Happy 2023! I see a lot of bloggers posting “best of” lists at this time of the year. Makes sense, as it’s fun and interesting to look back at 12 months of rum ramblings, especially when you are bored during the holidays. Last time I did this was two years ago. The pandemic kind of ruined my mojo a little and didn’t give me any motivation to create a fun rum list for a while. I won’t do that this time either….well…not exactly.
Looking back at 2022 Rum Revelations content, the numbers are as follows :
29 rums reviewed, for a grand total of 165 reviews on the site
2 distillery video tours
5 rum travel articles
3 major updates to the sugar list, which now has 315 rums on it
Plus a few other bits and pieces. That means I’ve posted about twice a month, which is always my goal. I can’t keep up with the amazing pace of the likes of the Lone Caner, Rum Barrel or The Fat Rum Pirate. Nor do I intend to. I absolutely love this hobby, but posting is not high enough on my list of priorities, plus my job takes a lot of my time. I feel like I’ve found a nice balance at this rate that makes me happy. Talking about balance….I don’t just want to write rum reviews. I get bored and I feel readers will get bored. That’s why I try and mix it up with other rum related articles. My absolute favourite ones are rum travel stories. If I have to look back at 2022 in rum, I’m not thinking about particular bottles first. I’m thinking about distillery visits. Experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. Hence why my 2022 “list” is a short recap of some of those stories and I’ll finish with one I haven’t covered yet.
Last spring, Eric Kaye from American independent bottler Holmes Cay, asked me if I was interested in joining him on a trip to Mauritius and Reunion. The cost and the flying time (2 overnight flights in a row, 3 different time zones, 26 hours or so in total) made me doubt it. But the prospect of seeing five distilleries, including a grail one, pulled me over the line. That grail distillery is Savanna in Reunion. I was already in awe with their rum before I went there, but the visit made me even more impressed. The personal tour was fantastic. We could ask anything, touch anything, and, even better, walk around the ageing warehouse with a syphon and get our own samples from whichever barrell. Hello there! What a treat.
The other major highlight among many on that trip was our 2 day visit to Grays in Mauritius. We were treated like rum royalty there. Amazing! We visited the cane fields, sugar museum, distillery….had lunch twice, tasted a lot of rum on both days….including….of course…a good session in the ageing warehouse. We had to go there in the morning, as it’s too hot in the afternoon. Early morning cask strength tasting, why not?! We all have to make sacrifices at times in life. One amazing expression after the other made our tongues tingle. At some point they seemingly tried to test us and gave us the same sample twice (we couldn’t see the barrel they were taking it from). We passed the test with flying colours. :D Another unforgettable distillery experience.
I loved both countries. Lots of beautiful and friendly people on both islands. I preferred the general atmosphere (being able to speak English everywhere made it easier) and food in Mauritius. The landscapes and rum (Savanna) were better in Reunion. Both are a must go. Luckily they are so close to each other that you don’t really have to choose.
On another journey I went to Scotland. Islay to be exact. One would think I went there for the whisky distilleries, but that’s not the case. I went to visit Ben Ingles at Islay Rum Distillery. Ben invited me to stay with him and his wonderful family for a few days. I had an unforgettable time. He showed me a lot of sights on the island. We toured a few whisky distilleries. Most importantly, I spent a day at Islay Rum Distillery, of which Ben is manager, distiller and part owner. I’m very impressed by the journey he’s been on to get to this point. I’m convinced great rum things are about to happen there. Mark my words. Click here for the full story and video tour of the distillery.
Right before I went to Scotland, I visited London for UK Rumfest. My third time there. If you are in Canada, which is somewhat of a desert when it comes to rum, and you want to have an opinion on this beautiful spirit, it helps to go to a festival like this every now and then. There are multiple reasons why I love this event. The city of London is great, with its rich history, beautiful architecture, tons of pubs and good cocktail bars, with Trailer Happiness being a must visit. The amount of available seminars at the festival is great for people who’d like to increase their rum knowledge. There’s a lot of rum available for tasting. Plus, and this is really the most important reason for going, the large contingent of great people I can meet who share the same passion. The event is held over three days. Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Two for the general public, one for trade only.
I arrived on Thursday. I figured that would be better than Friday, as I’d have some extra time to get rid of the jet lag. I got there in the morning, left my stuff at the hotel and took the subway downtown. My goal was to visit several liquor stores to get an idea what I should bring back to Canada. I always have to be very selective, as they only allow 1.14 liters of rum to be brought into the country duty free. Anything above that can become very expensive if you meet the wrong border agent. I took photos of the inventory in several stores, which I used for this article. It was fun and impressive to see all these available expressions. I love looking at bottles, even when I can’t buy them. I know, it’s a bit strange. At one of the shops I walked into Jazz Singh from Skylark and Karen Hoskin from Montanya Rum. That was a nice surprise. I saw them again in the evening at a Montanya event, where Karen was speaking about her company, the challenges for a woman to run a rum company and the changes she has seen in the industry in the past 15 years. It was an informative evening, the atmosphere was good and the rum yummy, especially the Montanya Querencia. It was about 10pm when it finished. The jet lag was kicking in, so I went straight to bed.
