye-opener as each ‘nosing area’ offers subtleties one might anticipate during the tasting process (top note, mid-palate and finish). A simultaneous technique is to quickly inhale through both the nose and the mouth. The result leaves a foreshadow of the taste of what’s in the glass.

Spirits are always tasted ‘neat’, and, they’re tasted repeatedly throughout each session. For example, once air enters a glass, the essence of the rum begins to open up and, the longer it sits, other nuances will come to light. Some tasters put a dash of water (optional) which dampens the alcohol and brings up the flavor.

Results of the 2010 competition will be posted next week


Full Fathom Seven from Cayman to London

UK to drink in Cayman culture

By Cliodhna Doherty, cliodhna@cfp.ky
Wednesday 21st October, 2009 Posted: 15:34 CIT (20:34 GMT)

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This coming weekend will see a fresh taste of the Cayman Islands being promoted in Europe by way of The UK Rumfest in London.

“For the past two and a half years, we promoted the flora and fauna of the Cayman Islands and we have now moved into culture and cuisine,” explained Don McDougall, Regional Manager Europe with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. “At the London Rumfest, we will be putting together an exhibit for the show.”

The festival takes place this coming Saturday and Sunday 24 to 25 October at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Victoria, London and it prides itself as being the only international spirit festival dedicated to the wonders and experiences of rum and cane spirits from all over the world.

Mr. McDougall explained that the Cayman Islands’ exhibit would have representatives from Seven Fathoms Rum, Tortuga Rum Co. and Cayman’s award winning ’mixologist’.

“Not only have we Seven Fathoms, a rum that matures 42 feet under the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, but we have Tortuga Rum Cakes and award winning ‘mixologist’, Khi Leonard, from the Westin, who will be doing Cayman Islands’ cocktail mixes,” said Mr. McDougall.

The festival is expected to attract about 6,000 people over two days.

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism is sponsoring a promotional prize on London’s Biggest Conversation (LBC) radio, in the form of a trip for two to the Cayman Islands. The prize puts a focus on rum, such as offering lunch at Rum Point and a rum distillery visit.

To tie in with the culinary and cultural promotions, in November 2009’s edition of the UK’s Food and Travel magazine there is a 10–page colour feature which was achieved through the visiting journalist programme.

“It really hits our Cayman culture and culinary strategy on the button,” said Mr. McDougall.

Everything from turtle and conch, rundown, land crabs to heavy cake, jellies, jams and the local fish market are explored in this article which comes out in time to coincide with The UK Rumfest.

It also gives a lead up to Cayman’s ‘Culinary month’ this coming January which will include The Cayman Cookout and the Taste of Cayman festivals.