An Interview with Nikos Arvanitis – Rum Traveller

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

Nikos Arvanitis will be familiar to most of my Facebook Rum forum frequenting audience. He’ll also be more than familiar to Rum Festival attendees throughout Europe. In fact his biography reads very well:

Nikos Arvanitis has been working as a bartender since 2006. Rum is his passion and his desire to understand it led him to the Caribbean. Living in Barbados and using this island as his base, he has visited 30 islands of the tropical zone of the “West Indies” and over 45 distilleries and sugarcane fields, both active and inactive. His journey is still on, it will soon be reflected on paper and he has named it “From the West Indies to the World”.

Nikos Arvanitis through his travels and speeches is trying to spread the traditional production process of Rum and the culture of the Caribbean people.

He is a member in the jury panel and an instructor in rum presentation, in several European Rum Festivals (Berlin, Paris, Poland, Greece, Spain etc.) and bar shows.

Instructor of Rum in Bar Academy Hellas

Copyright Rum Diaries Blog

On a personal level, I have known Nikos for around three years and during that time we have conversed a lot about life, Rum and everything in between. During our period of friendship I have seen Nikos grow into a very well-respected spokesman for Rum and an evangelist for the history and tradition that exists within the Caribbean. More recently he has become a very active independent spokesperson for the Gargano / Seale Classification and a campaigner and activist for Pure Rum and raising the category in general.

I was fortunate enough to meet Nikos earlier this year in his natural habitat….a Rum distillery. The distillery in question was Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and it was also my first Rum Distillery visit. We chatted for a while, walked through the distillery with Richard and sampled untold delights in the Foursquare Tasting Room. We also shared a pretty eventful taxi ride with him.

Open and honest is all that I have known from Nikos and I’m giving his full, unedited responses to my questions. No cutting, snipping or leaving out of any detail. Hopefully you’ll see that his responses relay the passion that he has and the high regard in which he holds Rum as the true essence of the Caribbean and its people.

1 – For those that may not already be familiar with you and your work, explain to them what your project “From the West Indies to the World” is about.

From the West Indies to the World

It’s a personal project including photos, thoughts and notes for the real side of Caribbean islands and the connection between the locals and the Rum, through the eyes of the unknown reality.

Sugar cane fields, unknown dead estates, Rum Distilleries and traditional Rums.

In short, it’s my lonely trip-wandering in the tropic zone of the West Indies. Personal experiences, emotionally charged stories, culture, people. I don’t travel the easy way. I’m visiting places that they are really inaccessible to many white people and also I organized the 95% from all these trips myself, without sponsors, companies etc. The final collection of these experiences is the reason that this project is born, and due to that, I don’t focus only the to rum and the production process..

I’m not an author / writer and I do not even want to be. I just have the feeling and the belief that the experiences created to share. This project is an extension of me and the opposite.

The ultimate goal of my project is to make as many people as possible respect and fall in love with the Caribbean, the local culture, the people and finally the distilleries that are keeping alive and  unchanged the traditional production process of the spirit we love the most.

2 – Your travels are followed by and envied by many people….including me. One thing that often gets said to people like me is that to truly understand Rum and all that it is, you have to visit distilleries. Just how many countries and distilleries have you visited?

I would like to speak on a personal level without meaning that it’s either wrong or right. Yes, I clearly believe that if you don’t visit the Caribbean by yourself and the distilleries as well, it’s really difficult to understand rum. There’s a huge difference between the word ‘knowledge‘ and the word ‘understanding‘. Countless sites on the Internet with completely different opinions and misleading information, distributors, companies and ambassadors talk about rum and they’ve never touched sugarcane in their life. So there is misinformation and false information about rum. When I visited the distilleries I acquired a complete image, totally different to the one I had before. And yes, I was reading and attending seminars. But I figured that it wasn’t enough. It was like I was going inside the glass and becoming one with rum. Of course, it is important that the people of the distilleries are also honest with you. I was lucky (and a pain in the ass for them)

I have visited in total 30 islands of the Caribbean tropic zone. The number of distilleries is 45 out of 50. My last trip was in Haiti and trust me, Haiti is a unique situation. It’s a category by itself.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

3 – I personally see you as a direct link to Rum producers that are not active on social media and have little to no online presence. Do you think that your relationship with these Rum producers is vital in bringing the plight of forgotten and overlooked distilleries such as the Callwood Distillery in the BVI and River Antoine in Grenada into the spotlight?

The first time I saw distilleries like the ones you mentioned, I said to myself, “I will spread all over the world about these distilleries-Caribbean’s heritage”.
I saw this subject in a very romantic tone. It is truly a shame that 90% of the whole world does not even know the existence of wonderful rums like these. But the most important thing is that they do not know the passion, the love and respect that the people who surround distilleries have for their rums. Their existence is the link between the past and the present. And if you do forget the past, the heritage and the history, the future is cloudy and uncertain…

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

4 – Apart from your project and the Rum, what continues to drive you to travel to these places?

