UPDATE: RumXP Awards announced at eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Updated May 9
A full recap of the eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is coming soon. In the meantime, here are the winners of the annual RumXP Awards announced on Friday, April 15. Also check out our photo gallery on Facebook.
See below: The Mai-Kai pre-party and Santeria Rum cocktail recipe | Full preview
UPDATE: Koloa, Plantation and Don Q dominate awards at eighth annual Miami festival

2016 RumXP Award Winners and Consumer Rum Jury Awards

For the third year in a row, Plantation won a festival-best eight RumXP awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

For the third year in a row, Plantation won eight RumXP awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

White Rum
Best In Class:
Bayou Silver
Gold: Blue Chair Bay, Pito Rico Elite, Don Q Cristal, Ron Cartavio Silver

Premium White Rum
Best In Class:
Puerto Angel
Gold: Caliche, Fwyago, Plantation 3 Star, Skotlander Rum VI, Koloa White

Gold Rum
Best In Class:
Siesta Key Gold
Gold: Wicked Dolphin, Puerto Angel Amber, Don Q Gold, Koloa Gold

Spiced Rum
Best In Class:
Siesta Key Spiced
Gold: Siesta Key Distillers Solara, Bayou Spiced, Siesta Key Limited Edition Spiced, Koloa Spiced

Flavored Rum
Best In Class:
Koloa Coffee
Gold: Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy, Don Q Pasion, Blue Chair Bay Banana, Koloa Coconut

Overproof Rum
Best In Class:
Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof
Gold: Pito Rico 106, Don Q 151, Gunroom 130 Proof, Skotlander 123.2

Black Rum
Best In Class:
Wicked Dolphin Black
Gold: Koloa Black

Bob Young (left) of Hawaii's Koloa Rum Co. with Miami Rum Festival organizer Robert A. Burr. Koloa won seven Rum XP awards.  (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Bob Young (left) of Hawaii’s Koloa Rum Co. with Miami Rum Festival organizer Robert A. Burr. Koloa won a total of nine awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Aged Rum
Best In Class:
Bayou Select
Gold: Don Q Anejo, Marauda Steel Pan, Plantation Original Dark, Tiburon

Aged Rum 5-8 Years
Best In Class:
Ron Duran 7
Gold: Plantation 5, Cartavio 5

Aged Rum 9-12 Years
Best In Class:
Yolo Gold
Gold: Cartavio Solera 12, Ron Duran 12, Panama Pacific 9

Aged Rum 15+ Years
Best In Class:
Pusser’s 15
Gold: Panama Pacific 23

Premium Aged Rum
Best In Class:
Plantation 20th Anniversary
Gold: Plantation Gran Anejo, Santeria Rum, Don Q Gran Anejo, Fwyago Single Barrel

Vintage Aged Rum
Best In Class:
Mezan Jamaica 2000
Gold: Plantation Jamaica 2001, Plantation St. Lucia 2004, Mezan Panama 2006, Don Q 2005, Mezan Guyana 2005

Many new rums won RumXP awards, including Santeria Rum from Bryan Davis and Joanne Haruta of Lost Spirits and Rational Spirits distillery. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Many new rums won RumXP awards, including Santeria Rum from Bryan Davis and Joanne Haruta of Lost Spirits and Rational Spirits distillery. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Agricole Unaged Rhum
Best In Class:
La Mauny Sor Ray
Gold: Trios Rivières Cuvee Mojito, Isautier Blanc, La Mauny Blanc

Agricole Aged Rhum
Best In Class:
Trois Rivières VSOP
Gold: Isautier Vieux Louis & Charles, Isautier Vieux 7-year-old, La Mauny XO

Cachaça Unaged
Best In Class:
Weber Haus
Gold: Germana Ultra Premium, Germana Palha, Novo Fogo Silver, Lundu Silver

Cachaça Aged
Best In Class:
Sebastiana Single barrel
Gold: Novo Fogo 2-year-old Oak, Sebastiana 3-year-old Double Barrel, Middas Carvalho, Germana Caetano’s

2016 Consumer Rum Jury Awards
Best In Class:
Siesta Key Toasted Coconut
Gold: Koloa Coffee, Plantation Pineapple, Pusser’s 15, YOLO Gold
Silver: Koloa Coconut, Duran 12, Mezan Panama 2005, La Mauny Spiced, Koloa Dark, Tiburon, Don Q Signature Release 2005
Bronze: Dzama Rhum Nosy Be 104, Balcones Texas Rum, Panama Pacific 9, Puerto Angel Blanco, Fwyago White, Trois Rivières Cuvee Du Moulin, Blue Chair Bay White

