Missing the Festival

Well, that’s it . . . the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival came to remedy the world of all its wrongs, and restore harmony, peace, and justice not only to all humanity, but inexplicably to the animal kingdom as well.  Now it’s gone.  I did not attend this year.  Hopefully next year.  In anticipation of the festivities, I decided to do a bit of research by sampling lovely rums, after venturing up to Chicago recently and buying two rums unavailable to my home state.  Tanduay from the Philippines, and Hamilton 151 from Guyana (the awaited creation offering to rebalance the universe from the tragedy of losing Lemon Hart 151).  I made two Mai Tais, based on Trader Vic’s 1944 version, for a side-by-side experiment, substituting these two rums in for the recipe’s dark Jamaican and amber Martinique rums.

Tanduay Silver, which I was quite taken with at last year’s rum festival, is a straw-colored rum due to its moderate filtering to enhance flavor.  The sweet aroma is a little vegetal, slightly similar to an agricole, as well as smelling clean, without a burning fume for my ignorant sense of smell to enjoy.  I apologize for my lack of skill in describing tasting notes.  Rhum agricole is one of the two rums used to imitate the original and extinct J. Wray & Nephew 17 year, the key ingredient in the original recipe.  My favorite agricole is from Martinique, specifically the Clément, which deservedly masters its role in the Mai Tai.  I am not saying Tanduay is similar to Clément.  I am saying Tanduay is as good as Clément.  Not only the top-selling rum in Asia, Tanduay is the second strongest seller worldwide, second to the marketing powerhouse of Bacardi (I am not up to date on current fiscal earnings).  As for the tasting notes, what I taste is bell pepper, the funk aspect of honey, black peppercorn, maybe butterscotch…or is it toffee?  I don’t know – I taste a lot of things, and am embarrassed to not be able to put it all into coherent thought and syllables.  For an expert review, please click here.  The Rum Howler not only has a discerning palate, but the ability to explain such things well.  I highly recommend his expert reviews not only of rum, but other spirits.

Hamilton 151, subtitled “Ministry of Rum Collection,” which I particularly enjoy reading on the front of the bottle since I have learned from our ministry for some years, is a demerara rum, a dark rum, a spiced rum, and dangerously also an overproof rum.  Above all, it takes on the responsibility of saving a world without the legendary Lemon Hart 151.  Lemon Hart has had some tough times, recently bought by a Canadian company to continue the legacy, only to fall short of the desired financial success.  No longer bottled, we are at a loss, like children suddenly finding ourselves lost in the wilderness by night.  What are we to do?  Seriously, what are we going to do?  What do we float our tiki drinks with?  We need a dark demerara overproof with the wherewithal to stand defiantly on the mountaintop and bellow during the crushing storm.  We had it, and we lost it.  Edward Hamilton, who manages the website ministryofrum.com, tried to help.  In the end, the overproof version of the company would not survive.  So Mr. Hamilton helped in another way by starting afresh with a new rum with the goal of coming close to the highly complex flavors of Lemon Hart 151.  His Hamilton 151 was born, and not an easy task I would assume.  For those who have tasted Lemon Hart 151, you know what towering height this achievement would seem.  For those who have tasted both, please let me know what you think.  Does Hamilton come close enough?  The tasting notes of this rum are beyond me.  Too much goes on, elusive, and yet obviously luring me with a long list of clues.  The best I can do is tell you this story in hopes you search the rum out for yourself.  It is worth it.  Back to the ingredient for the Mai Tai, Hamilton 151 is not a dark Jamaican rum, yet rich and oaky, sweet and bold.  I usually use Myers’s or Coruba for this category.

The second part of the experiment is comparing Jeff Beachbum Berry’s research of Trader Vic’s Mai Tai with Trader Vic’s own, going by their prospective books, Remixed, and Tiki Party!  There is one difference in their recipes:  The amount of freshly squeezed lime juice, whether one ounce, or only a half ounce, which sounds like a huge difference.  If you look around, you will find Trader Vic Mai Tai recipes with one ounce measurements for lime juice.  This book has a different recipe, perhaps for the reason of using Trader Vic brand rums.  Regardless, this is a fun way to try a published recipe against another published recipe.