People. Certainly people. The human relationships that I created there are by far the most important school of my life. They changed my worldview. I’m not the same person as I used to be before. At least I do not act and think the same way.

I adore the warm climate. I don’ really like the cold and I am freezing really quick and easy. I am not really sure if I will survive this winter in Paris. Hahahaha. Yeah, Paris is going to be my base for the following year(s)…

Finally, the word “vibe“. I can’t explain this feeling in a few words. It’s something much deeper. The vibe in the tropic zone makes me happy and above all, I’m 100% myself. Something I have never experienced before in the big European countries even in my own country, where the friendship and human relationships are in the second or even third fate. Unfortunately…

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

5 – You’re a firm advocate of the proposed Gargano / Seale Classification. Explain the classification for those that may not be aware of it. Why you feel that it is so important?

Usually, my presentations for this matter last like 4 hours…..So I believe it’s a little bit difficult to explain in a few words.

Yes, I am a 100% supporter of this wonderful classification. It was the middle of 2014 I think when Richard (Seale) firstly introduced me to this classification in one of my weekly visits to Foursquare distillery. When I saw the classification I told to myself: “Yes, this is the only way to have a better and promised future for the category of Rum, to put things in a row and first of all to give Rum the respect it deserves”. Two years later I found Luca (Gargano) in one of his trips in Barbados. He also helped me understand the classification. So, my communication with the two most influential persons of the Rum world plus my personal research was the common link for the final result…..to spread this classification all over the world.

This Classification focuses to the type of the producer, the type of the still and of course at the distillery statement. I believe that this last thing is the biggest problem in Rum. The 70% of rums of the global market haven’t got a distillery statement. This is really bad.

This classification it’s not about what’s good and what’s bad. Tasty or not. Originally, it’s a chronological order of the history of distillation and is based on facts. There is a separation between the traditional production process and the modern.  This doesn’t mean that tradition overtakes modern methods, but we surely have to have a different approach to an original artisanal Rum from an industrial one.

Finally, some people say that this classification is a copy of the Whisky’s classification. This is not true, not at all and please if you don’t understand the role of the classification, don’t judge. Open your mind and be more Caribbean…I am always open for conversations about this subject, contact me and it would be my pleasure to help you have better understanding about the classification.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

6 – Your time spent with Rum producers has seen you spearheading the important job of communicating the classification through your interactions on social media and your presentations to industry and consumers. Do you see knowledge of the classification spreading throughout the community to the point that there is a basic understanding already when you talk to the industry and consumers?

First of all I really need to share with you that NONE of the producers ever told me what to say in my presentations or to promote specific Rums (I am not a f****n promoter or brand ambassador and I will never be). I was In Berlin some weeks ago and someone came to me and said that: “You promote the rums of your friends distilleries”. This is not true. I love to promote the Rums I love and the distilleries who still respect the Caribbean’s heritage and tradition. It’s true that I have a personal connection with many distilleries like Worthy Park, Foursquare and others but this connection is more a friendship and match to our beliefs than a business. The people out there who know me personally, know this much better than anyone. The situation with the association is something new but all of us used to fight about the traditional production process of the Rum many years ago, but our voice is heard by a lot of people only in the last 2-3 years. The customers really want to know more about the Rum and this is wonderful. The promise I am giving is that I will always act 100% as Nick and I will do the best to raise the category of the Rum.

7 – A large proportion of the Rum producers appear to fear the classification. Why do you think that is?

From my point of view, the main reason is that they initially believe that if they accept this sort of classification, it is like neglecting what they say so many years about their products on the market. I think that they are only interested in the rise of their own label and not rum as a spirit. We all have to understand that sales cannot go up in a particular bottle if the category is not developed in general. You cannot deny that tradition, not least the complicated production process of rum, should not go into the same sink as modern industrial products. They cannot have the same prices and above all the word “artisanal” on their bottle. So yes, I think they initially think of their sales which is not true because if the rum is classified and developed in general, this will be a good thing for everyone. Speaking so much time for the world market, I will give a personal example from my own country that reflects what I have said. See it as a miniature of the market.

Ambassadors who have never touched a still, have not bitten sugar cane, have never walked in the Caribbean, have not spoken to locals and have not understood the rum, continue to promote products that are in the company’s portfolio, for which you do not know the existence of the distillery (which of course does not exist), so-called spiced easy rums and pure alcohol full of flavors and sweeteners, industrial products that have nothing to do with the history of the island are being produced. How do you orient yourself in the market by telling lies and having the main goal of selling your own only products and at the same time looking for the good for the future of rum? It can not be done. Quite simply because there is no love for rum and the Caribbean but love for your dominance in the market and the word “monopoly“.