The Friday and Saturday nights are tough to plan, as there is so much to do. Most of the people were arriving on Friday. Despite me not being a very chatty person, I had a lot of them to say hi to. In the end, Gianni Debipersad, owner of Club Rum in Holland, told me there was going to be a Roger Barnes HSE tasting at the Beachcomber bar. That was an easy choice. I love listening to Roger and I typically like HSE rhums. Eric Kaye and Keegan Menezes joined us there. It was a great time. After that, Gianni and I went to a low key Skylark gig at the event hotel. Was very small and cozy. There might have been 15 people, including Karen Hoskin, Mr Fat Rum Pirate and Mr and Mrs Rum Diaries. Jazz and Indy Singh brought out a varied selection of rum, which was intriguing and educational. A great Friday night.
Saturday was the first rumfest day. I was staying at the event hotel, so it was easy to go downstairs and join the lineup early. It’s good to be there early in the weekend, as it can get busy….very busy. I was able to visit a few exhibitors before having to go to a seminar. Once I got back from that, I couldn’t believe how busy it was. Three rows of people in front of a stand is too much for me. In the end I spent most of the day talking to fellow rummies, instead of tasting much. The evening was filled with dinner and drinks with rum friends. A traditional drinking session in the lobby of the hotel was started at some point and went on well into the morning hours. We basically rearranged the seating plan in the lobby, so that we could sit there with a bunch of people. The hotel doesn’t seem to mind. That’s always a lot of fun, as people come and go. Even random strangers who happen to stay at the hotel, who are coming back from a night out joined us at times. One of them falling asleep next to me on the sofa. The most random rum blends were served with whatever rum we brought from home. A ton of high proof Jamaican rum was involved, so I’m not sure how I got back to my room anymore.
As you can imagine, the Sunday was a bit rough. I always tell myself not to drink too much on those evenings, as it ruins the next (important) rumfest day. I mean, I don’t travel all the way from Canada to not be able to taste a ton of rum at the fest. Anyhow, first time making this mistake…..it is what it is. Luckily my Sunday was full of seminars. Richard Seale from Foursquare, Zan Kong from Worthy Park and Velier’s Luca Gargano. Luca said:”Ivar, you are so quiet, what’s wrong with you?!”. I’m hung over Luca. “Ah!”. Despite me not tasting everything, the seminars were a blast. Once I got back to the “floor”, it was pretty busy again. I was slightly disappointed I didn’t have the ability to see all the exhibitors, but the trade day was still upon us. Luckily, I’m allowed to go to this day because of my rum writing work.
The Monday washed all my disappointment away. It was a calm day, it was perfect. Had so many chats with so many rum people. Tasted a ton. It was a great decision from the organizers to do this on Monday instead of Friday. I was super happy!
As for the rum, from what I can remember….these are some of my personal highlights from a tasting perspective:
Hampden 12 year HLCF was astonishing. I’d like to have a lifetime supply of that one. The 12 year HGML was also great. 12 year DOK disappointed a bit. Was on the flat side surprisingly. Seems like the ageing tamed the esters too much.
Mount Gay had something under the table. A high strength expression, straight from the Coffey still! It was great! So fruity! One of the best rums at the show.
Appleton Hearts 2002 was awesome. I preferred it much to the 1993, which was too woody for me.
Saint James Brut De Fut Millesime 2001, Lot No1. Tasted this at the Skylark event. One of the best agricole rhums I’ve had.
Kyomi Japanese rum was super interesting. Gabriele Staltari practically dragged me to the Kyomi stand. “You have to taste this! I want to know what you think”. Lol, thank you. It was very tasty. Never had Japanese rum before, except Nine Leaves.
Worthy Park’s unaged cane juice rum was lovely. I preferred it over the aged version.
Foursquare 16 year Elliot Erwitt Edition was fantastic. So was Foursquare 2010.
Loved Velier’s Papa Rouyo from Guadeloupe.
Hurricane Overproof Manx Rum was interesting. Not sure I'd call it great, but it was interesting. I'd need to sit down with it for a proper sip and use it in a daiquiri etc. Since it's not available here, that will likely never happen.
Exotic Tramp, Sian Petter's rum chocolates are divine.
I probably missed a few.
Ian Burrell organized another fantastic event. Next time I will likely focus on seminars in the weekend and do most of the rum tasting on the trade day. I think that would work best for me personally.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take a lot of photos. Especially very few with people. Too much talking, not enough photographing. Also, I used a new camera phone and quite a lot of the photos were not in focus. So, time to switch phones again.
On a personal note, thanks to everyone who has made my rum journey more interesting in 2022. Thanks for sharing your rum and knowledge with me. Especially thanks to all who follow my little website and people who comment and share it, as it’s a big encouragement to continue.
Have a successful, healthy and love filled 2023!
The UK Rumfest photos in random order: