Photos: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress

The inaugural Miami Rum Congress was an unqualified success, a star-studded gathering of rum industry experts that sold out the cozy and picturesque Shane Center in Miami Beach.
GALLERY: Scroll down to see the photos

Rum ambassador Ian Burrell kicks off The Tiki Takeover bartender battle.
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell kicks off The Tiki Takeover bartender battle.

Hosted by Federico Hernandez of The Rum Lab and global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, the event spotlighted many of the world’s top boutique brands while presenting serious discussion of today’s hottest industry issues. The tasting room featured new and exclusive bottles from a number of the most acclaimed producers and distillers, such as Foursquare’s Richard Seale of Barbados.

Other brands and distillers in attendance included Appleton and Wray & Nephew, Banks, Bounty, Caliche, Damoiseau, Deadhead, Don Q, English Harbour, Gosling, Habitation Velier, Hamilton, Hampden Estates, Mezan Rum, Montanya, Monymusk, Mount Gay, Plantation, Pusser’s, Rhum Clément, Rhum J.M., Ron Abuelo, Ron Barceló, Ron Brugal, Ron Centenario, Ron del Barrilito, Ron Diplomatico, Rum Fire, Rum-Bar, Saint Benevolence, Smith & Cross, Santa Teresa, The Scarlet Ibis, Tanduay, and Worthy Park

Author and Latitude 29 owner Jeff "Beachbum" Berry treats guests to a presentation packed with information (and rum cocktails): "Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers - The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch"
Author and Latitude 29 owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry treats guests to a presentation packed with information (and rum cocktails): “Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers – The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch.”

In addition to the wonderful Foursquare “Exceptional Cask” rums, I was intrigued and excited to get my first taste of outstanding spirits from Plantation (including the elusive Xaymaca), Jamaica’s Monymusk (coming soon to the U.S. market), Hamilton (the rebranded West Indies blend), Venezuela’s Ron Diplomatico (look for the new Distillery Collection), Saint Benevolence (a Caribbean blend that directs all profits to the needy island of Haiti), and Martinique’s Rhum J.M. (the 1996 vintage was perhaps the best rhum agricole I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting).

I caught several informative seminars, capped off by the South Florida return of author and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, regaling us with “Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers – The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch.” Meanwhile, importer and Ministry of Rum founder Ed Hamilton followed up his first-ever rum tasting at The Mai-Kai on Thursday with a no-holds-barred look at changes in the rum market over the past 25 years. We’ll be posting expanded coverage of both of these talks soon.

Appleton had its full line of premium rums on display and available for tasting
Appleton had its full line of premium rums on display and available for tasting.

For those seeking a bit more action-packed entertainment, Miami Rum Congress and The Hukilau presented two bartender competitions hosted by Burrell and pitting international and local South Florida contenders. Each trio of contestants had to contend with a mystery box of ingredients and judges including Berry. The contest was sponsored by Reàl Cocktail Ingredients.

Georgi Radev from Laki Kane in London won the global bar challenge, while Michael DeMahy from Death or Glory in Delray Beach emerged victorious in the local bar challenge. While enjoying the festivities all weekend, it was great to run into lots of old friends and acquaintances as well as meet many new faces. We’re looking forward to the return of Miami Rum Congress next year.

In the meantime, be sure to look for one of the other Rum Lab events in your area: Taste of Rum in Puerto Rico (March 2), Chicago Rum Festival (April 27), New York Rum Festival (June 15), and California Rum Festival (Sept. 7).

Atomic Grog preview and social recap
* Miami Rum Congress is in session: First annual event lures top industry experts

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PHOTO GALLERY: Miami Rum Congress
Feb. 8-9, 2019 at the Shane Center, Miami Beach
All images taken by and for The Atomic Grog

* See the photos on Flickr

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The Rum Lab
* Official website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Ian Burrell
* Official website | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube
* Facebook: Rum Ambassador page | Personal page
* UK RumFest: Official website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

The Atomic Grog
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* The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide and 100+ recipes

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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