The shawls have no pockets. What is the essence if you are not faithful to your values ​​and your beliefs as a person and you adapt to what the system imposes on you…?

8 – Do you think that the Classification will ever become industry standard?

I am very optimistic and positive as a human and yeah man, I believe that it will. Already you can see a great rise of the artisanal Rum in the global market and this is wonderful and makes me very happy. But I don’t like to use the world “industry” next to the word “Rum“. Let’s use another term: “The World of Rum” is much better I think.

From me and my team, there is a promise that we will do all we can to build strong foundations in this classification and we will fight for it through presentations, seminars, articles etc. What is the essence of human being as if you haven’t got something to fight for??

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

9 – Do you think that having a Geographical Indication for Rum production will become the natural progression?

Yes, I believe that this is the path. Jamaica for example, is fighting about this. But I would like to make a general statement on this really important subject.

In Jamaica we have distilleries that make completely different rum in a totally different way. In particular, it’s not possible to consider a pure single rum from Worthy Park or Hampden with that of Clarendon. Yes, these three distilleries take place in the same island, they are all Jamaican, but the Rums are completely different. The production process as well. In Clarendon they use a small amount of Rum from Batch distillation. The majority of the final blend is coming from distillation in Multi column ethyl alcohol plant. This does not happen in the first two distilleries I mentioned earlier. So, I say that simply saying Jamaican Rum is not enough because there is diversity within Jamaican Rum.

They all rely on some common elements in the production process, but at the end of the day the final products are completely different. So, just the world Jamaican Rum I don’t feel that it’s enough.

There must be also control to the independent bottlers with no distillery statement. I’m tasting very often rums like these, let’s say a Barbadian Rum, and this rum has nothing to do with the traditional rums of the island. The same happens also with other bottlings. Personally, I find it unacceptable to add sweeteners, aromas and other extras that literally do not respect the distillery, the history and the heritage of the island, and also the tradition, except some special situations. Of course, the majority of these independent bottles haven’t got distillery statement on the labels and at the same time they say that they choose personally the best barrels from the distilleries. They didn’t .They just bought these rums from other companies. Be careful with the false marketing terms. I really would like to see better control and balance between the distilleries and the independent bottlers in future. If the rum is not even close to the character of the distillery and the distillery bottlings, don’t give the permission to the independent companies to make the bottling. The master distiller has to taste the rum and if he agrees, enter the name of the distillery and his signature. So everyone cannot bottle whatever they want. Quite honestly, I believe this.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

So there we have it…..an amazing amount of passion and a completely open forum for Nikos to give his true, unedited opinions.

I’d like to personally take this opportunity to thank Nikos again for his agreement to undertake this interview and I hope that I have given him the platform which he deserves.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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Excellence Rhum Collection

I’m a regular purchaser from Alexandre Beudet and his Excellence Rhum website in France and it was interesting to see four new bottlings listed on the website tagged as Excellence Rhum Collection….especially as one was a Foursquare and the other was a Hampden. Anyway, a little background. Alexandre created his Excellence Rhum website in 2013 and it has grown in strength, now listing over 1800 different bottlings. It has been my go to mail order for Agricole and they deliver to the UK…Hurrah! For its ‘Collection’ releases, Alexandre has taken the sensible step of releasing the Rums without the addition of sugar or caramel colour. The Rums will also not undergo chill filtration. So for all intents and purposes, presented as the distilleries would want them to be and labelled and bottled in Paris. The plan is to release four new Collection bottlings per yer….good news for us! Anyhow, below is a brief list of the bottlings that will be available as part of the 2017 Collection. In a nod to the excellent, clear and informative labels of the Habitation Velier Collection the labels will also amongst other things have information indicating the distillation and bottling dates, type of still, barrel marks, percentage of Tropical vs Continental age and the Angels Share percentage….For instance, the Guadeloupe has 10% Tropical Age and 90% Continental Age and lost 30% of the barrel contents to evaporation…it was distilled in a Column Still and the barrel marks were SFGB (not a clue).

Guadeloupe Bellevue – SFGB – 1998 – 18yr – 59.9% abv

Guyana Diamond – MPM – 2005 – 11yr – 60.1% abv

Jamaica Hampden – LROK – 2000 – 16yr – 54.6% abv

Barbados Foursquare – MBFS – 2006 – 11yr – 62.8% abv

Now fortunately for me, I have been given the opportunity to try all four releases in the Excellence Rhum Collection due to Alexandre’s very kind offer of a press kit. This wont be definitive thoughts and my final opinion as the 60ml samples only go so far……but as a heads up I have already pre-ordered two expressions……I may want to revisit at a later date…..but my brief notes are……

Tasting Notes

Guadeloupe Bellevue – SFGB – 1998 – 18yr – 59.9% abv

Glass: Dark burnished gold. Immediate and powerful, redolent with banana chips and a light medicinal quality. Hints of Caroni! Tar and creosote. Lightly spiced nutmeg, but more apparently herbal with hints of rosemary, Norfolk lavender and an earthy quality. Oak is not dominant but is present.

