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Rumfest 2013 – The Verdict

October 27th, 2013

We were looking forward to Rumfest this year with a mix of excitement and trepidation. It was no secret that there were a few issues with last year’s event, and all of us in the community were keen to see if these had been addressed. We were impressed by this year’s website which include the Etiquette Guidelines, which were aimed at reducing the “drink to get drunk” crowd. From the range of people we met and talked to across the two days, the overall behaviour was so much better than previous years. This was our third Rumfest and we think the best yet for crowd behaviour.

The ExCel Centre was once again the host although the event space was much more spacious than last year, but this mean that there was plenty space in between the stalls and stands and there were hardly any bottlenecks which really helped get around the different exhibitors, a massive improvement.

The main area had a great Carnival atmosphere, helped in no small part by the Plantation guys and their now infamous Tiki Hut, blaring out the tunes which went perfectly with their great cocktails. This was also the area the big boys of the Rum world were representing well. The Havana Club mojito stall was great and the Mount Gay stand was also continuously busy. We really liked the amount of Bar/Brand crossover stalls as well, with the guys from Lambs tying up with Rum & Sugar and El Dorado with Liar’s Club

The Connoisseurs Cove area was very well put together, with entry controlled by coloured wristbands and very attentive staff. Once inside this section (which had see-through panels so people outside could see what they were missing!) you were presented with a tasting glass (no Rumfest logo this year which considering the list price of the tickets was a real shame) and free to explore the large array of Rum vendors and drinks specialists. The Cove really felt where the real Rumfest was this year, with brand ambassadors and owners happy to spend the time explaining their products and history away (slightly) from the hustle and bustle of the main area.

Still our favourite part of Rumfest is the Boutique section. This is a tiny part of Rumfest but for us and many others it’s bar far the most important as it’s where new brands, smaller distiller’s and those without the huge marketing clout of others can show off their products and get honest feedback from those in the trade. Here is our quick overview of the ones to keep an eye out over the next year:

Real McCoy Rum

We were really impressed with this brand, from their image all the way through to the tasting. The name comes from the legendary Bill McCoy who was the most well-known Rum Runner during prohibition in the 1920s, known for never watering down his product and spawning the phrase “The Real McCoy”. The range comprises of a 3 year old, a 5 year old and 12 year old and between them have won a huge amount of awards in the last year, including the Gold (5) and Silver (3) Medals at this year’s New York World Wine & Spirits Competition. Already found in the US, their next focus is cracking the UK market, so keep your eyes peeled for the Real McCoy! Also keep a look out for a documentary due to air on the BBC soon about Bill McCoy and the history of Rum Running.


Virgin Gorda

Created by The Poshmakers, Virgin Gorda is a delightful aged rum, blended from Trinidadian, Bajan and Jamaican rums between 5 and 8 years old. It’s very smooth considering the age and works exceptionally well in cocktails that bring out the vanilla and toffee flavours. Virgin Gorda won the Best New Rum at the Golden Barrel Awards too!

Santiago de Cuba

This is a brand we got to know well during our trip to Cuba in 2010 so we’re delighted that they’re setting their sights on a full re-launch in the UK and European market soon. They have a very respectable range including a white 3 year old, a 5 year old Anejo, an exceptional 12 year old, a refined 20 year old and to top off the range a stunning 25 year old too!


For us OpthimuS was the stand out star of the entire weekend. Although not a new brand, OpthimuS is almost unheard of in the UK, although is quite popular in France and other parts of Central Europe. Produced by Oliver & Oliver and Originally founded by Juanillo Oliver, a Cuban who brought to the Dominican Republic a large amount of old Cuban rum stock, they now have a very impressive range of 6 different rums under the OpthimuS brand. We tried their exceptional 15 year solera which has a delightful sweetness of it which rivalled the El Dorado 15, one of our all-time favourites. We were also fortunate enough to try the OpthimuS 25 year old Whisky Cask finish. This is their 25 year solera product shipped to Scotland and finished for 6 months in Tomatin whisky barrels. The result is outstanding and adds a genuine unique finish to anything we’ve tried before. They’re currently seeking a UK distribution deal, which we really hope they get as we think this would make a great addition to not only any rum bar’s collection, but also high end hotel bars.


A final honourable mention has to go to Wadworth. They were presenting their Swordfish Ale on the Pusser’s Rum stand. Swordfish includes Pusser’s 3 year old rum in the latter stages of production and although we only tried a tiny bit, we were very impressed by the lovely rich and smooth flavour. We will definitely be keeping an eye out for this in pubs when there’s limited rum on offer!

So Rumfest 2013 was everything we hoped it would be, improved atmosphere, better organisation all adding to the fantastic atmosphere and friendly people that come together each year to celebrate all things Rum. See you next year!              

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