Thursday, April 30, 2015

In 2015 St Maarten will Host the 5th Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival

     St Maarten has become the latest host country for the roving Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival which will take place on 6 – 7 November 2015. Now in its fifth year, the festival brings together some of the finest rum and beer products from the Caribbean and beyond, in a vibrant setting complete with Caribbean food, culture and entertainment.

     Festival Director Ms. Cheryl Collymore explained, “As a genuine Caribbean festival it is important for us to hold the event throughout the region. We have previously been in Barbados and Grenada and now we are in “Amazing” St Maarten. St Maarten is an ideal location for this growing event; it is beautiful, it attracts over 2 million high-end visitors from around the world to its shores each year, and its duty free shopping is some of the best in the Caribbean.” 

     “We are looking forward to working closely with the tourism agencies in St Maarten to market the destination and the festival to the widest possible international audience.” 

     Azure Management Services Inc., a Barbados based company, is responsible for the Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival. Operations Director Dr. Glyn Williams commented, “Our festival exhibitors recognise the benefits of taking part in a boutique event where they can introduce their products to a sophisticated international audience, to build brand recognition and support. The fact that this all takes place in a fabulous Caribbean setting all helps to create a memorable experience for the patrons. ”  
Sonesta Maho Resort and Casino
     This is one of the outstanding events that I get to be a part of.  They are always in the most fun places and provide a great event that is fun and informative.  Make your plans now and I'll see you at the Sonesta Maho Resort and Casino for a seriously fun event.

     The 5th Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival will take place in St Maarten on 6 – 7 November 2015 at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino. (

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yolo Rum: Another Fine Rum from Don Pancho Fernandez

Phillip Guerin
     Yolo Rum was one of the discoveries from the 2015 Miami Rum Festival that has come home with me.   They have a ten year old rum and a silver expression from which to choose.  The idea, the philosophy came first, says Phillip Guerin, .   The brand's name is the acronym for the popular credo  "you only live once."  Next, he and his wife went on a search for a fine rum and discovered Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez, a Cuban master rum blender (ronero), who lives in Panama and now distributes two of his formulas exclusively through Yolo   Yolo also added another Gold Medal to their collection in Miami.

    The silver is a very clean mixer that works well in any cocktail because it is not encumbered with added flavors of its own to upset the balance of your cocktail.   This is a rum that suits my taste with Barritt’s Ginger Beer, as an evening refresher, It allows the flavor of the rum and the mixer to combine in a cocktail that really tastes like it is suppose to.

     The ten year expression on the other hand is one that truly stands alone.  It is a honest and real sipper.  Don Pancho has come through again for the people of Yolo Rums.  His mastery of the aged rums really shines through in this wonderful little rum.   It has an aroma of dried fruits and bourbon that slides across your palate with an incredible smoothness.  It has a lasting finish of vanilla and caramel from the oak barrel.

     Both of these rums are of a fine quality and a welcome addition to my rum collection.  ;o)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Single Estate Rum from Georgia

     This is a term that is creeping into the spirits industry, but what is it really?   What it is all about is taking a spirit back to its roots.  Growing the grains, sugarcane or other materials on the estate, harvesting them, and then producing the spirit on the same plantation.  This is what single estate is traditionally about, but there are no "cut and dry" rules about it as of yet.

Erik and Karin Vonk
    At the Miami Rum Festival two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Erik and Karin Vonk or Richland, Georgia talking about their Vennebroeck Estate where they grow sugarcane, harvest it, and turn it into a fine Georgia Single Estate Rum.