Mouth: Intense and medicinal entry. Charred wood, lemon oils, pickle vinegar like acidity. Quite sour. Liquorice. Caroni like petrol. Dried banana and coconut pieces. Sticking plasters. Very very long finish which is oak led initially with a growing liquorice. More vinegar acidity and a sweet / bitter vermouth quality. Great stuff.

Guyana Diamond – MPM – 2005 – 11yr – 60.1% abv

Glass: Pale straw. Initial alcohol astringency. Raisin notes with liquorice and anise as I’d expect from a PM. Powering through this reveals lightly floral notes and the sweetness of grilled bananas along with freshly cut mango.

Mouth: Sweetness on entry and initially very floral led. This then clears and drops into the baseline notes of aniseed and liquorice that I’d expect….albeit with a touch of wildflower honey. It has a sweet / savoury interplay which is pinning in all together. A long finish that is all salty liquorice (there is a Dutch liquorice that escapes me that I know only as a ‘drop’) led with the remains of honeyed fruitcake. Solid but not outstanding.

Jamaica Hampden – LROK – 2000 – 16yr – 54.6% abv

Glass: Light straw gold. It could only be Hampden. Funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter. All pot still attack. Not quite in the HLCF territory. It’s not as down and dirty as that. Overripe bananas, mango, papaya. Intense fruit, florals, stinging astringency. Both sweet and spicy in equal measure. Hazelnuts, warm bbq’d banana smeared in fudge.

Mouth: Sweet, pot still bathed in baked banana. Drying oak and burnt wood. Dime (Daim) bar like caramel nuttiness and very well-balanced. A hint of savoury. The finish is long and full of liquorice, banana, black jack sweets, pineapple and biscoff spread. If you’ve ever seen the YouTube video about the ‘Crazy/Hot Matrix’….this Rum has strayed close to the unicorn zone.

Barbados Foursquare – MBFS – 2006 – 11yr – 62.8% abv

Glass: A shade darker than straw gold. Light oak, vanilla, florals and grapes. Banana, cocoa powder, dried fruit peels and royal icing. A light nuttiness. Intense…..but not Velier Foursquare 2006 levels.

Mouth: Sweet entry full of milk chocolate and dried fruit peels. This is slowly enveloped by a biting dryness bringing a strong bite of black pepper and fennel seeds. Further sips bring dessicated coconut, apricot and a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg. A long mildy oaken vanilla led finish develops into apricot, celery and a growing dryness. Again….right at the back-end there is a light apricot. High proof mixed climate aged Foursquare at close to its best.

As collections go, this is a really strong showing. The only one that I’m not really ‘feeling’ is the Guyana…..but thats not to say that it isn’t good….I just prefer entirely tropically aged Demeraras. I have pre-ordered two of these bottles…..the Hampden and the Foursquare. I hovered over the Guadeloupe but I have the Cadenheads Bellevue. If I could afford it, the Guadeloupe would  absolutely be on my list though as it is such a well-rounded, well-developed prospect. So much flavour from a column still, it really is a triumph. Thanks to Alexandre firstly for sourcing really good Rums, and secondly for allowing me to try them. I hope that you manage to pick one or two up for yourselves.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

London Rum Experience Week and RumFest Shenanigans

rum experience no dateGiven the huge amount of Rum based events going on in the lead up to this years UK RumFest, there is a high likelihood that if this performance is repeated next year we may have to take a short-term rental in South West London! We thought that by making the trip on Thursday morning clutching our Rum University and RumFest tickets that we would be experiencing a lot……but in truth we didn’t even scratch the surface. What we shall attempt to do though is talk you through some of the more standout points of our 2015 RumFest experience!

Friday morning saw us grab a cup of tea take a seat on the comfy sofas in the lobby of the Ibis Hotel. We were soon joined by John Coelho-Charles, Helena Tiare Olsen, Keegan Menezes, Robert Burr and Paul Yellin. Much chatting ensued with topics as varied as Santeria Rum, the weather and the strange fruit on offer at the street market outside of our hotel……As we sat waiting, Ian walked into the lobby, made a b-line for the sofas and greeted us all. Good start. A short while later due to London traffic (among other things) we clocked Tito Cordero enter the building which meant that Rum University could start. We were all ushered into one of the seminar rooms off the main hall with a few of us taking a cheeky glimpse of the exhibition space being set up for the weekends fun.

IMAG1033The Diplomatico Rum seminar kicked things off with a really open insight into the sheer range of distillates that can be produced at DUSA. Now irrespective of your opinion on the Rums produced and sold under the Diplomatico brand, they have a pretty special collection of stills at DUSA….and we got to hear about all of them.

