Manchester Rum Festival debuted in 2017 thanks to David Marsland’s (Drink Enthusiast) initiative and it’s Manchester’s first and only dedicated rum festival. David is also the UK Brand Ambassador for all things Saint Lucia (Chairman’s, Bounty, Admiral Rodney) and during the Covid lockdown he started a video series called Rum On The Couch which delved into various rum brands.
This year on the 18th of June it was the 5th installment of the Manchester Rum Festival.
After waiting on a delayed couch and a travel that took a few dragging hours I finally arrived at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel where the festival was hosted. Having already being 3 hours late I said hello to a few familiar faces and I jumped right into the Doorly’s stand where I exchanged a few words and rum with Peter Holland. After a generous tipple of Doorly’s 14 Year Old, a personal favourite, I went to see Dean MacGregor after I’ve heard about the new Hampden Overproof being available to sample – a beautiful 4 year old HLCF marque.
Now you can’t show up at Dean’s stand without trying some cane juice rum from his portofolio, including some of the new Renegade rums and Clairins – both highlighting the potential of the sugar cane terror in a technology versus traditional showdown (joking, it’s just interesting to compare the two). We also had a little chat about the new upcoming Black Tot blend for the 52th Black Tot anniversary and I’m really excited for it.
Speaking of Clairin, I had to visit the Skylark stand where I was greeted by Chetan Ladwa with some Saint Benevolence, a sugar cane juice rum from Haiti that gives back to the Haitian community. Was great to re-visit some Montanya Valentia as well, another benefactor brand worth looking at – also delicious! Had a quick chat with Peter Thornton and his Cuban Ron La Progresiva which is one of my favourite Cuban rums. Finally, after a few years I got to talk again to Andrew Nicholls, owner of the William George Rum, a beautiful blend of Jamaican and Trinidad distillates and one of the best Daiquiri rums out there!
Another (very) familiar face was Ashera Goon who was at the Spiribam stand and welcomed me with a taster of the beautiful Chairman’s Reserve 1931 – not many words were needed, this was one of the highlights of the show, such a complex blend – it reminded me I need to grab a bottle for myself.
Steamertail was one of the brands I wasn’t actually familiar with, another blend of Jamaican and Trinidad white rums, and a pretty good one at that. Apparently there are talks about a 50% ABV (as this one was bottled at the standard 40% ABV) and potentially even an aged blend. One to look out for!
Tried some Ron Cubay from Cuba which was quite underwhelming, but on the same stand there was The Lovers Rum and La Forza Rum which kinda saved the day, especially the La Forza which contained Guyanese rum and we all know I am a sucker for Guyana.
I have to say, I tried my luck at the Pusser’s stand where I had to inquire if they had any of the new Pusser’s Deptford Dockyard hidden anywhere but unfortunately my question was met with a dissapointing “I wish!” – they did have the Pusser’s 75.5% ABV which intrigued quite a few of the festival guests.
Manchester Rum Fest also gave me the opportunity to meet Matt and Lauren Thompson in person – they are the owners of the Lazydog rum which is made in Leichestershire, England. I have reviewed their Silver rum last year and it was really enjoyable. We spoke about all things rum and I found out they are working on releasing a 1 year old expression soon and I can’t wait to get into it.
Towards the end of the festival I went for a dive into all the four Ron Santiago De Cuba expressions. Tommy Cole and Claire Houghton-Wigley were more than accommodating, walking me through the rums and answering my questions.
There was also an amalgam of spiced/flavoured rums which I mostly avoided with a few exceptions. It was a great rum festival, although it was catered more for the broader rum audience than your average rum geek. There weren’t a lot of things I haven’t seen or tried before and I was hoping for some more “exclusive” tasters, but otherwise the crowd was really enjoyable and it was good to see some familiar faces, some of them live for the first time.
The highlights would be Doorly’s 14 YO, Hampden Overproof HLCF, Renegade Rum, Clairin Sonson & Sajous, Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve, Chairman’s Reserve 1931, Saint Benevolence, Pusser’s 151, La Forza Rum, and Santiago De Cuba 12 YO.
Well done Dave, I’m looking forward to next year!
Now let’s talk about the Infinity Barrel.
But first, photo dump:
Manchester Rum Festival Infinity Barrel
I tried this at the festival and I thought it was worth buying a bottle. I don’t know much about its specs – I tried to squeeze some details from Dave, but he stood his ground. He just described it very similar to an infinity bottle, but on a larger scale. This was a one off blend bottled exclusively for the Manchester Rum Festival with a total of 109 bottles.
The label tells us the countries of origin for the components in the blend: Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Venezuela and Trinidad. So this would be molasses based, pot & column distilled and aged for an unspecified amount of time – that’s all the information available. Bottled at a recognisable 63% ABV.
On the nose it has quite a dark profile. Ground coffee, caramel, black tea, raisins and prunes. Cinnamon, black pepper and old leather. Overripe banana, blueberries and burnt oak. Some tobacco and a touch of liquorice. There’s little Jamaican funk in there with a glue aroma.
On the palate it does feel slightly sweetened. Sweet black coffee, liquorice, dark chocolate and canned plums. Juicy peach, canned pineapples, roasted nuts, cinnamon and cloves. Toffee, Luxardo cherries, black pepper, charred wood and some bananas. A bit hot from the ABV, but the sweet profile tames it. The finish is medium to long with ground coffee, brown sugar and tobacco.
Not a bad blend, some Jamaican funk comes through, while the rums from Venezuela and Trinidad add some woodiness. I will have to say though, I’m a little torn – I love the high ABV, but I am disappointed in the sweeter profile. It isn’t sickly sweet as other rums out there, but it does take away some complexity. It’s a very approachable profile bottled at a not very approachable ABV so I’m not sure what it wanted to be in the end besides a really good shooting rum.
That being said I’m not hating it and I’m pretty sure I’ll finish this bottle pretty quick. It was priced at £25 for a 50cl bottle, or £40 for two which isn’t bad either.
Manchester Rum Festival Infinity Barrel score:
Value for money: 14/15