 Trader Vic's Tiki Party! Mai Tai
1 oz gold rum (Tanduay Silver)
1 oz dark rum (1/2 oz Hamilton 151)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz curaçao (Curaçao de Curaçao)
1/4 oz orgeat
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 cups crushed ice

Shake ingredients vigorously for a few seconds until very cold, and pour unstrained into a chilled double old-fashioned glass.  Garnish with one of the spent lime shell halves, and a healthy sprig of mint.  Sorry, I have no mint (too early in the year for outdoor growth).


Remixed Mai Tai
1 oz gold rum (Tanduay Silver)
1 oz dark rum (1/2 oz Hamilton 151)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz curaçao (Curaçao de Curaçao)
1/4 oz orgeat
1/4 oz simple syrup

I’m going to quote the Beachbum’s instructions, “Shake well with plenty of crushed ice.  Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass.  Sink your spent lime shell into drink.  Garnish with a mint sprig.”

After tasting both drinks, the obvious was obvious.  The Mai Tai with more lime simply tasted more tart.  The one with less tasted sweeter.  The Tiki Party! Mai Tai, however, hid nuances where the Remixed Mai Tai revealed.  Then I toasted the Burr family with both drinks, and went back to remembering the rum festival.

The Miami Rum Festival!! (part 2)

This posting is completely different from any other I have written – no recipes, no pictures, essentially a list of rums and nothing more.  This installment of the luxurious time I spent at the Miami Rum Festival has to do with the rums I experienced, and my immediate and brief thoughts on them.  Out of the large roster, some rums I knew of very well, some I have on my shelves at home, some I have heard of, some I have not, and a special few bottles I have waited a long time to see.  I did not taste every single rum, nor stopped at every booth, either because I knew enough, or simply did not have enough time.  Also, I did not taste every rum at each booth for the sheer reason of keeping my head and not getting so inebriated I could not discern fact from fiction.  I had to resort to near blasphemy:  Throwing into the trash an exquisite rum time after time so that I would not ingest every drop of rum I took in hand.

One of my regrets was not taking a picture of every rum I visited (or revisited).  After all, sometimes seeing a bottle with the brand’s label on it makes the description more conspicuous.  For that I apologize.  Click here to go to the festival’s website listing of rum bottle images.  I also wished I would have taken more pictures of the grand view of it all.

On my festival program, I kept track of each rum I tasted by rating it (the ranking is between 0 & 4), whether I would buy the rum (or better yet – “will” buy, or without a doubt – “MUST” buy…in a way ranking the rum in another fashion), and finally a few words to differentiate each from one another.  Below resembles what I wrote in my program, but with more words and less symbols.

Abuelo 7 year – 3 – makes a lovely mojito, I will buy this  (for the record – on Trade day, the vivacious woman working the Abuelo booth in my mind won Queen of the Festival)

Appleton Estate 12 year – 3 – maybe too good for cocktails, at which the Reserve excels (did not taste the Reserve since I vigilantly maintain a hardworking bottle at home)

Bayou Silver – 1 – would require bold flavors in a cocktail

Bayou Spiced – 1.5 – not often do I prefer a brand’s spiced rum over its silver, but not much better

Botran Reserva Blanca – 3 – nice mixing rum, and pleasant neat – I will buy this

Botran Solera 1893 – 2.5 – makes a wide variety of cocktails better – I would buy this

Brugal Blanco – 3 – a tasty white rum – I would buy this

Caliche – .5 – did not care much for this, nor appreciate the neglect by the booth (shared by other Puerto Rican rums who refused to sample) – they were late, ill-prepared, and did not wish to help people learn about them – these rums lost a customer

Centenario Añejo Espacial 7 year – (from Costa Rica) – 2.5 – I’d only want to drink this tasty rum neat – I would buy this

Diplomatico Añejo – 3 – way too good for my mixing needs, maybe as a treat – I would buy this

Don Q Cristal – 2 – separate from the group of Puerto Rican rums, I enjoyed my visit to this booth – nice clean white rum, and versatile – I would buy this