Next up was a pretty special olfactory seminar presented by Kim Lahiri of Aroma Academy. It was all about reconstructing the aroma profiles not deconstructing them which is done via Aroma Recognition and Aroma Vocabulary. Very interesting and enlightening stuff. After a quick break for lunch which consisted of the amazing Fish n Chips from the on site pub….(just ask Helena for a review) we were into the afternoon session.

IMAG1051 (2)The afternoons learning opportunity was provided by Richard Seale of Foursquare Distillery who led with his own rather brutal assessment of the current state of the industry and a real insight into alcohol plants vs spirit production. He also brought proposals for the future classification of the Rum category. A proposal in conjunction with Luca Gargano that would see Rum categorised as follows:

  • 100% Pot Still (Pure Single Rum)
  • Pot / Column (Single Blended)
  • Column (Coffey Still)
  • Multi-Column

 

IMAG1049Off the back of this we got to try the upcoming Habitation Velier Foursquare 100% Pot Still release…..dazzling doesn’t quite cover it.

The seminar ended with a little food for thought….’Not all Rums with added sugar are bad…..but all of the bad ones will have added sugar’. A very interesting day spent and a learning opportunity that we will be looking to undertake again next year! We were then released into the quite amazing Boutique RumFest……

 

 

 

 

 

Boutique RumFest

This year saw some absolutely amazing Rums on display and the experience is probably best dealt with via a series of images….

Bushtea Rum

IMAG1052Bush Tea Rum is more of a botanical Rum….distilled in the UK it was quite a unique proposition and something that tasted quite different in a world of very ‘samey’ spiced Rums…

 

 

Ekte Rums

IMAG1053Coming from Denmark and with Daniel Nunez Bascunan at the helm, the range of Rums available was great with our particular favourites being the Light & Dry (Barbados and Trinidad) and Pungent & Geeky (Jamaica and Barbados). We really hope that these get a UK release as we are mad keen to try them again.

 

Bristol Classic Rum

IMAG1056

We were so so pleased to see the guys from Bristol Classic there. We are big fans of their output and the releases on display didn’t disappoint. Of the bottles on display, we already own the Worthy Park 8, Diamond Distillery 2003 and Foursquare 2004. Standouts were the simply sublime Port Morant 25yr, Haiti 2004 and Mauritius 5yr.We hope tobe able to pick up a few more Bristol bottlings over the coming year.

 

 

 

Hamilton Ministry of Rum Collection

IMAG1059This collection was quite simply stunning. The St Lucian 9 yr 100% Pot Still at 66.7% abv (which we fortunately ended up leaving with the remains of) is an absolute triumph, once again singling out St Lucia Distillers as one of the better current producers. Produced by their John Dore still it is an absolute melting pot of flavours and a real demonstration of a beautiful pot distilled Rum. We also have to say that the Jamaican Gold and Jamaican Black were no slouches either. Both from Worthy Park, the only difference is the addition of extra caramel colouring. We also got to meet Ed Hamilton too which was definitely one to tick of the list! European bottlers were being sought on this visit….though sadly not for the St Lucia 9yr as Ed’s allocation has all already been bottled.

IMAG1060

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matugga Rum

IMAG1063These guys were a real standout for us. 100 % Pot Still Rum distilled here in the UK. There is a real signature profile running through both the Gold and Spiced with a real hit of smoke which keeps things interesting. We predict good things in 2016 for these guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Leaves Rum

IMAG1066The Nine Leaves range of Rums from Japan have been on our list for a while and we finally got to try them. Three interesting cask finished including quite a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon Cask and an American Oak Cask were all very different and all offered something unique. As expected the wine cask was very heavy on tannins and not for everyone but I quite enjoyed it. The real star though was the Clear which displayed once again, a really large amount of character as a result of the fermentation and pot distillation. One to pick up in the future.

IMAG1065

 

 

 

 

 

Rum Nation

IMAG1068We are already quite familiar with a lot of the Rum Nation releases but it was great to see their Rums on display there. The new Caroni 1999 was another accessible Caroni from them and now resides on our shelves.

 

 

Hampden Estate

IMAG1071Hampden Estate were also present, or should we say that Christelle was present. We are more than aware of Hampden Gold which has no age at all but a hell of a lot of flavour. What struck us was the amount of flavour carried by Rumfire even given its 63%…..we don’t own it yet but we will be looking to pick it up soon.

 

 

Other exhibitors of real note were the sublime offerings of Worthy Park Rum Bar Rum, the amazing Real McCoy and St Nicholas Abbey with their slightly more mature 5yr and sugar cane syrup. A great evening where we also bumped into our friend Sian…this years Boutique really trumped last years (which was also good) and we came away from the event with a real sense of a proper progression and new direction for the event with an emphasis on a few more independent bottlers really helping shake things up.IMAG1074 (2)

RumFest 2015

Again, a series of images seems way more appropriate than paragraphs attempting to sum up what a photograph can do quite easily.

