After an hour or so at the UK RumFest, sampling a silly amount of rum, my friend Rob turns to me and says, “I think I’ve had enough rum.”
I respond, “Did you ever think you would say those words?”
It was Saturday, the 15th of October, and the first day of the UK RumFest, aka the Rum Experience. Large numbers of people turned out to crowd bars and tables set up in Kensington’s Olympia 2 in the name of a distilled liquid once made on sultry plantation land as a by-product of sugar, used as currency to trade for slaves, often associated with pirates, used in voodoo and santeria rituals and found in watermelon mojitos.
Rum: It’s a multi-purpose drink.
After a stout meal of Italian pizza in Notting Hill, my cohort Rob and I hopped a bus out to the RumFest and were immediately overwhelmed by a sense of, “Okay, what, where do we go?” Each bar had a sizeable crowd gathered around whatever table, counter, vintage truck, cargo box or pirate ship they were serving out of. It was a bit mental to just process the amount of people milling about and wandering around, but also to wrangle with the knowledge that, yes, there is alcohol here, and yes, we need to figure out how to get our hands on some.
But from where? The options abounded, and interestingly, the crowds were clustered around the more recognisable names in the rum biz: Mount Gay, Sailor Jerry’s, the Havana Club, Captain Morgan’s (who had the aforementioned pirate ship, natch). The crowds were also around the smaller places, actually. Okay, the crowds were everywhere, but a little less so at the Angostura counter, at least when we decided to make that our first little port of call for rum sampling.
I was familiar with Angostura bitters, having used them in homemade cocktail recipes before (see The Hangover After the Storm), but I wasn’t aware that Angostura made rum. The gentleman behind the counter wearing a black button-down shirt with the Angostura logo was quite amicable as he chatted with us about the different rums there were to try. I went for a sample of the darker rum, I think from their 1824 line, served up neat so I could taste the flavour of the rum.
With nice rummy chocolate tones and a bit of sweet molasses tang, my Angostura rum sample was delicious, and has remained a stand-out among the many other rums I sampled that day.
So. Many. Others.
We moved on from the Angostura counter and drifted over to a corner of the RumFest where there was a lot of activity. Ron Jeremy (yes, the Ron Jeremy) was on hand for photos at the kiosk for Ron de Jeremy, his namesake rum line.
“For Adults Only.”
The legend was only available at RumFest on Saturday, so Rob and I were lucky enough to have our list of celebrity sightings added to. He may be the biggest celebrity I’ve ever seen. No pun intended. Anyway, we had a taste of Ron de Jeremy (the rum, not the man) and it was okay, but not particularly outstanding. Still, that didn’t stop fans from buying bottles of Ron’s rum, and from getting photographed with Mr Jeremy. I posed for a photograph with Ron Jeremy, but alas I forgot to turn my camera on when I handed it to Rob. But he did kiss my cheek–a claim to fame my father back in Florida may have mixed feelings about. Or, as a friend of mine at work remarked after I told her about it, “Oh, where those lips have been!”
Emboldened by our brush with the Prince of Porn, we moved onward into the RumFest, finding ourselves before various other stalls for concoctions of cocktails, samples of rum (and one of cachaça) and ladles of punch served from a treasure chest.
We clustered along with others for samples, tastes, nips and sips and moved from little bar to little bar, with a quick wander downstairs to the lower level of the festival that lacked alcohol samples, so it was a lot less crowded. Still, it didn’t stop one festival attendee from snagging a sample from a bottle of Mount Gay left unattended at the Tropical Food Area, to the amusement of a man watching.
After a while, though, Rob and I felt like we saw all we needed to see and sipped all we needed to sip. Rob was tired of rum, I was tired of the taste of ginger beer, and we never got a coconut because the line was too long. We had finished festing and were in need of coffee to counteract the soporific effects of the rum we’d been drinking, as well as a respite from being around crowds–which didn’t quite happen when we wound up in Oxford Street afterwards, but oh well. At least we got coffee.
From the many rums I sampled, I found it interesting that yes, the variants between rum is quite amazing. Much like bourbon, rum is diverse in how it is distilled and spiced. My three favourite rums I sampled are below:
- The Kraken – My favourite out of all the rums I had, not only is the label badass, but the taste–a dark molasses/demerara flavour not overly spiced–is a quintessential rum taste that won me over. I’m looking to buy a bottle to use in holiday baking and drinking. Lots of drinking.
- Pyrat – It’s like bourbon and rum had a baby. The oak barrels that Pyrat is kept in definitely impart a flavour onto it unlike most rum available at the RumFest. Really unique.
- Angostura whatever-it-was – Presumably the 1824, but it could have been the 1919. Whatever one it was, it was nice.
I believe there are some people reading this who might be in a position to get me Christmas/New Year’s gifts…