Minimalist Tiki

Pioneering Miami Rum Festival foreshadowed spirit’s renaissance

When rum enthusiasts Robert and Robin Burr hosted their first tasting event in 2008 in South Florida, little did they know that 15 years later there would be a plethora of similar events worldwide, with more springing up every year. They had confidence in the often misunderstood spirit’s potential, however, dubbing their event the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and growing it into one of the largest such gatherings, setting future trends for the industry.
* Jump below: Q&A with Robert Burr

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

If seems like there’s a rum festival every month of the year, that’s probably because there likely is. In just the next few weeks, fans of cane spirits will gather for the Miami festival, plus events in Barbados, St Barth, Denmark, and Australia. Next year’s calendar already includes more than a dozen events, from Puerto Rico to Paris. For that, we can thank the Burrs and other OG rum festivals, such as the massive UK RumFest (est. 2007), recently held in London.
* See the full rum events calendar below

This year will mark the 14th Miami Rum Renaissance for the Burrs, who are content to keep their event at a more manageable size with an intimate venue and boutique-style vibe. The rum tastings will be held for the fourth straight time at a historic building in the suburbs with a small schedule of educational seminars offered at a nearby hotel the day before.

The event offers a rare opportunity for hundreds of rum connoisseurs to meet and mingle in an intimate setting with producers, distillers, importers, distributors, retailers and other members of the spirits trade.

Nov. 11-12 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club and Marriott Courtyard Coral Gables. Educational seminars on Saturday, grand tasting on Sunday. Buy tickets now.
PAST COVERAGE: 2022 social media highlights | 2021 photos, recap | Rum fest history, memories

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Seminars feature experts from Bacardi, Barbancourt, National Rums of Jamaica

If you’re interested in more than just tasting rum, Saturday’s schedule is for you. Learn about blending, rum history, modern innovations, and how sugar cane can influence the final product. The Miami Rum Festival will offer four 45-minute presentations, running from noon to 5:15 p.m. at the Marriott.

Team Bacardí Blenders – Go inside the Bacardi production facilities, where Astrophel (Troy) Arquiza and his crew put a signature stamp on the iconic brand’s many rums.

Legacy and Future Production at Barbancourt – Master distiller Vladimir de Delva will present the legendary brand’s core line of award-winning Haitian rhums, explaining how he follows the traditions and recipes while also keeping an eye on innovation and the future.

A 2022 seminar presented by Plantation Rum and West Indies Rum Distillery at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables. (Miami Rum Festival photo)
A 2022 seminar presented by Plantation Rum and West Indies Rum Distillery at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables. (Miami Rum Festival photo)

National Rums of Jamaica: Long Pond and Clarendon – Learn about the history, evolution and future of the Long Pond, Innswood and Clarendon distilleries from CEO Martha Miller and her team of blenders.

The Grand Experiment in Terroir: Renegade Rum in Grenada – An innovative production facility and its processes are explored by terroir expert Dustin Herb, who will show off the unique farm-to-bottle rums.

Click here for more info on the seminars. TICKETS: $99, including the full day of classes and samples.

Grand tasting offers unlimited samples from established, up-and-coming brands

On Sunday, dozens of distilleries, importers, producers, distributors and boutique brands will have their products on display for sampling. Tasting booths are spread throughout multiple rooms in the vintage Coral Gables Woman’s Club building, with ample seating and a food menu that seems to get better each year.

Robin and Robert Burr welcome guests to their VIP Tasting Bar at the 2019 Miami Rum Festival. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Robin and Robert Burr welcome guests to their VIP Tasting Bar at the 2019 Miami Rum Festival. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Take the opportunity to chat with the men and women behind the tables while you learn about their products. It’s a rare chance to get one-on-one with brand ambassadors and even some brand owners. Seek out new and innovative rums as you make the rounds. Even rum festival veterans will find something they’ve never seen before.

The lineup includes: Ron Abuelo, Bacardí, Rhum Barbancourt, Brinley, Bombarda, Bushwacker, Cane Rock, Carta Vieja, Ron Colón, Copalli, Ron Centenario, Coconut Cartel, Elia 625, Island Company Rum, Java Mur, Ron Matusalem, Mezan, Monymusk, Papa’s Pilar, Parce Rum, Plantation, Reif Rum, Renegade, Ron Roble, Romero, Santa Teresa, Zacapa, and Zafra.

In addition, the festival will also feature some rare and limited-edition rums available for an extra fee. All proceeds from these offerings will benefit a local non-profit organization. Brands available in the Private Collection Tasting Bar include Admiral Rodney, Angostura, Appleton, Arôme, Artesano, Ron Barcelo, Ron de Barrilito, Botran, Bristol Classic, Brugal, Cartavio, Diplomático, Pusser’s, and Saint James.

Click here for the updated list of rum brands and links to official sites. TICKETS: $59 for general admission (2- 5 p.m.), $69 for VIP and trade (12:30-5 p.m.). VIP couples passes are $109. All tickets include unlimited rum samples and complimentary tasting glass.