After the disappointing sweetness of the first Angostura No1 release (red), the second Angostura No1 release (purple) really redeems itself with such a beautiful concentration of flavours and a dryness that is really very appealing

After the disappointing sweetness of the first Angostura No1 release (red), the second Angostura No1 release (purple) really redeems itself with such a beautiful concentration of flavours and a dryness that is really very appealing

Sean Duprey giving us a little lectured tasting of Angostura Rums

Sean Duprey giving us a little lectured tasting of Angostura Rums

The Bacardi shack was again another highlight. So well presented and this year with an emphasis on Ocho (Bacardi 8) and its versatility

The Bacardi shack was again another highlight. So well presented and this year with an emphasis on Ocho (Bacardi 8) and its versatility

A few selected serves to highlight Bacardi 8.....the Old Cuban was particularly good

A few selected serves to highlight Bacardi 8…..the Old Cuban was particularly good

Pussers....just yes. We know the range, we love the range, we got to try the range...you NEED Gunpowder Proof in your life....and the new blue label at 40% is no slouch either

Pussers….just yes. We know the range, we love the range, we got to try the range…you NEED Gunpowder Proof in your life….and the new blue label at 40% is no slouch either

Great to meet George again and to see him getting so passionate about Pussers

Great to meet George again and to see him getting so passionate about Pussers

Matugga Rum proved to be a real head turner and a massive hit and Jacines Rum Cake was phenomenal

Matugga Rum proved to be a real head turner and a massive hit and Jacines Rum Cake was phenomenal

Matugga Golden.....a really pleasant hit of smoke running though it

Matugga Golden…..a really pleasant hit of smoke running though it

Don Q Gran Anejo......a really really great example of a well made and very flavourful lighter column spirit

Don Q Gran Anejo……a really really great example of a well made and very flavourful lighter column spirit

Tiburon Rum brought their own Jack sparrow look-a-like to the event (pictures further down)....whilst we're not huge fans of pirate based japery....it was good fun nonetheless

Tiburon Rum brought their own Jack sparrow look-a-like to the event (pictures further down)….whilst we’re not huge fans of pirate based japery….it was good fun nonetheless

Our Rum of the Year thus far.....the Foursquare Port Cask

Our Rum of the Year thus far…..the Foursquare Port Cask

Steven eavesdropping on a deep discussion between two greats....Richard Seale and Dave Broom...

Steven eavesdropping on a deep discussion between two greats….Richard Seale and Dave Broom…

The next cask finish release from Foursquare....Zinfandel Cask....so unbelievably delicate and candyfloss like

The next cask finish release from Foursquare….Zinfandel Cask….so unbelievably delicate and candyfloss like

Richard magically producing a bottle of their first cask strength release.....it was way more delicate than you'd think and carried with it some amazing aromas and flavours

Richard magically producing a bottle of their first cask strength release…..it was way more delicate than you’d think and carried with it some amazing aromas and flavours

A real divider of opinions.....Mauritius Club...full on Bakewell tart in a glass.....I'm quite a fan

A real divider of opinions…..Mauritius Club…full on Bakewell tart in a glass…..I’m quite a fan

The new Gold Of Mauritius 5yr....Solera in this case merely means multiple barrels. It carries the same salty, nutty, chocolate profile as Gold just with a more balanced finish given a few years in oak...

The new Gold Of Mauritius 5yr….Solera in this case merely means multiple barrels. It carries the same salty, nutty, chocolate profile as Gold just with a more balanced finish given a few years in oak…

The range of Mezan releases presented by Eaux de Vie....the Guyana 2005 just had to come home with us

The range of Mezan releases presented by Eaux de Vie….the Guyana 2005 just had to come home with us

Lambs....their Alfred Lamb Cask Selection was absolutely beautiful

Lambs….their Alfred Lamb Cask Selection was absolutely beautiful

Botran....we are fans of the range here and it was great to reacquaint ourselves

Botran….we are fans of the range here and it was great to reacquaint ourselves

The anniversary release....very limited quantities.....the Rum was great and the experience of using the Spice and Citrus essences was a really good experience

The anniversary release….very limited quantities…..the Rum was great and the experience of using the Spice and Citrus essences was a really good experience

The seminars were also great fun this year too. We got to attend two separate versions of the Velier Seminar with the charismatic Luca Gargano and we also got the opportunity to attend the Rhums of Martinique Room with Jerry Gitany and Benoit Bail which was a great experience……

House of Velier Seminar(s)

Luca Gargano stating to warm up...

Luca Gargano stating to warm up…

Luca in full flow...