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Posted April 13
Rum appreciation starts early with party at The Mai-Kai

The Mai-Kai's Pia Dahlquist welcomes Rebecca and Martin Cate, authors of the upcoming book "Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki." (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Mai-Kai’s Pia Dahlquist welcomes Rebecca and Martin Cate, authors of the upcoming book “Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki” to the Miami Rum Festival party on Tuesday, April 12. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Dozens of Miami Rum Festival judges, VIPs and locals flocked to The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday to kick off a long week of “rum is fun” get-togethers. For the members of RumXP: The International Rum Expert Panel, it was a chance to unwind after the first day of blind tastings. For most in attendance, it was an opportunity to reconnect with friends from across the globe.

“Tuesday Tiki Night” is a Rum Renaissance Festival tradition as guests gather for dinner and the historic Polynesian restaurant’s Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States (including Hawaii). Of course, the massive mid-century venue (est. 1956) is also home to a wide variety of rums as well as a legendary Tiki cocktail menu.

Many arrived by bus from the Doubletree, mingling in The Molokai lounge before and after dinner. Festival organizers Robert A., Robin, and Robert V. Burr were gregarious dinner hosts, while The Mai-Kai’s owner, Dave Levy, and marketing director, Pia Dahlquist, greeted arrivals in the bar.

Santero's Elixir was the special Santeria Rum cocktail served at The Mai-Kai on Tuesday, April 12. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Santero’s Elixir was the special Santeria Rum cocktail served at The Mai-Kai on Tuesday, April 12. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Among those spotted enjoying the festivities were owner Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate from Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco; owner Suzanne Long from Longitude in Oakland; manager Marie King from Tonga Hut in Los Angeles; master blender Bryan Davis from Lost Spirits Distillery in California; Cocktail Wonk blogger Matt Pietrek from Seattle; Boy Drinks World bitters creator Ram Udwin from San Diego; South Carolina blogger Scott French (aka The Rum Trader); Washington, D.C., author Ian Williams; California industry veteran Forrest Cokely; and many more.

Among the notables in attendance from the South Florida rum and Tiki scene were artist N! Satterfield and wife Dee; and FOM members Keith Wright and Lynda Katzen. Artist Will Anders, who creates many of The Mai-Kai’s distinctive tikis from historic molds, was at the bar providing updates on his latest projects. Also in attendance was The Hukilau‘s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, who caught up with the rum fest crew while on a trip to Fort Lauderdale for meetings and planning work on her upcoming June 8-12 event.

The event was sponsored by the new Rational Spirits distillery, who picked up the tab for the guests to attend the dinner show and also provided complimentary Santeria Rum cocktails. Santeria is an exciting new rum created in association with the revolutionary Lost Spirits Distillery in California. Named for the mysterious Caribbean religion, Santeria is a “dunder pit style” Jamaican rum that clocks in at 92 proof and contains all the hallmarks of a funky pot still rum from the Caribbean island. What’s unusual is the rum is actually created in a matter of days, not years, by Bryan Davis of Lost Spirits using a high-tech system that accelerates the aging process. Is it voodoo? You’ll have to taste it to believe it.

SANTERO’S ELIXIR
(By Kern Mattei of The Mai-Kai)

Santero's Elixir featuring Santeria Rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, April 2016)

Santero’s Elixir featuring Santeria Rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, April 2016)

* 1 1/2 ounces Santeria Rum
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
* 1/2 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
* 1/2 ounce caramelized pineapple syrup
* 1/4 ounce allspice liqueur (aka pimento dram)
* Dash of Angostura bitters
* Dash of ginger syrup
Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice and pour into a small rocks glass. Use a tropical garnish of your choice. The Mai-Kai leveraged the talents of its new chef, Mark Rivera, to create an amazing garnish of dehydrated pineapple infused with cinnamon, star anise and other exotic flavors. [See photo] We took a more traditional approach with a mint sprig, lime wheel, pineapple wedge and green cherry.

Santero is the name of the priest in the Santeria religion. According to legend, some Santeros have the power to communicate with spirits.

The Mai-Kai’s general manager, Kern Mattei, conjured up this complex yet well-balanced cocktail to show off Santeria Rum with some traditional Mai-Kai ingredients (lime, OJ, grapefruit, pimento dram, bitters) and a few new twists (pineapple syrup, ginger syrup). The result is both dry and sweet, the bitters and tart juices balancing the sweet syrups and potent Santeria Rum. The spicy ginger and allspice flavors give it a distinctive taste, while the rum lurks in the background but comes forward as you progress through the drink. For a sweeter and richer flavor, use more ginger and less allspice.