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Q&A WITH ROBERT BURR

The Miami Rum Festival co-founder took the time out of his busy schedule preparing for the event to answer some questions for us.

Question: How has the rum landscape changed since your first event 15 years ago?

The grand tasting at the 2011 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival at the Deauville Beach Resort on Miami Beach. (Miami Rum Festival photo)
The grand tasting at the 2011 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival at the Deauville Beach Resort on Miami Beach. (Miami Rum Festival photo)

Answer: Rum is evolving at a dramatic rate. In 2008, for example, Mount Gay sold only Eclipse gold rum in large quantities and just a bit of the aged XO expression. After their premium 1703 luxury rum debuted in 2009, the company shifted priorities to promote their upscale expressions in an effort to evolve their reputation into that of a premium producer.

Similarly, most of the major labels, and many of the small bottlers, are promoting limited edition rums, older aged rums, double casks, and specialty products to position themselves as premium quality brands. The rum category, in less than two decades, has morphed from predominantly big quantity, cheap products to a much wider range of offerings with many modern reputations based on premium expressions.

This is the renaissance of rum we predicted 20 years ago.

Rum enthusiasts must make some effort to keep up with the ever-expanding variety of rums coming on the market. Tasting opportunities like Miami Rum Renaissance Festival offer a chance to find new emerging products,as well as innovative offerings from established brands.

Q: It’s now Miami Rum Renaissance Festival’s fourth year at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club, a unique venue for a spirits festival. What makes it special?

Banners signal a tasty event happening inside the Coral Gables Woman’s Club. (Miami Rum Festival photo)
Banners signal a tasty event happening inside the Coral Gables Woman’s Club. (Miami Rum Festival photo)

A: Over the past four years, we are more careful to focus on attracting true rum enthusiasts. This more subdued and intimate setting is conducive to proper tasting, discerning and learning.

The historic halls of the woman’s club offer a casual elegance that matches our theme for the event. The venue is centrally located and convenient to many of our attendees.

Q: The seminar lineup is very impressive, including some major players in the industry. Do you find that rum brands and companies are being more open and transparent about their production techniques these days?

A: We are indeed privileged to have some outstanding presenters, once again. The fact that they are willing to openly share their philosophies, strategies and techniques, as well as plans for future expressions, is exciting indeed.

The core lineup of Barbancourt rhums. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, 2018)
The core lineup of Barbancourt rhums. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, 2018)

We were surprised and delighted when the blending team at Bacardí approached us with an seminar idea: To look behind the curtain at their operations developing new expressions worldwide.

We have longed to get an insider view of the legendary Long Pond distillery in Jamaica. National Rums of Jamaica CEO Martha Miller will offer a presentation on this renovated and reclaimed production facility, as well as the storied Clarendon Distillery, which is largely shrouded in mystery.

Likewise, we know that new innovations, a return to traditional methods, and other changes are taking place at Haiti’s venerable Barbancourt Distillery under the leadership of fifth generation leader Delphine Gardère. We want to hear about it directly from the team.

And, perhaps most interesting of all, the innovative approach to cane farming, terroir management and precise distillation at Grenada’s Renegade Distillery is simply unmatched in the world of rum.

Q: I see quite a few new rum brands on your grand tasting lineup this year. What rums that we might not be aware of should people have at the top of their lists to try?

The Monymusk rums available in South Florida. The festival will offer a chance to try new expressions. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, 2019)
The Monymusk rums available in South Florida. The festival will offer a chance to try new expressions. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, 2019)

A: Renegade of Grenada will debut their new Cuvée collection, enticing blends of the various unique terroir expressions from various farms on the island. New for rum lovers in America is Venezuela’s Roble Viejo, a rum we fell in love with in Venezuela 15 years ago.

A new brand named Elia 625, a rum made from sustainably harvested Jamaican sugar cane, is presenting for the first time. Jamaica’s legendary Monymusk brand is here with some updated products.

Plantation Rum is all about limited editions, special barrels and unique profiles. It’s a challenge to keep up with all their innovations. Bret “The Hitman” Hart will present his family’s Romero Rum of western Canada.

Santa Teresa surprises us with a new expression finished in Speyside Whiskey casks. Zacapa of Guatemala presents the legendary XO and Edición Negra, in addition to the popular Sistema Solera 23.

Papa’s Pilar has set a pace for innovation and new expressions that’s hard to match. Parce has made a name for Colombian rums among American consumers with award-winning expressions.

The Mai-Kai recently released a sherry cask finished rum from Papa's Pilar. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
The Mai-Kai recently released a sherry cask finished rum from Papa’s Pilar. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

Spencer Antle’s Island Rum Company is with us, presenting an award-winning smooth rum. Copalli of Belize continues to innovate, presenting a fine selection of organic, sustainable spirits.