Luca in full flow…

Probably the most charismatic man that we have ever met....so much passion for Rum and all that it entails. An absolutely wonderful series of seminars giving great insight to the Rum, the man and his motivation...and of course we got to try some amazing Rums

Probably the most charismatic man that we have ever met….so much passion for Rum and all that it entails. An absolutely wonderful series of seminars giving great insight to the Rum, the man and his motivation…and of course we got to try some amazing Rums

Star of the show....the Habitation Velier releases...Foursquare 100% Pot Still

Star of the show….the Habitation Velier releases…Foursquare 100% Pot Still

Star of the show....the Habitation Velier releases...Forsyths 151 proof

Star of the show….the Habitation Velier releases…Forsyths 151 proof

Star of the show....the Habitation Velier releases...Forsyths Pot Still

Star of the show….the Habitation Velier releases…Forsyths Pot Still

Star of the show....the Habitation Velier releases...Forsyths Pot Still

Star of the show….the Habitation Velier releases…Forsyths Pot Still

A quite phenomenal Caroni.....

A quite phenomenal Caroni…..

Rhum Rhum Liberation 2012....version integrale

Rhum Rhum Liberation 2012….version integrale

Barnali and Luca....the shot that we could use....

Barnali and Luca….the shot that we could use….

Steven and Luca.....how big should we make the canvas print of this one?

Steven and Luca…..how big should we make the canvas print of this one?

 

Rhums of Martinique Room

Jerry and Benoit giving the introduction....

Jerry and Benoit giving the introduction….

These guys must be at the forefront of experimenting with cask finishes....some really interesting HSE expressions to try

These guys must be at the forefront of experimenting with cask finishes….some really interesting HSE expressions to try

These guys must be at the forefront of experimenting with cask finishes....some really interesting HSE expressions to try

These guys must be at the forefront of experimenting with cask finishes….some really interesting HSE expressions to try

Jerry extolling the virtues of Rhum Neisson....we are now believers!

Jerry extolling the virtues of Rhum Neisson….we are now believers!

We were fortunate enough to pick a bottle of this Rhum Neisson expression up....so so good

We were fortunate enough to pick a bottle of this Rhum Neisson expression up….so so good

Every one of these expressions carried something interesting and flavourful....

Every one of these expressions carried something interesting and flavourful….

Onto Benoit and Rhum Saint James.....quite beautiful expression this one....another that we were able to pick up and bring back with us...

Onto Benoit and Rhum Saint James…..quite beautiful expression this one….another that we were able to pick up and bring back with us…

...and this expression was an absolute delight....

…and this expression was an absolute delight….

Onto Trois Rivieres.....

Onto Trois Rivieres…..

We really enjoyed this expression....

We really enjoyed this expression….

...and this was beautiful....very well rounded

…and this was beautiful….very well rounded

Having only ever tried La Mauny Blanc, we were very impressed with what the range had to offer....

Having only ever tried La Mauny Blanc, we were very impressed with what the range had to offer….

This being the particular stand out expression.....

This being the particular stand out expression…..

Emilie finishing off with a 'Ti Punch....or several....we are really going to miss her when she moves....

Emilie finishing off with a ‘Ti Punch….or several….we are really going to miss her when she moves….

Group photo.....Jerry, Benoit, Emilie, Audrey and Paul Yellin getting in on things....

Group photo…..Jerry, Benoit, Emilie, Audrey and Paul Yellin getting in on things….

Steven with Benoit and Jerry.....we finally got to meet these guys and can't wait until our paths cross again...

Steven with Benoit and Jerry…..we finally got to meet these guys and can’t wait until our paths cross again…

That pretty much concludes the photo tour of this years RumFest….as far as previous years go…there was a real focus this year on the hot discussion topic of ‘real rum’ and the seminars and exhibitors really did reflect this. Sure there were a few big hitters missing but our time was fully spent getting to talk to the exhibitors and to be honest if there had been a third day we would have had just as much to do and to see.

In terms of standout Rums from the Boutique RumFest and RumFest, we have several. The Rum Bar offerings from Worthy Park, Gold, Overproof and Rum Cream were all outstanding. Matugga Rum made a big impression on a lot of people including us. The Ed Hamilton Ministry of Rum Collection was a joy to try. The Ekte Rums and Nine Leaves also impressed us a lot. The new Foursquare releases have us VERY excited and the upcoming Habitation Velier releases are going to inspire some Rum Pokémon in us (Gotta Catch Em All). All in all, 2016 is lining up to be very exciting and very expensive!

We couldn’t sign off though without a story and a few pictures of the great friends that we met again and also met for the first time. We met a couple from the US, Timothy and Louann Mace who were very complimentary about this site and in fact used our updates on RumFest to plan their trip over here to the event which was great to hear as its good to know that we are pitching the right content…and that it is useful!

Barnali with Captain Jack

Barnali with Captain Jack

Steven with Darius and James from Trilogy Brands and Fred from Gold of Mauritius

Steven with Darius and James from Trilogy Brands and Fred from Gold of Mauritius

Ian and Helena....

