It finally happened! After a year of canceled events the New York RumFest took place on August 21st 2021 in a safe environment at the Metropolitan Pavillon with required vaccines and masks. No rum congress (a full day of seminar & tasting) this year unfortunately, but a packed afternoon with 5 sessions, 20+ brands, and hundreds of attendees.
Once inside and after a few greetings with some of our favourite rum ambassadors, I quickly headed to the first seminar on “The Next chapter of American Rum”, where Will, Karen and Roberto (respectively from Maggie’s Farm, Montanya Rum & Don Q) were interviewed by Will Hookenga (Rumcast). While there are more than 600 distilleries producing rum in the United States, only a few are actually “rum distilleries” focusing uniquely on this spirit. There are obviously major differences between a distillery like Don Q with their 400 employees and the 9 and 40 employees of Maggie’s Farm and Montanya respectively, there is currently a great wave in the US with those types of craft rum distilleries happening. While everyone agreed that a US GI would not necessarily make sense at this stage, a local region like Puerto Rico can protect its tradition with the one already in place. We learnt about the challenges of Covid for those distilleries, especially at Montanya Rum since Karen had just started to put in place a new custom still from March 2020.
After that great session I decided to head towards the booths of rum brands I had little to no knowledge about. First on the list was “Copalli”, a single estate rum distillery producing rum from 100% sugarcane juice. All pot and column distillation, which is used in their 42% white which delivered great notes of grass, vanilla, tropical fruits on the nose – very enjoyable. Copalli also provides a barrel-rested and cacao-infused version.
Ron Colon had a line of rums based on a blend built around a column-distilled rum from Cihuatan in San Salvador. It is blended in 3 versions with some unaged pot still from Worthy Park, Hampden and Monymusk, as well as some 3 years old Worthy Park. This same blend is provided at 41% and 55.5% ABV, with a third expression that is coffee-infused for 48hrs. I liked the 111 proof version the best as it provided more kick on the palate. While not groundbreaking this was interesting enough to try it again in the future.
On a similar trend of blending with Jamaican rum, Ten to One proposed a “white” and a “dark” rum. The white was a blend of Dominican Republic rum and Jamaican high ester pot still. It provided a nice balance of pineapple funk jumping at you with a round and fruity taste. I’d love to try this one in a daiquiri despite its low ABV (only 40%). Their aged rum is a blend of 8 year Barbados, Dominican column still, high ester Jamaican pot still and Trinidadian rum. This one lacked a bit of complexity in my opinion, but might be a great option in cocktails or for those looking for something more gentle for their palate.
Then I headed to my favorite producers to try some of the latest release I had not had a chance to try before: Worthy Park Madeira finish – I loved that one; Worthy Park Port finish; Holmes Cay Guyana (the Port Mourant and Uitvlugt); the new Plantation Australia; and some new expressions from the man behind “the Funk” with his Exodus and “Proof & Wood” lineup.
I had the chance to try the historic release of the first distillery’s official release of Long Pond (owned by National Rums of Jamaica – NRJ) with the ITP 15. A 100% pot still (John Dore), this 15-year old rum is very round with it’s 45.7% ABV. I found a really nice balance of Jamaican funk, tropical fruits and spices.
At the Plantation booth it was possible for a few of us to try the new Stave rums – a brand that Plantation revived in Barbados with the first 2 releases “Beach Vat N°1” and “Bond N°8”. Plantation also had a session where everyone had the opportunity to try the result of various stills at the West Indies Rum Distillery (WIRD) including the Vulcan still. I must say that each of the distillate had specific flavors pushing the rum diversity up another notch.
Last but not least, the final session of the day was an auction organized to support a legendary bar in London named “Trailer happiness”. Several producers had provided some exclusive rums and I had the chance to outbid everybody for a not-for-release bottle of Hampden LROK 2010 10 years at 63.3%.
Big congratulations to Federico and the team at RumLab for organizing this New York RumFest 2021 in difficult conditions. It felt great to reconnect in person with the people of the rum community! I can’t wait for the next episode of the RumFest, hoping the “Rum Congress” day will be back!