Centenario of Costa Rico continues to present new products of note. Bombarda is a relatively new brand that is presenting some new lovely blends.

Mezan rums are notable for their “hands off” approach to natural aging, with no additives. Cane Rock from Jamaica is a new spiced rum like no other. Bacardí will present their Reserva Ocho Sevillian Orange Cask Finish.

We’re intrigued by Reif Rum – infused with David Reif’s unique take on individualism – presenting tropical fruit accents with subtle smokiness. Java Mür, formerly Rum Java, is back with updated blends of rum, coffee and other exotic flavors.

Q: It’s good to see the cruise back on track for next year. How many have you done before? What distilleries are you looking forward to visiting on this cruise?

The Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise offers tours, tastings, and VIP access to distilleries. (Miami Rum Festival photo)
The Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise offers tours, tastings, and VIP access to distilleries. (Miami Rum Festival photo)

A: We started in November 2011. March 2024 will be the eighth Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise. We missed a few due to the COVID pandemic, and one bad hurricane season. We’re only now getting comfortable with being on a cruise ship with lots of people.

It’s always amazing to visit our favorite producers in Martinique and Barbados, two of the seminal sources of great rums and the source of many great bottles not found in the USA. With VIP access and special behind-the-scenes tours, it’s just a fabulous opportunity for rum collectors and adventurers. Truly a bucket-list experience.

Saint Lucia Distillers is one of the most under-appreciated distilleries in the Caribbean region. The range of rums they produce, from the local DenRos Overproof and highly-rated Bounty rums, to the exquisite Chairman’s Reserve and Admiral Rodney expressions, plus many dozens of others, is truly notable.

Antigua is a staple of our rum islands. The English Harbour production facilities are absolutely iconic, and they have an outstanding retail store with all of their own products, plus many other fine rums of the Caribbean at great prices.

Saint Kitts is an up and coming rum destination, now with two distilleries to visit: Brinley’s Gold Shipwreck Rum and the renovated Old Rum Road.

Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise

Note: The Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise is set for March 4-14, departing from Fort Lauderdale.

Recent media coverage
* Miami Rum Renaissance Festival Returns to Coral Gables (Miami New Times)
* 14th anniversary Rum Renaissance returns to Miami (Finance Colombia)

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival online
* RumRenaissance.com
* Facebook page | Twitter | Instagram | Flickr

Related websites
Rob’s Rum Guide: Expert reviews and news on cane spirits
Rum Minute: See Robert Burr’s video reviews

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RUM EVENTS CALENDAR

>>> 2023 <<<

Oct. 30-Nov. 4 – The Barbados Rum Experience

Oct. 31-Nov. 5 – St Barth Rum Festival and Caribbean Rum Awards.

Nov. 3-4 – Danish Rum and Whisky Festival in Denmark.

Nov. 11 – Rum Revolution in Brisbane, Australia.

Nov. 11-12 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in Coral Gables.

>>> 2024 <<<

Feb. 9-11 – Miami Rum Congress at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
* Social media recap: Photos, coverage of Miami Rum Congress 2023

Feb. 13-15 – Mondial du Rhum in Paris.

March 4-14 – Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise, departing from Fort Lauderdale.

March 7 – Taste of Rum festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

March 16 – Texas Rum Festival in Dallas.

April 16-21 – Madeira Rum Festival.

April 20 – Chicago Rum Festival.

May 4-6 – Rhum Fest Paris.

June 8 – New York Rum Festival & Congress in New York City.

June 21-22 – Rum Love Festival in Wroclaw, Poland.

July 5-6 – Rum Show in London.

Aug. 29 – Los Angeles Rum Festival.

Aug. 31-Sept. 1 – San Francisco Rum Festival & Congress.

More to come! Check The Tiki Times calendar for updates.

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PAST ATOMIC GROG COVERAGE

Miami Rum Festival fills weekend with rum seminars, tastings
Miami festival fills weekend with rum seminars, tastings
Event includes two full days featuring some of the world’s best spirits, premiere industry experts, and a friendly gang of easy-going rum enthusiasts.

Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event
Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event
Our highlights from the 2021 Rum Renaissance Tasting Event, including photos and our favorite sips of the day.

Preview, photos and event history: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is back for a 12th taste of cane spirits
Preview, photos and event history: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is back for a 12th taste of cane spirits
Everything you need to know about the return of the Miami Rum Festival, including an in-depth preview and look back at the past 11 events with exclusive photos and remembrances.
>>> CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL STORY
2019 PHOTOS AND RECAP: Rum festival returns to its roots
EVENT HISTORY: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival year-by-year
ATOMIC GROG FLASHBACK: Our top nine Miami Rum Fest memories

More Miami Rum Festival recaps
* 2018: Spirited mash-up: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau
* 2017: Miami Rum Festival and Trade Expo turns 9
* 2016: Koloa, Plantation and Don Q dominate awards at annual Miami festival
* 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

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MORE EVENT COVERAGE

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