Ian and Helena….

Steven judging his first cocktail competition in great company...

Steven judging his first cocktail competition in great company…

We finally got to meet Johnny...

We finally got to meet Johnny…

Steven with John and Kevin....

Steven with John and Kevin….

We couldn't leave this one out....Steven with the awesome Andy Abrahams...

We couldn’t leave this one out….Steven with the awesome Andy Abrahams…

Rum people truly are great people

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rumburra Orach

RB-logoYou can be forgiven for having never heard of this particular Rum brand as I most certainly had no idea of their existence until a chance Twitter based encounter made me very intrigued by the Rum. One thing led to another and I find myself in possession of a bottle of Rumburra Orach. Rumburra is a play on the Rums Edinburgh origins and Orach is the Gaelic way of saying Golden. I always like to find out the source of the Rums in a blend and I am keen to understand the origins and background of a brand.

Just over twelve months ago, Gregor Hutt, along with other family members, decided to start a project blending their own Rum. They sourced a contract distiller to blend the Rum and set about obtaining a selection of Caribbean Rum. The Rum itself is a blend of four overproof Rums that are aged in their country of origin prior to being blended, reduced to bottling strength and bottled in Scotland. Numerous attempts were made to adjust the quantities of each of the Rums in the blend to arrive at the current bottled product.

Rumburra Orach – 40% ABV

Rumburra Bottle 1

Rumburra Bottle 2The blend, composed entirely from Column Distilled Rums, comprises a 6-year-old Rum from Guyana’s Demerara Distillers Limited, a 3-year-old Rum from Jamaica’s Hampden Distillery, a 1-year-old Rum from Barbados’s Foursquare Distillery and a 1-year-old Rum from Trinidad’s Angostura Distillery. All rums are blended and left to marry for a short period prior to the 70% ABV Rum blend being reduced to its bottling strength of 40% ABV. Flavourless caramel colouring is added to the blend to stabilise the colour of the batches after the water has been added and it is bottled not too far from Edinburgh city centre. Gregor is quite keen to hammer home the point that aside from the Scottish Water and Caramel Colouring, nothing else is added to the blend. Good information to know.

The label is quite understated with only black and silver present. It should catch your eye on a shelf when placed next to a myriad of colourful labels so shouldn’t get lost. The rum is a nice dark golden colour in the bottle and it looks pretty inviting……so let me tell you how it tastes.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The rum displays itself as a light, vibrant gold and swirling the glass releases long thin legs. The first aroma to spring from the glass is that of a fruity honey. There is absolutely no astringency at all with the rum. Slight Demerara notes come through alongside overripe banana and malted milk biscuits. Light caramel carries the banana further forward alongside subtle sugarcane notes and fresh mango. There is a light aroma of pink shrimp foam sweets and marshmallow. This is a very pleasant Rum to sit with and the blend really does bring character to it and it hints at a complexity within. I can’t wait to taste it.

In the mouth: The rum is very balanced on entry. It washes over your mouth with a light bite of pepper. This immediately subsides and leaves your mouth awash with fruit but this rapidly dries out. Peaches, and light but certainly present Demerara drag along caramel. Further sips reveal honey, a touch of leather and cherries. It has a medium body and on the way down it leaves your mouth with a peppery bite and a hint of the savoury. The finish is of a medium length and full of oak and peach loop sweets. Tobacco rounds out the aromas as you sniff the glass.

The rum is really well-balanced and the flavours aren’t clamouring for your attention. It is not as complex to taste as it is to smell but that is in no way a bad thing. It is quite an understated product that creates no fuss in its presentation yet provides way more depth and character than numerous other Rums that have high marketing budgets and have ad campaigns and labels full of words such as Premium.

I have also been informed of a few cocktail recipes that have been worked on by the folks at Rumburra. They have no names but one is a definite winter warmer whilst the other sounds like a very refreshing summery concoction. They can be found at the bottom of this article.

This Rum retails for around £25 a bottle and at that price, for me, you get a very tasty Rum. It isn’t available in many outlets at all which is a real shame as this deserves to be way more well-known than it is.

Cocktails

Ingredients:

37.5ml Rumburra Orach

50ml Cloudy Apple Juice

20ml Cabernet Sauvignon

20ml Ginger & Lemongrass Cordial

2 dashes of Chocolate Bitters

Method:

Mix all ingredients into a heat proof jug and steam using a coffee machine steaming wand. Serve in a Martini glass with a large orange tweel.

Ingredients:

50ml Rumburra Orach

25ml Lime Juice

50ml Clear Apple Juice

Half a Granny Smith Apple

Small bunch of Coriander

A pinch of Black Pepper

Method:

Muddle all ingredients in a Boston glass. Shake well with ice and strain into a Collins glass. Top with Ginger Ale.

Both sound great!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.