Review: UK RumFest 2021

For those who don’t know, the RumFest was founded in 2007 by Ian Burrell, the Global Rum Ambassador, and it features an impressive collection of rums to taste, masterclasses, seminars, Caribbean music & food and so on.

This year the event was like an oasis for plenty of industry staff and rum enthusiasts in this desert of pandemic and isolation. I personally joined RumFest firstly to socialise with new people and reconnect with old friends, with the rum sampling being the close second reason. The format for this year was as it follows:

  • Friday 15-10-2021 from 13:00 to 18:00: Trade & Conference Day @Ilec Conference Centre, London;
  • Saturday 16-10-2021 from 12:00 to 16:00 & 17:00 to 21:00: RumFest LIVE @Ilec Conference Centre, London;
  • Sunday 17-10-2021 from 14:00 to 20:00: The Spiced Rum Show @NightTales Venue, London.

This schedule is different from the previous years as they tried to offer more options in order to have less people simultaneously in the same place during a pandemic and I think it worked nicely. I was present both for the trade session and the afternoon session on Saturday (and a little bit over), but I had to miss The Spiced Rum Show because… well, priorities!

Trade & Conference Day was a good mix of rums, both flavoured and pure, and I had the chance to have a nice catch-up with some good industry people. After I visited Gergo Murath at the Worthy Park stand and had a sample of the new Worthy Park 109 as an aperitif I headed straight for the St. Nicholas Abbey one where their overproof white and 5 year old were absolutely delicious. Another highlight of the Trade Day was the collection brought by the Bristol Classic Rum, with the favourites being the Port Mourant, Enmore and Caroni 1997 – nothing cheap about these bottles!

I also got to try the Ron Santiago De Cuba range including their new 8 year old and I have to say, it was a pleasant experience. Not so out there as the Bristol Caroni, but a good Cuban rum nonetheless and well priced as well – will get a bottle soon for a proper review. The new Duppy Share XO was present there as well, a blend of 3, 5, 8 and 12 year old rums from Barbados with, seemingly, some caramel added as it was very dark. The flavour profile was a bit dull compared with the rest of their range, I much prefer the Duppy Share White!

I was glad to be able to sample the revamped El Dorado range and it was a great improvement from the old, heavily sugared ones. Mario Sandgren had some beautiful Saint James with him and the 1999 Single Cask was absolutely stunning. Other special mentions are Equiano, Mainbrace Rum (loved their Navy Strength), Cape Cornwall Rum and Siddiqui from Penderyn – potential review to come soon!

A brand I will keep an eye on will be Retribution Distilling who just started distilling rum in Somerset, UK – I gave their white rum a try and it didn’t disappoint! Forgot to take a picture unfortunately as I was rushing to return to the bar for work.

Now for the main event, RumFest LIVE, after exchanging a couple of quick samples in the lobby, I headed straight for Peter Holland to get my fix of the new-to-be-released Indelible, cousin of the long lost Zindandel. As you’d expect, it was stunning, fruity, balanced and easy to drink. I am pretty sure the Foursquare stand was the busiest in the building, I couldn’t even return to say “hello” properly without having a massive queue waiting for me.

Next it was a Luca Gargano session which I joined with my fellow rum enthusiast, Rum Interest. For this one I actually took notes, so here are some mini-mini-reviews of what I tasted:

Providence 1 Year Old – made in Haiti using crystalline sugar syrup (if I heard that correctly, not sure what it is), distilled up to 78% ABV using a pot still, aged for 1 year in a ex-Providence cask and bottled at 58% ABV. Notes of toffee, plums, biscuits, maple syrup, nuts and brown sugar. Very moreish!

Beenleigh 2015 – made in Australia using molasses, distilled in a single column followed by a pot still distillation, aged for 5 years in 1st fill ex-Bourbon cask in a dry/desert area of Australia and bottled at 59% ABV. Notes of peppermints, umami, raspberries, stone fruits, sandalwood, pencil shavings and wood spices. Very aromatic and probably my favourite out of the whole RumFest!