Chef Rivera whipped up the pineapple syrup by cooking slices of fresh pineapple with butter and sugar until caramelized, then combining with simple syrup. The butter added a subtle layer of rich flavor. For another recipe and more info on pineapple syrup, check out the Hotel Nacional Special, a previous Cocktail of the Week on The Atomic Grog.

More on Santeria Rum
* Official website | Twitter
* A peek at Rational Spirits’ first rum – Santeria (A Mountain of Crushed Ice)
* These guys claim to create 15-year-old spirits in just six days (Urban Daddy)
* Unveiling the THEA One aging reactor from Lost Spirits (Cocktail Wonk)
* Video: Andrew Abrahams Rum Reviews

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Official website | Facebook | Twitter
* 2015 Atomic Grog recap | All past coverage
Rob’s Rum Guide: Official website | Blog | Facebook page
Rum Minute: Official website | YouTube channel

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Posted April 13
Miami festival specializes in education, but reminds us that ‘rum is fun’

The eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival comes at a pivotal time for the rum industry. As the popularity of cane spirits continues to surge, new challenges loom on the horizon. Unbridled growth has churned up issues surrounding what some consider secrecy and deception regarding age statements and additives, specifically sugar. Meanwhile, everyone is anxious about the potential opening of the marketplace in Cuba, one of the world’s oldest and most highly regarded rum producers.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

But while these serious topics will likely be discussed and debated at the April 15-17 event and its surrounding parties, the overarching theme remains simple: “Rum is fun!” Why else would more than 10,000 people flock to the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center to sample hundreds of products, new and old, while enjoying seminars and special industry events that make this one of the year’s most talked-about spirits festivals.

The Miami Rum Festival and International Trade Expo runs from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. all three days, taking over the 50,000-square-foot exhibition hall as exhibitors show off products from around the world. Admission ($75 per day or $125 for a three-day pass) gets you access to the “grand tastings” featuring samples of more than a hundred rums, plus a diverse selection of educational (and entertaining) seminars. If you’re seeking additional fun, there’s also live music and food, plus island lifestyle vendors.

2016 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Friday, April 15, through Sunday, April 17, at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Tickets, hotel and more info: MiamiRumFest.com | Facebook | Twitter
Past coverage: Miami Rum Festival adds VIP tasting bar | Rob’s Rum Guide released
2015 recap: Miami Rum Festival boldly explores the next frontier of cane spirits

Some of the rums to be served in the VIP Tasting Bar at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Some of the rums to be served in the VIP Tasting Bar at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival.

The rum fest is organized by the husband and wife team of Robert A. Burr and Robin V. Burr, plus son Robert V. Burr. Longtime collectors and enthusiasts, the Burrs are adding something special to this year’s event: A luxury VIP Tasting Bar featuring a special selection of rare, vintage and limited edition products from their expansive collection of more than 2,000 rums. Get a closer look at their home bar in the new Rum Minute online video series. The elder Burr and his son will personally host the tastings.

The tasting bar will be open Friday through Sunday during the grand tastings, but samples of these rare rums will cost a little extra (tickets are $5). You get two free tickets when you buy a three-day VIP pass to the festival. The Burrs have teased us with a list of some of the rums that will be available for sampling: Facundo Paraíso and Exquisito, Brugal Siglo de Oro and 1888, Barcelo 30th Anniversary, Abuelo Centuria, Zafra 30 year old, Don Pancho Origenes 30 Year Old Rare Reserve, Barbancourt 150th Anniversary, Mount Gay 1703, Clement XO, Zacapa XO, Opthimus 21 & 25, Appleton 21, Botran Solera 1893, Dictador XO, El Dorado 21, Bacardi Reserva Limitada, Flor de Caña 25 year old, Matusalem 23, H/C Seleccion de Maestros, and more. You can find reviews of many of these on Rob’s Rum Guide and the National Rum Examiner.

Members of the spirits and beverage trade also get access to a special section of the festival that features exclusive rums for industry and press representatives only. The highlight of the event for many in the industry are the Tuesday through Thursday blind tastings, which culminate in the announcement of the annual RumXP Tasting Competition Awards. The winners will named on the main stage at the conclusion of Friday’s festivities.

A wide variety of cachaça brands will be available for the first time at the 2016 Miami Rum Festival

A wide variety of cachaça brands will be available for the first time at the 2016 Miami Rum Festival.

