Rum’s best and brightest stars take center stage at annual Miami festival

South Florida is about to become the epicenter of the rum world, at least for a week, with experts from around the globe descending for the fifth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival next Monday through Sunday (April 15-21).

2013 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Monday, April 15, through Sunday, April 21, at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. For tickets and schedule, go to RumRenaissance.com.
Previous story: Rum festival’s ascension mirrors explosive growth of cane spirit

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Large portions of the event are geared toward industry representatives (rum tastings, VIP parties, etc.) but there are two very big reasons for ordinary enthusiasts of the cane spirit to be excited:

* First and foremost, there are the Grand Tasting events held from 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21, at the Doubletree Miami Airport Hotel Convention Center. For your $50 admission (plus $5 parking charge) per day, you’ll have the opportunity to taste samples from among more than 200 fine rums, including high-end sipping rums and craft cocktails. In addition, there will be island-style food and vendors selling tropical clothing and decor. Keep an eye out for free giveaways from the rum companies. For the price of three or four trendy cocktails elsewhere in Miami, you’ll enjoy a five-hour total immersion in rum culture and learn a whole lot about what makes the spirit great.

* Which brings us to the second reason to be excited: For 2013, organizers Robert A. Burr, Robin Burr and Robert V. Burr have assembled a who’s who of rum experts and – much to our delight – some of the most entertaining and informative authorities on tropical mixology and Tiki culture. UK Rumfest organizer Ian Burrell is a perennial highlight [see our coverage of last year’s event], and this year he’ll be joined by two of the biggest names in the Tiki cocktail world: Prolific author and future bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and Martin Cate, owner of one of the most acclaimed rum bars in the world, Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco.

Ian Burrell (left), Stephen Remsberg, Martin Cate and Jeff "Beachbum" Berry whip up a massive punch during The Hukilau in June 2011 at The Mai Kai

Ian Burrell (left), Stephen Remsberg, Martin Cate and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry whip up a massive punch during The Hukilau in June 2011 at The Mai Kai. The foursome return to South Florida for the 2013 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. (Photo by Go11Media.com)

Also joining Burrell, Berry and Cate on the list of seminar speakers is Stephen Remsberg, reputedly the owner of the largest private rum collection in the world (1,000+ bottles). Perhaps unwittingly, the Burrs have reunited four-fifths of the fabled Rum Rat Pack, the quintet of experts that wowed The Hukilau with their “Rumposium” in 2011 and created a monstrous punch at The Mai-Kai featuring 240 ounces of fine rums. While the foursome may not be duplicating their Rumposium exploits as a group, they will be participating in four different seminars. Three are free with your Grand Tasting admission while the fourth is just $10. Considering that tickets to stand-alone seminars featuring these folks sometimes fetch $30 or more, that’s a great deal (particularly on Saturday).

Saturday’s seminars include:

* At 2:30 p.m., Burrell’s “Tale of Two Rum Islands,” at which the self-described global rum ambassador takes us away from the Caribbean for exclusive tastings of some rare English harbour rums.

Ian Burrell demonstrates the finer points of making a Pina Colada at last year's Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Ian Burrell demonstrates the finer points of making a Pina Colada at last year’s Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* At 3:30, Paul McFadyen, co-owner of the Trailer Happiness Tiki bar in London, will explore the colorful history of British Navy rum. Included will be tastings of cocktails featuring naval-style rums, such as the Painkiller, Zombie and Grog.

* At 4:30, Cate will present “The History of the Tiki Bar and the Rise and Fall of the Exotic Cocktail,” delving into the legends and lore of the heyday of Polynesian-inspired bars and restaurants from the 1930s to the 1970s.

* At 5, Phil Greene, author of a new book on the exploits and cocktails of Ernest Hemingway and one of the founders of the Museum of the American Cocktail, shares his knowledge in “To Have and Have Another – A Hemingway Rum Cocktail Companion.” Greene, whose day job is legal counsel to the U.S. Marine Corps, is also a brand ambassador and consultant on a new line of Papa’s Pilar rums for the Hemingway Rum Co.

* The day reaches its peak at 6 p.m., when Berry hosts “Battle of the Ambassadors,” a spirited debate with Burrell on who should hold the true crown of “rum ambassador.” They’ll compare Burrell’s modern-day travels throughout the world on his quest to spread the rum gospel with the swash-buckling days of Don the Beachcomber, aka Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt. Berry will argue for the inventor of the Tiki bar while Burrell will make the case for himself. The audience will decide who deserves the prestigious title. While awaiting publication of his sixth book on Tiki cocktails, Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them, Berry has relocated to New Orleans and is hatching plans for a new tropical-themed bar. Both will certainly be worth the wait.

Last year's winning mixologists from the Bacardi UK Tiki Team

Last year’s winning mixologists from the Bacardi UK Tiki Team. (Photo from RumRenaissance.com)

The rum education continues on Sunday with Remsberg’s history lesson on London Dock Rum, plus insightful seminars by Plantation rum master blender Alexandre Gabriel and Bacardi brand master David Cid. Sunday is also typically the finals of cocktail competitions featuring some of the world’s top mixologists.