Don Q Gold – 2 – pretty good gold rum

Don Q Coco – 1 – super sweet, sugary more than coconut flavor

Don Q Passion – 3 – a lovely rum, and made a dynamite cocktail, would work with many recipes – I will buy this

Dos Maderas 5+3 years – 3 – delicious mixing rum, made a fantastic punch – I will buy this

Dzama Cuvée Blanche 40 – 4 – Good grief this rum is good, rare to give a white rum a 4.0 – wishing to drink this white rum neat, and the one below only with cocktails – not only would I buy this, I MUST buy this (too bad I could not buy at the festival)

Dzama Cuvée Blanche Prestige 80 – 3.5 – a fantastic white rum, would make perfect cocktails – I will buy this

Dzama Vanilla Amber 30 – 3.5 – probably the best vanilla rum flavor I have ever tasted, such a strong pronunciation of vanilla – I will buy this

El Dorado 8 year – 2.5 – a big fan of the 12 year, this almost tasted like fruit not yet ripe, good…but not at the level of excellence as the 12 – I would buy this

El Dorado 12 year – 4 – this rum is incredibly hard to beat, so good, so versatile, so bold – don’t know why I tasted this when I’m very familiar, but couldn’t resist – I will buy this for years to come, a constant on my shelf at home

El Dorado 15 year – 2.5 – too good for cocktails, almost as if its quality is lost on me – I’ve heard of this in cocktails, but hadn’t tasted it, now that I have, either my palate is too juvenile, or I disagree – my rating does not justify this fine rum

English Harbour 5 year – 3 – I really enjoyed tasting this for the first time, I could do many things mixing this – I would buy this

English Harbour Reserve 10 year – 2 – an excellent rum, too good for cocktails

Flor de Caña 7 year – 4 – I have waited a long time to try this year, the anticipation worth the reputation – I DID buy this (at a Miami liquor store down the street)

Gosling’s Gold – 3.5 – the Dark n Stormy is one of my favorite drinks, which of course is only made with Gosling’s Dark Seal – they made one more with their gold rum…delicious – I will buy this

Goslings Old Rum – 1.5 – where the Black Seal is versatile for me, the Old Rum is better off neat than mixing

Koloa White (excuse the spelling, I could not create a link with an ō) – 2 – not that an astringent flavor is necessarily bad every time, extremely clean in every other way, a resourceful white rum – I might buy this

Kōloa Gold – 2 – almost exactly like the white, but with more flavor aside from the astringency – I liked the white better though

Kōloa Spice – 1.5 – just like the first two, strong astringency as the foremost over-distracting flavor, leaving little room for spices

Kōloa Dark – 3 – pure vanilla flavor, yet astringent like the first three rums – I liked this rum very much – I might buy this

Kōloa Coconut – 4 – likely the best coconut rum I have ever tasted – was told by one of the owners (what’s his name – find card) they infuse for 2 years, long enough to completely obliterate any astringency…completely free of it, 100% coconut – I MUST buy this

Lost Spirits Navy Style Rum – 2 – pretty dry, pretty hot (68%) – thought it would make a good mixing rum

Ron Medellin 3 year – 3 – I liked this rum and saw it making lots of cocktails – I would buy this

Ron Medellin 8 year – 2.5 – less likely to mix with cocktails unless not the main rum, rather a background rum – seemed more like a neat drinking rum

Mount Gay 1703 – 4 – I can’t think of any better rum for appreciating neat, even large ice might insult how good this rum tasted – a sin if mixed – a treat for special occasions – I definitely would buy this

Papa’s Pilar Dark – 3 – rich and friendly, ready for a long list of cocktails, as well as mixing with other rums – I DID buy this

Plantation Guyana 2005 – 3.5 – delicious – for both mixing and neat, but I’d want to mix everything with this – I really want to buy this

Plantation Trinidad 1999 – 3.5 – Good grief this was good, tasted like an agricole, lovely balance of many flavors – I DID buy this

Plantation Original Dark – 3 – delicious, tasted like what the rep. said, “The overproof is 100% the flavor, this is a lighter version.” – I could mix so many drinks with this – I would buy this