For the general public who don’t partake in the premium samples, there are still more than enough great rum brands to choose from. This year’s lineup includes new rums plus old favorites from across a broad spectrum of styles. Among the new brands we’re most looking forward to sampling (and discussing with representatives) include Bayou, Caliche, Fwaygo, Mezan, Santeria, and Wicked Dolphin. And you can’t forget the old standbys such as Cartavio, Don Q, Koloa, Plantation, and Pusser’s.

In recognition of the growing evolution of cane spirits, the festival is featuring a large selection of cachaça for the first time. The official spirit of Brazil and backbone of the wildly popular Caipirinha cocktail, cachaça (pronounced kah-SHAH-sah) isn’t typically considered rum. It’s made from fermented and distilled fresh cane juice, not molasses. While most rums are distilled from 85 to 95 percent pure alcohol, cachaça is typically distilled to only 38 to 48 percent, leaving behind more of the natural flavors of cane. In the United States, cachaça is recognized as a product unique to Brazil, its history dating back to the 16th century.

Ten brands from Brazil are planning a rum festival “invasion” in an effort show American rum enthusiasts and professionals what their product is all about. In addition, Carlos Lima, executive director of the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça, will present a seminar on the unique spirit on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3.
* Rob’s Rum Guide: More on the cachaça ‘invasion’

Seminars: From rum distillation to appreciation

As usual, an impressive lineup of experts has been announced to give festival attendees an opportunity to drill down into the details of rum production, mixology and more. Seminars take place in conference rooms on the second floor of the convention center (enter via the escalators next to the food court). [See map] These intimate gatherings give guests easy access to exclusive first-hand knowledge, but be sure to get there on time to assure yourself a seat. The seminars with the broadest interest include:

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival hosts

* “Navy Rum: A Category of its Own,” presented by Lars Renbjer, owner of Integrity Spirits and Gunroom Spirits. Get to know and taste the different origins of the Gunroom Navy Rum and learn why rum had to be gunpowder proof in the British Navy. Friday at 2 p.m.

* “Clairin: The Authentic Cane Spirit of Haiti,” presented by Robert V. Burr. Travel through the wilds of Haiti to discover the national treasure of Clairin rum, fermented with fresh cut cane juice and distilled with simple, rustic methods. Friday at 3 p.m.

* “Mezan, A Rare Collection of Vintage Rums,” presented by Warren Bobrow, author and Mezan Rum‘s American brand ambassador. Learn about and taste these unsweetened, uncolored and only lightly filtered rums from Panama, Trinidad and Jamaica. Friday at 4 p.m.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

* “Good Drinks – Tiki Drinks, That Is,” presented by the Fraternal Order Of Moai and sponsored by Koloa Rum. Get tips on how to create easy-to-make, delicious and exotic tropical libations in your own home bar. Saturday at 4 p.m.

* “Reál Ingredients,” presented by Isaac Ergas. Learn how to use high-quality fruit purées from this growing brand to create delicious cocktails with easy recipes. Sunday at 2 p.m.

* “Florida Rum Review,” presented by Robert A. Burr. Taste local history with some well-crafted cane spirits produced by small distilleries in the Sunshine State, from Key West to St. Augustine. Sunday at 4 p.m.

And those with a keen interest in the industry and its inner workings might want to check one (or both) of the seminars by Richard Seale, the outspoken master distiller at Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. He’ll be talking about “Rum’s Place in the Spirits World” at 5 p.m. Saturday and giving “A Primer on Distillation” at 5 p.m. Sunday.
* Click here to see the full schedule and lineup of seminars

Lodging: Rooms at the DoubleTree are sold out, but the rum festival has several partner hotels on Miami Beach offering preferred rates. There are also many hotels closer to the convention center on the south side of Miami International Airport.

Recent press coverage
* Rum Renaissance returns with rare rums from around the world (Miami New Times)
* An interview with Robert A. Burr (Fat Rum Pirate)
* 10 questions with Robert A. Burr (Le Vie Del Rum)

The Atomic Grog past coverage
* 2015: Miami Rum Festival boldly explores the next frontier of cane spirits
Rum aficionados gather for 7th annual Miami festival
* 2014: Upstart spirits share spotlight with major players at Miami Rum Festival
Cocktails reach new heights of creativity at Miami Rum Festival
* 2013: Miami festival showcases a never-ending variety of rums
* 2012: Miami festival offers many lessons in rum appreciation
* 2011: We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai

The Atomic Grog on rum
* Rum of the Week reviews, cocktails
* Navy Rum and Black Tot Day
* Interview: Ian Burrell, the global ambassador of rum
* Rating the top cane spirits
* ‘Rum Rat Pack’ starts a revolution at Hukilau 2011

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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