Erik and Karin Vonk  bought a large tract of rolling land outside of Richland. They named their farm Vennebroeck, Dutch for “ponds and brooks.”   Beyond the spot’s natural beauty, the Vonks were intrigued by the area’s history of sugarcane farming, which scratched an old itch. “I just sort of had this ‘aha’ moment,” Erik says. “I’ve had a strange fascination with rum for a very long time.”
     They started in the late 1990s, they set out on his quest to grow, distill, and barrel-age sugarcane into something that would evoke the lost character of pre-Prohibition rum.    He is quick to point out that nearly all commercial rum today is made from molasses, the by-product of sugar refining—rather than the cane syrup used during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.   Working with the University of Georgia extension office, Erik Vonk identified the variety of cane that grows best in southwestern Georgia’s climate—Georgia Red—and secured permission to build a still for personal consumption. 
     When he decided to turn his hobby into a business, in 2007, Vonk knew he would need to jump through a few regulatory hoops, as Vennebroeck straddles two dry counties. As luck would have it, Richland had a long-standing law allowing alcohol within its limits, and the town council was eager to repopulate its long-shuttered downtown storefronts. Vonk selected a general store that had been boarded up for more than a quarter century. 
     “Sometimes people got angry,” Vonk says of that first year. “One guy told me I was an idiot not to have any rum to taste. I told him it just takes time.”
     They have found a number of obstacles that got in their way over the year, but they have persevered and are now producing a true Georgia single estate rum.  Richland Rum is a full bodied rum with some of the better characteristics of a fine agricole.  It has a pale amber color, with attractive aromas and flavors of coconut creme brulee, mocha, polished wood, and toffee.  The finish is a supple, dry,  nutty, spicy, coppery taste to the finish.  This is a dry, serious oak aged pot still rum for sipping or bold cocktails.  Erik puts it best when he says that his rum only has three ingredients, Sugarcane Juice, Yeast and pure Georgia aquifer water, that is all you need.
     Today it is only distributed in Georgia, but there are plans for Florida distribution very soon.  ;o) 


Monday, April 27, 2015

Copacabana 1940 Coming Soon

Don Pancho Fernandez
Chef Alex Garcia
     The spirit of the  Copa is back, and will be in full swing with the introduction of a new rum named for the famous beach in Brazil and the night club in New York City.   This is a collaboration that include some very knowledgeable people in the rum and restaurant industries.    Don Pancho Fernandez, Chef Alex Garcia and Spencer Rothschild have teamed up to create this new rum expression.  

Spencer Rothschild
     The rum is a golden rum created by Don Pancho Fernandez, which he describes as a 7 year old  blend that is a full bodied sophisticated rum. Copacabana 1940 is aged in white oak and has notes of orange citrus and butterscotch.

     "After many years traveling the world to source the finest rum, I am thrilled to introduce New York to Copacabana 1940 Añejo rum" says Rothschild. "I am so proud of the experts that have come assembled to create an añejo rum worthy of bearing the name of the most famous nightclub and beach in the world."

Chef Alex Garcia and Spencer Rothschild, of  Barrio Spirits are introducing Copacabana 1940, to the restaurant and spirits people at an official launch event on July 8 at the iconic Copacabana Nightclub.
     Today this rum is only available in New York, but when it becomes available in Florida, you can bet it will become the newest member of the collection at the Rum Bar in Key West. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Leapin' Tarpon

   What a week last wee was, two leisurely trips on US 1 from Key West to Miami and back.  The fun of hitting so many watering holes and enjoying the beautiful scenery that the keys present you.  The birds and the fish also add to the adventure.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fashion World and the Drinks World Unite

     Because the spirits industry produces "lifestyle" products it seems to be following along with the trends and what is fashionable with the other "lifestyle" happenings.  What was old and out of date seems to be reworked a little and becomes "Vogue" again.  Many of the classic cocktails have bees tweaked a bit and are being served in big numbers again.  The spirits are just like the cars, the retro revolution is happening now.

     Bacardi recently appointed Akiko Maeda into the newly created role of vice president of fashion.   According to insight from Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor International, the alcohol industry falls within the lifestyle category and as such follows similar trend patterns as would be found in other industries.   “While trend cycles tend to last longer than six months it is becoming an indisputable fact that drinking patterns evolve much faster and more frequently than they used to,” said Malandrakis.

      “Alcohol is first and foremost, a lifestyle industry. In other words, the drivers of change are aspirational and start with symbolism and the semiotics of style.”   He continued to explain how many consumer choices are formed off the back of celebrity collaborations with specific brands, from Iggy Pop and Sailor Jerry to David Beckham and Haig Club.   Furthermore, he added it was Bacardi’s most recent statement of creating the role of vice president for fashion that “formalized the affair”.

     “From the ‘Mad Men’ effect making Old Fashioned cocktails suitably fashionable once again to immaculate fashionistas sipping Aperol Spritz shortly before it became the ubiquitous, pop culture and the zeitgeist provide the cues for both industries’ future directions, positioning and core message,” he explained.


     I love seeing the fashion world going back to short shorts and skirts and I love to take some of the oldies and revamp them with rum and share them with my friends.   I think that Bacardi was right on with its moves to become a part of the world of fashion.

Friday, April 24, 2015

From the Classics to Today

     One of the most fun things for me is reviving some of the classic cocktails made with various other spirits using an appropriate rum.   The Bloodhound is an old gin cocktail from an era long past that I felt like had a real possibility as a great summer cocktail.  It is made with fresh strawberries and vermouths this makes a wonderful fruity daiquiri style cocktail ideal by the pool or in the evening on the patio.