Plantation Original Dark Overproof – 3.5 – way better than the Original Dark, like drinking the real this – at 73%…it’s a hot one – I DID buy this

Plantation 3 Stars White – 3 – a lovely white rum, it could do almost anything – I would buy this

Real McCoy 3 year White – 1.5 – I didn’t care for this one as much – seemed limited to what it might make

Real McCoy 5 year – 2 – better than the White, opening more possibilities for various recipes

Rum Fire (White Overproof) – .5 – like it was supposed to special simply because it could be hot, but nothing special about it

Tanduay Silver – 3 – one of my favorite white rums at the festival, one I would think would become one of my all-time favorite whites – I would very much like to buy this

Tiburon – 1.5 – I was disappointed with this one, hoping for it – the flavor did not call to me

Viejo de Caldas 3 year – (from Columbia by Industria Licorere de Caldas) – 3 – I particularly liked this rum, and could smell it all day – so many things this could do with all kinds of drinks – I liked it better than the Grand Reserva – I would love to buy this

Viejo de Caldas Grand Reserva – 2.5 – a bit more sophisticated, and better suited drinking neat, but still would make excellent drinks (just not as many) – I would buy this

Zafra 21 year – (from Panama) – 3.5 – very impressed with this new rum, did I hear correctly they started in 2009, and already had rum aging? – if so, in my opinion the best new rum not only of the festival, but perhaps the best new rum start I have ever tasted – nonetheless, not a mixing rum, only suited for neat imbibing – I would buy this

The Miami Rum Festival!! (part 1)


Question:  Is it possible to have more fun than any thing else on the planet than attending a festival for the sole purpose of tasting a great number of rums?  The Sixth Annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival was an idealized crowning achievement, not The pinnacle moment of my life, but a single pinnacle moment of hopefully many.  I have had some big ones already, not many, but a small number of exceptionally delightful experiences.  This was one of them – a delight to marvel, to simply stand there and soak in the view, causing a primitive elation, similar to a childhood memory of bliss and excitement.  And this is all before I stepped forward, and walked from booth to booth, talking to the representatives, reading provided literature, smelling the vast bouquets from around the world, and of course tasting.

Here’s an example of how I felt:  Have any of you seen the movie, Rudy, where the main character, Rudy, get’s to play for the first time on his last football game as a senior at the University of Notre Dame, a lifelong dream?  He invites his father, among others in his family, to come to the game.  His father, played by Ned Beatty, finally comes to his own first Fighting Irish game, also a lifelong fan of Notre Dame football, where Rudy learned it.  And as he enters the stadium, he stops in his tracks to take in the grandeur he has only dreamed of, and breathes the reverent words, “This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.”  To help you, not just for those who have not yet seen the movie, here’s the scene:

Since I work in the industry, I was lucky enough to attend the Trade Day Tasting, an exclusive gathering for those who either sell, promote or distribute rum.  The second day brought more people, allowing me to continue in the great adventure by completing the long list of rums I wished to explore.  The third day I did not attend simply because I learned everything I needed, and preferred to hit the road for home.  Robert Burr, his wife Robin and his son Rob, who also all run their website Rob’s Rum Guide, did an amazing job creating this festival in Miami for a sixth time.  They should be congratulated on their success and appreciation to detail.  To learn more about the festival, go to their website:  Miami Rum Renaissance Festival.

Thurston Howell, III (Jim Backus) I think says it all right here.

Thurston Howell, III (Jim Backus) I think says it all right here.

Not quite Jim Baucus, but he's a fine example to live by.

Emulating Jim Backus.








Not only did Botran offer neat tastings (“straight” if you prefer), or their delightful Skinny Colada, but also a hard-working man chopping coconuts with a machete – and their pouring in some rum.  It was so light and deliciously refreshing – just coconut water and rum.  Nothing more.  Mmm…I drank every drop of it.  This Guatemalan rum impressed me in so many ways, whether neat, in a simple recipe, or complex.