Papalin Jamaica (Red Label) 7 Years Old – made in Jamaica at Hampden and Worthy Park distilleries using molasses, pot still distilled, aged for 7 years in ex-Bourbon casks in Jamaica, blended and bottled at 57.18% ABV. Classic Jamaican notes of rotten pineapple, ripe bananas, nail varnish, English Breakfast tea, walnuts, mint and a touch of brine. The Papalin range is supposed to be very cheap and available for everyone, but we’ll see about that – delicious nonetheless! As a side note, apparently there’s more WP in the blend than Hampden because of the intensity difference.

Clairin Sajous Real Sherry Cask – made in Haiti using cane juice or syrup (not sure), pot still distilled, aged 1 year in an unspecified cask (probably ex-Bourbon) & 3 more years in a, as described by Luca, real former Oloroso Sherry cask – a cask that held sherry for 3 years, not just seasoned. Bottled at 56.7% ABV, it featured notes of After-Eights, plums, raisins, cappuccino and bananas.

Saint James 15 Years Old Magnum Series – made in Martinique using cane juice, column distilled, aged for 15 years and bottled at 45% ABV in a 150cl bottle. Notes of lime peel, peach, red apples, dusty cardboard and printer ink. Quite medicinal and herbal as well, I would love to have a litre and a half of this!

Amongst the jokes and a little introduction of the Beenleigh bottlings by Steve Magarry himself, there was a mention of a possible Hampden bottling that would also be finished in a real Oloroso Sherry cask – the marques HLCF and LROK were mentioned, now all we can do is wait.

After leaving the session I headed for the Mount Gay stand where I had the 1703 Master Select from 2020 and of course, the new Andean Cask – it was very similar to the Port Cask and I’m not complaining as I liked that one. The RumFest seemed a little bit like a MMORPG where you had to ask the other players about the secret quests and passwords you needed to complete in order to get a prize from under the counter from various MPCs – rum stands.

And so I managed to try the Appleton 250th, Chairman’s Reserve 2009, Paranubes Anejo – Oaxacan rum finished in a former tequila cask (definitely a highlight), Hampden Great House 2021, Barbosa Grogue, Appleton 15 Year Old, high-ester Barbadian rum from Plantation made with dunder, and that wasn’t even all, apparently I missed some.

Curiosities would be the Celsius brand which looks to build a distillery in Cornwall, UK that uses entirely geothermal energy. The distillery isn’t finished, but they brought with them samples of rum that, according to them, have the same flavour profile as the one they have in mind to produce – a very interesting concept, although all the rums tasted Jamaican so I really hope they’ll have their own identity/profile.

Another curious one was Seven Fathoms made in the Cayman Islands using cane juice, pot still distilled and aged in American oak barrels… Underwater!! More exactly 42 feet underwater! I tasted the rum and it didn’t seem too complex, but my palate might’ve been a bit tired, will have to revisit.

I’m also going to mention Copeland Bordeaux Grand Crux which is a blend of rums made in Ireland and Barbados aged in ex-Bourbon and finished in Bordeaux Grand Crux red wine casks and I quite enjoyed it.

It was great to see so many rum people, I finally met Karen Hoskin from Montanya Distillers, I saw Mitch Wilson from Black Tot who was kind enough to share a tot of Last Consigment with me, had Daiquiris at the Velier stand with Dawn Davies, Daniele Biondi and Dean MacGregor, received my Guardians Of Rum coin from Gayle Seale, had some Neptune and cola from Ashera Goon and caught up with the guys from Rum Social UK. I probably forgot some, and if so, I apologise, there was a lot of rum consumed!

It was a great event, the passion for rum brought everyone together and it was great to share a dram, laugh or even a business card with everyone! Thank you UK RumFest and Ian Burrell for this opportunity!

Thank you for reading so far and I apologise for the quality of the photos!


9 thoughts on “Review: UK RumFest 2021

  1. We obviously didn’t know any of the secret passwords as we were only shown the Mount Gay Andean Oak but weren’t able to try it. Feels like we only had half the event you did. Jealous.
    We still had a fabulous evening though.

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