Brugal Bloodhound
  • 1 1/2 oz. Brugal Especial Extra Dry Rum
  • 3/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 3/4 oz. Extra Dry Vermouth
  • 3 or 4 Fresh Strawberries
Cut up the strawberries and place them in a shaker with ice along with the rest of the ingredients. Shake until really chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a fresh strawberry.

     Tis really turned out to be one of those really flavorful cocktails fitting for the aft deck in the early evening.  I just hope that you enjoy it equally as well.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What is a Cocktail Name Really Worth?

     The battle over what ingredients have to be used in a "trademarked cocktail" is heating up again.  A few years back Pusser's Rum flexed its muscles about the use of rums other than Pusser's in the "Painkiller", now Gosling Brothers Ltd. is making noise over their "Dark 'N Stormy"

     "A margarita doesn't have to made with Patron tequila, and a bloody mary doesn't need to made with Stolichnaya vodka, but, according to Gosling Brothers Ltd., a "Dark 'N Stormy" can only be made with Gosling's Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum. "  

    " That's because the name of the cocktail - dark rum, ginger beer, ice and lime, apparently invented after World War I - is a registered trademark of Gosling Brothers, one that the Bermuda-based distiller told The New York Times a few years back it "defends vigorously." 

     "So the company didn't take it lightly when a black rum rival - Proximo Spirits' upstart Kraken Black Spiced Rum, which is made in Trinidad and Tobago - applied for a trademark registration on "Kraken Storm" for use on its own line of ginger beer."   "Gosling and others have long promoted the mark 'Dark 'N Stormy' as designating a cocktail made exclusively with Gosling's Black Seal Rum and mixed with ginger beer," the company said, noting that its rights go back "decades."

Whether it be a Bacardi Cocktail, Hand Grenade, Sazerac, or a Painkiller, the laws of this country allow the trademarking of cocktails and their ingredients.  In the opinion of this writer, you really have to choose your battles.  Is it worth drawing the ire of a lot of bartenders and writer just to make a point.   This is an issue that keeps coming up again and again, but who really wins and who loses?  I think that this is one of those lose, lose situations.  There are times that the property needs to be protected and there are times that you need to "let a sleeping dog lay".  You can sometimes win the battle and loose the war of sales.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Afrohead Rum From Harbour Island in the Bahamas

The Landing, Harbour Island
     Afrohead Rum is a very unique rum, that is produced from Dominican molasses, fermented with special Trinidad yeast, and distilled and aged in Trinidad.  Toby Tyler will then blend the rum into his own special expression and it is then bottled in Barbados.   The rum was initially made for the consumption by the customers of Joe Farrell's The Landing on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, but because of the demand it is available here in Florida, Tennessee and available at the Rum Bar here in Key West.
     Toby Tyler moved to the Bahamas and immersed himself in the island’s rich West Indies culture.  He has established himself as the island’s resident rum expert.   When he was asked, “Which rum is your favorite?” and he replied, “It hasn’t been made yet.”   In 2008, after 18 months of blending, Toby tasted his favorite rum.   Nothing defines Toby Tyler, he is this free spirit turned rum blender who  effortlessly moves from behind the bar to the recording studio to catching waves.
     The very special logo pays homage to the West Indies culture and traditions.  There are many components to the afro stylized head.  If you look carefully at the hair, you sill see images of a crown, junkanoo, a mind's eye, rising sun, and a seashell that makes up the shape of the head,
     The rums are of a rich amber mahogany color, boasting aromas of spices with notes of bourbon.   On the palate, there is a very natural sweetness from the barrel with notes of tropical and dried fruits, in addition to  a light spiciness that leads to the long and tastefully smooth finish.
     All in all a very special rum with a very special story behind it.  Joe and Toby make up a very special team that has done wonders to bring this fine rum into the mainstream of the spirits business.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

20 Years of Barrel Aging in Just Six Days?

Bryan Davis
     Aging without spending the time and money of storing the spirits would be a real boom forA breakthrough came in 2010, when Davis says he finally figured out how to force 'oak catalyzed esterification,' a key part of the maturation process."   

the spirits industry.  Just think, if my rum could attain the smoothness and flavor of a 20 year old rum in just six days.   What he has done is to identify the components and chemistry of aging and applying the science of it to young spirits.   "
    The booze industry has been looking for shortcuts to the aging process virtually since its inception, ranging from dumping extra oak chips into barrels of whiskey to artificially heating and cooling them to rapidly simulate the passing of seasons. While some of these tools have had modest levels of success, many have been complete failures. In fact, even Jesus weighed in on the dangers of trying to hasten the processes of nature when he said, "No one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined." (Luke 5:37) 