As the popularity of rum explodes, so does the success of the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, with attendance expected to double from last year’s 8,000. The Burr family has anticipated the surge, expanding to 40,000 square feet of event space and easier access at the Miami Airport Convention Center, aka the MACC.

With such success, the organizers could easily have rested on their laurels and ridden the industry’s commercial coattails, but instead they’ve reached out to the best independent minds in the business as expert judges and to also present a wide array of seminars. They’re obviously connoisseurs and consumers first and foremost, and the festival can only get better with that admirable ethos.

Official sites
* Miami Rum Renaissance Festival | Facebook page
* Robert Burr’s Rum Guide | National Rum Examiner | Rum Expert Panel

More coverage on the Web
* Interview with rum expert Robert Burr

Past Atomic Grog coverage
* 2012: Miami festival offers many lessons in rum appreciation
* 2011: We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai
* More on: Rum | Rum cocktails | Beachbum Berry

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Rums to be sampled at the 2013 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival include: Abuelo 7, Abuelo 12, Abuelo Anjeo, Abuelo Centuria, Appleton Estate 12 year old, Appleton Estate Reserve, Atlantico Platino, Atlantico Private Cask, Atlantico Reserva, Bacardi 8 Años, Bacardi Gold, Bacardi Oakheart, Bacardi Pineapple Fusion, Bacardi Superior, Barbancourt 3 Star, Barbancourt 5 Star, Barbancourt 15 year Estate Reserve, Barbancourt Pango, Barbancourt White, Barcelo Gran Añejo, Barcelo Imperial, Barcelo Imperial Premium Blend 30 Aniversario, Barrilito 3 Star, Barritt’s Ginger Beer, Blackbeard Spiced, Blackheart, Black Roberts Spiced, Botran Reserva, Botran Reserva Blanca, Botran Solera, Brugal 1888, Brugal Blanco Especial, Cachaça Poesia, Caliche, Carta Vieja Añejo, Centenario 7, Deadhead, Debonaire Private Reserve 5, Debonaire Very Special Reserve 8, Debonaire Grand Reserve 15, Debonaire Premium Reserve 21, Debonaire Special Reserve Coffee, Debonaire Special Reserve Honey, Dictador 20, Diplomatico Ambassador, Diplomatico Añeja, Diplomatico Blanco, Diplomatico Reserva, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Domain de Canton, Don Papa, DonQ Añejo, DonQ Coco, DonQ Cristal, DonQ Gold, DonQ Gran Añejo, DonQ Limon, DonQ Mojito, DonQ Pasion, Don Zavier Mamajuana, Dos Maderas 5+3, Dos Maderas PX 5+5, Dzama Amber Nosy-Be, Dzama Amber Cuvée Noire Prestige, Dzama Cuvée Blanche, Dzama Cuvée Blanche Prestige, Dzama Cuvée Noire, Dzama Vanilla 1 yo, Dzama Vanilla 10 yo, Dzama Vieux Rhum XV, Dzama White Nosy-Be, English Harbour 5 YO, English Harbour 10 YO, English Harbour 25 YO, Flor de Caña Centenario Gold 18, Flor de Caña Centenario 12, Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7, Florida Old Reserve, Fresh Coconuts – Coconut King, Hampden Estate Gold, Libre Rum & Cola, Miami Club Rum Plantino, Montanya Oro, Montanya Platino, Mt Gay 1703, Mt Gay Black Barrel, Mt Gay Eclipse, Mt Gay XO, Novo Fogo Barrel-Aged Cachaça, Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça, Ocumare, Origenes, Reserva Don Pancho, Origenes, Reserva Especial 18, Papa’s Pilar Blonde, Papa’s Pilar Dark, Pink Pigeon, Plantation 20th Anniversary XO, Plantation Barbados 2000, Plantation Grande Reserve 5 year old, Plantation Grenada 2003, Plantation Guatemala Gran Añjeo, Plantation Jamaica 2000, Plantation Nicaragua 2001, Plantation Original Dark, Plantation Original Dark Overproof, Plantation Panama 2002, Plantation Three Stars White, Plantation Trinidad 1999, Prichard’s Cranberry Rum, Prichard’s Crystal Rum, Prichard’s Fine Rum, Prichard’s Key Lime Rum, Pirchard’s Private Stock, Prichard’s Spiced, Prichard’s Sweet Georgia Belle, R. St Barth, Real McCoy, Roble Viejo, Ron De Jeremy Reserva, Ron De Jeremy Spiced, Rum Fire, Santa Teresa 1796, Santa Teresa Añejo Gran Reserva, Santa Teresa Araku Coffee, Santa Teresa Claro, Santa Teresa Rhum Orange, Santa Teresa Selecto, Shellback Silver, Shellback Spiced, Trigo Reserva Añjea, Veroes, Viejo de Caldas 3, Viejo de Caldas Grand Reserva, Vizcaya Cask 12, Vizcaya Cristal, Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21, Wild Geese Soldiers & Heroes Golden Rum, Wild Geese Soldiers & Heroes Premium Rum, Zacapa 23, Zafra 21, and Zaya.

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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