As a recipe for the Skinny Colada, they printed a list of ingredients without measurements on the table.  I asked if they knew the measurements, but did not.  I later contacted Botran to get the precise recipe, and the good people at RockOrange, Botran’s Public Relations company, gave me all the help I needed.  Botran distills sugar cane juice in column stills that contain copper parts inside.  Their aging process, called Sistema Solera, ages rums for up to 14 years in oaken barrels previously holding American whiskey, sherry and port wines.  I am ridiculously inept at recognizing my palate, and therefore grateful for assistance in describing the tasting notes – candied fruits, red cherry, ripe fruits and clove.


botran skinny colada







Skinny Colada (recipe provided by Botran)
1 1/2 oz Botran Reserva
1/2 oz agave nectar
2 pineapple slices 
2 oz coconut water 
1/2 oz fresh lime juice 
coconut shavings

Muddle pineapple with agave nectar, lime juice and coconut water.  Add rum.  Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled collins glass with fresh ice.  Garnish by sprinkling a little shaved coconut.

Dos Maderas surprised me the most with what was in their punch bowl.  Normally I tend not to use basil or jalapeño in my drinks, ingredients I have not found success until now.  So this drink really opened my eyes.  The Dos Maderas 5+3 tasted delicately of vanilla and nut, resting first inside American oak casks for five years in the Caribbean, then moving to Spain to age three years in sherry casks – hence the “5+3” in the title.

Okay…first let me warn you, for those of you who do not like really spicy food, or do not enjoy how hot a jalapeño can get, please slice it thin – really thin…coin thin.  The jalapeño adds a fantastic flavor to this, but can get overly spicy if that is not the kind of thing you enjoy.  On the other hand, if you dig it hot, cut the slice a half a centimeter thick.  My first one I cut thick, and enjoyed it, but realized immediately the overwhelming power of the jalapeño, and how it won easily over the basil (and almost every other ingredient).  So please, for your first one, please slice the jalapeño as thin as you can to measure what your preference is.  Another tip:  Remove the seeds and white fascia, which are the hottest parts, leaving the green fruit for the best results.  Also, how you muddle can make a difference, whether mashing the jalapeño and basil to bits to find the most flavor, or subtly and briefly pressing for a mild extraction, or even muddling the basil first, and harder than the jalapeño.  I liked my second drink better.  The first simply had too much heat in it, even though I thoroughly enjoy spicy food.

dos maderas

Passion Fontaine







Passion Fontaine (recipe provided by Dos Maderas)
1 1/2 oz Dos Maderas 5+3 
2 basil leaves 
1 jalapeño slice 
3/4 oz passion fruit purée
3/4 oz simple syrup 
1/2 oz fresh lime juice

Muddle basil, jalapeño and syrup.  Shake in the rest of the ingredients with ice, strain over fresh ice in a chilled glass.  Garnish with a basil leaf and jalapeño slice.

Mount Gay did not disappoint as one of my favorite rums.  Every product they make succeeds as superior, and a treat to taste.  Since 1703 from Barbados, Mount Gay has perfected the distillation technique, and ranked themselves by many rum lovers as “the reference by which all rum should be measured.”  The Eclipse has floral and fruit-forward notes of apricot and banana, with a touch of vanilla, aged for at least two years in toasted Kentucky oak barrels.

miami swizzled punch

miami sqizzle punch







Miami Swizzled Punch (recipe provided by Mount Gay) 
2 oz Mount Gay Eclipse 
1/2 oz ginger purée
1/2 oz pineapple purée
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice 
1/2 oz honey 
2 dashes Angostura bitters 
pinch of ground pepper mix (green, pink, black, white) 
club soda (optional)

Multiply ingredients by 50 for a punch bowl, stirring, then adding large ice for dilution and chilling.  Serve over ice, and garnish with an edible orchid.    If making a single serving, I would suggest the mechanics of shaking over stirring, then straining into chilled glass with a single piece of ice.  Stir in soda if you want bubbles.  If you do not have an edible orchid, a chuck of pineapple will encourage each quaff.

Note:  If you are making a punch bowl amount, I do not think Mount Gay intended you to add 50 pinches of pepper mix.  I would advise 8 pinches – stirring thoroughly – then tasting to see if you want more.