Federico Hernández wants you to love rum as much as he loves rum. And, Federico really loves rum. Rum-ance will be on full display on June 14th and 15th, when the Hernandez’s New York Rum Festival (NYRF) gathers the faithful and the curious alike for todays of education and sipping.Although Hernandez is now responsible for five rum festivals including NYRF, his relationship with the spirit started much earlier. He told Neat Pour that he was born and raised in Puerto Rico where sugar cane distillates were a common part of life. However, the spirits were simply a part of daily life, not the focus of a celebration.
“When I was around 27, I realized that Puerto Rico didn’t have a rum bar or a rum festival,” he recalled. Shortly thereafter, Hernandez founded A Taste of Rum, the island’s first national rum fest.
The project continued a few years later when he relocated to the States and created the Midwest Rum Festival, now the Chicago Rum Festival.“Then, I began to realize that people are really attracted to education,” the founder explained.
Education remains a major focus at the events. The NY Rum Fest features two days of seminars and panels.
Friday (6.14), the conference’s opening day, will be filled with wall to wall educational sessions. “If you want to sit down and learn about rum for the next six hours straight, this day is for you.”
Spiribam’s Ben Jones and Kiowa Bryan will speak abut St. Lucia’s rum revival. Distillers Karen Hoskin and Nelson Hernández will join brand ambassadors Otto Flores and Mauricio Solorzano to discuss sustainability. Bacardi’s David Cid will dive into cocktails. Distilling legend Richard Seale will weigh in on rum from his home island, Barbados. Engineer George Manska will deliver a talk on glassware. Rum writer Matt Pietrek and Don Q’s Alexx Mouzouris will speak about Spanish Rum.
“The first day is more serious, it’s for people interested in going in-depth into education,” summarized Hernández.
The following day will also feature education. Big names like Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry and Juan Coronado will join some of the previous speakers to deliver a whole new set of talks.
“I’m always concerned, ‘How can i make the event better, less party more education,’” mused Hernández. “But then I also want people to attend the event.”
So, the second day of the fest will introduce the second ingredient in Hernández’s fest equation: tasting premium rum. Having embraced higher end rums only later in life, NYRF’s creator understands the importance of providing the opportunity to explore.
“When I opened the bar, I discovered sipping rums,” he said. “But there were not many [available].My knowledge was originally just based on availability.”
The sector grew—significantly—since those days of limited distribution. Availability will not be an issue at rum NYRF. Dozens of brands will be available during a grand tasting that will highlight Saturday’s festivities at the Metropolitan West (639 W. 46th St., NYC, NY 10036).
Appleton, Banks, Dictador, Wray & Nephew, Hampden, Worthy Park, Denizen, Don Q, Flor de Cana, Four Square, Rhum Clement, and Rhum J.M. are just a few of the names populating the all-starlineup.
Guests will be served quarter ounce pours of the various expressions. All those tastes will add up fast, but Hernandez stressed that pacing yourself is important because “This is not about girls in bikinis. This is not a drunk fest. It’s completely about embracing rum.”
If NYRF is your first rum fest, Hernández recommends starting with two brands that you’ve never tried before. When you find one you like, he encourages talking to the rep—who is often the distiller in the tight world of rum.
For those with a little more know, he suggested starting with a familiar brand then looking at the other expressions and ranges in their portfolio.
However, you chose to traverse the impressive offerings, Hernández’s hope remains the same: “Embrace Rum!”
Additional info and tickets can be found here.