     If Bryan Davis has his way, that's all about to be totally upended, sacrilege or not.   Davis has come up with a method of producing spirits that taste like they've been aging in the barrel for 20 years, but his process only takes six days. Davis doesn't accelerate the aging process like so many of the methods that have been tried in the past. Rather, he shortcuts it by taking new distillate and running it through his proprietary chemical reactor. Davis's device forces the creation of the same key chemical compounds that give a well-aged spirit its unique character. Give him a week, and Davis says he can create a booze that tastes decades old.
     I have some reservations about this, but if it is true, the world of spirits might be changed forever.   Yes the mystique of aging in wood would be lost along with the "angel's share", that is so costly to the industry.  Also lost will be the enormous expense of storing a product for 20 years before it can be sold.   I don't see this transformation happening really soon, but if what Bryan Davis has discovered is truly correct, things will really be different in the future.   ;o)

Monday, April 20, 2015



     KINGSTON, JAMAICA (April 14, 2015)Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum today unveiled its re-envisioned line-up of its premium rum range.  While making no changes to the award-winning liquid, Appleton Estate announced a new naming classification and packaging design for their core range that conveys the quality, care and passion that goes into producing these premium rums and emphasises the crafted blends that fill each bottle. 

     Notes Richard Black, Global Integration Director for Rums at Gruppo Campari:  “Appleton Estate has been producing premium, quality Jamaican Rum for more than 265 years.  While the liquid in the bottle remains exactly the same, we decided to bring a consistent and coherent naming structure to help consumers appreciate the differences among our three core variants as well as the hierarchy between the new variants. 

    “We feel that the new naming classification is unique to the rum category and to Appleton Estate and, more importantly, celebrates the art of blending which is so integral to the rum industry and is what makes our Appleton Estate rums so rich, complex and flavorful.”  

     Under the new naming structure Appleton Estate Signature Blend is the new name for Appleton Estate V/X, Appleton Estate Reserve Blend is the new name for Appleton Estate Reserve and Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12 Year Old is the new name for Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Old.  
      Appleton Estate’s Master Blender Joy Spence, the first female to be appointed Master Blender in the industry notes: “We wanted the new packaging to capture the craftsmanship and exceptional quality of our range and celebrate the uniqueness of the Appleton Estate including our heritage, our land, our process and our people.  

     “Although the names and packaging for our three core variants have changed, the award winning liquid inside the bottle remains the same.  In addition, we have not changed the names, packaging or liquid for our luxury brands, Appleton Estate 21 Year Old Jamaica Rum or Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum.” 

The New Packaging:  

·         Bottle:            Appleton Estate’s iconic bottle, which has been a hallmark of the brand since it was first launched, has been retained to provide consumers with a familiar visual cue. 

·         Closure: The cap now includes the signature of Master Blender Joy Spence to reinforce Appleton Estate’s crafted approach to producing rum and ‘Estate Distilled’ & ‘Jamaica Rum’, are repeated at the base of the closure to highlight the brand’s Estate and Jamaican provenance

·         Cartouche: The name of the variants have been moved from the cartouche to the main label and Appleton Estate’s rich heritage as a rum producing establishment since 1749 is now highlighted on the cartouche.

·         Label: The new label now features the lush landscape of the Appleton Estate and Jamaica’s world famous Cockpit Country where the Estate is located.   

     The Appleton Estate logo has been updated and the words “Crafted in the heart of Jamaica” have been placed under the logo to speak to the care and passion that goes into making Appleton Estate rum as well as the geographical location of the Appleton Estate in the heart of Jamaica.   

     The historic medals, which date back to the 1800’s, are featured on the bottom left of the label and the Appleton Estate heart icon appears as a watermark on the bottom right of the label.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Saturday Grand Tasting

   Saturday is filled with the public and a collection of some of the finest rums in the world.   An arena filled with so many award winning rums that it is unbelievable.   You can spend the day wandering the rows of booths and enjoying a sip of so many rums that it isn't even funny.  In many cases a single booth will have four, six or even more expressions for you to sample.

Tito Cordero
     The arena gives you an opportunity to talk with the people that produce the rums and learn just a ton of information about how it is produced and what gives it the flavors that you are tasting.  This is a very unique opportunity to talk with such famous rum masters as Don Pancho Fernandez, Richard Seale, Tito Cordero, and Frederico Shultz.   All of these people are very interesting to talk to and are the producers of some of the finest rums in the world.

     If you missed this year, don't fret, it will be back again next year and I am sure that you won't miss the opportunity again if you have any desire for fine expressions of rum.  I have had a wonderful week here in Miami  for the festival and will be headed back home to Key West in the afternoon.  I hope that I have peaked your interest enough to be able to meet you here next year.  ;)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 RumXP Best in Class and Gold Medal Winners

2015 Judging Room
     The 2015 RumXP International Panel of Judges include Dirk Becker of Germany, Javier Herrera of Spain, Leonardo Pinto of Italy, Bernhard Schäfer of Germany, Forrest Cokely of California, Tatu Kaarlas of Australia, "Bahama Bob" Leonard of Key West, Paul Senft of Georgia, Juan del Busto of Miami, John Gibbons of Sweden, Rene van Hoven of Holland and Ingvar Thomsen of Denmark all spent six session totaling many hours in the judging rooms to give you these very fair and unbiased results for the RumXP Competition.
Here are the final results for each of the Catagories
White Rum
Best in Class Gold: Skotlander White
Gold Awards went to: Blue Chair Bay White, Carta Vieja Silver, Brugal White Extra Dry

Premium White Rum
Best in Class Gold: Fwaygo White
Gold Awards went to: Plantation 3 Star, Nine Leaves Clear, Skotlander Rum III

Gold Rum
Best in Class Gold: Bacardi Gold
Gold Awards went to: Brugal Anejo, Ron Carta Vieja Gold, Don Barrilito 2 star

Aged Rum
Best in Class Gold: Plantation Original Dark
Gold Awards went to: Ron del Barrilito 3 star, Pusser's British Navy, Bundaberg Small Batch 4

Premium Aged Rum
Best in Class Gold: Cartavio XO
Gold Awards went to: Plantation 20th Anniversary, Mezan XO, Brugal 1888

Aged Rum 5-8 Years
Best in Class Gold: Cartavio 5
Gold Awards went to: Plantation Barbados 5, Bacardi 8, Real McCoy 5

Aged Rum 12-15 years
Best in Class Gold: Pusser's 15
Gold Awards went to: Yolo 10, Don Q Gran Anejo, Real McCoy 12

Aged Rum 18-25 years
Best in Class Gold: Opthimus 25
Gold Awards went to: Opthimus 21, Opthimus 18, Carta Vieja 18

Aged Rum - Special Cask
Best in Class Gold: Plantation Jamaica 2001
Gold Awards went to: Plantation Guyana 2005, Opthimus Malt Tomatin Whiskey Barrels 25 yr, Opthimus Oporto Barrels 25

Spiced Rum
Best in Class Gold: Siesta Key Spiced Limited Edition
Gold Awards went to: Siesta Key Distillers Reserve, Siesta Key Spiced, Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced, Bayou Spiced, Blue Water Caribbean Gold Premium Spiced

Flavored Rum
Best in Class Gold: Plantation Pineapple
Gold Awards went to: Bayou Satsuma, Blue Chair Bay Banana, Caray Cafe

Overproof Rum
Best in Class Gold: Plantation Overproof Original Dark
Gold Awards went to: Don Q 151, Lost Spirits Colonial American Inspired Rum, Wicked Dolphin Strawberry RumShine 100 Proof, Stroh 80

Rhum Agricole Blanc
Best in Class Gold: Trois Rivieres Rhum Blanc Agricole 55%
Gold Awards went to: -- Trois Rivieres Cuvee Speciale 40%, Trois Rivieres Rhum Blanc Agricole 40%, Trois Rivieres Rhum Blanc Agricole 50%

Rhum Agricole View
Best in Class Gold: Trois Rivieres Rhum Vieux VSOP
Gold Awards went to: Trois Rivieres Rhum Ambre 40%, La Mauny Rhum Vieux X.O. 40%, Trois Rivieres Rhum Vieux Martinique 12yr

Consumer Rum Jury

For 2015, a new edition of the competition was introduced: The Consumer Rum Jury was comprised of 20 enthusiastic rum collectors and experienced consumers, offering the perspective of the active and engaged rum buyer in their evaluations.

Best in Class Gold
Ron Cartavio XO

Gold Awards went to: Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Opthimus Ron Artesanal Solera 25 Anos, Siesta Key Distillers Reserve Solera Spiced Rum

You can learn more about the RumXP's online at