Last week, the rum industry assembled in Manhattan for the annual New York Rum Festival & Congress. About 50 industry heavy hitters were joined by a few hundred enthusiasts for two days of seminars and sipping in the Big Apple.
The show, itself, provided a welcome deviation from the industry norm of crowded rooms and minimal dialogue. Founder Federico Hernández deliberately capped the attendance below capacity ensuring a welcome departure from the grab & gulp tastings increasingly prevalent in the industry. As Hernández told Neat Pour, “This is not a drunk fest.”
Wait times at the dozens of booths were non-existent. Consequently, guests were provided the opportunity to walk through the tasting with a knowledgeable rep, often the distiller. Names such as David Cid, Alexandre Gabriel, Ben Jones, Richard Seale, and Joy Spence peppered the booths.
The ranges available, such as Appleton, Clement, Foursquare, and Plantation, are like holy mantras to rum enthusiasts. Despite much familiarity with the juices, guests still were provided with the opportunity to discover something new.
In the Spiribam area, Jones seemed to magically conjure rare expressions out of thin air. Over at Plantation, festers were surprised by aged rums from the Gabriel’s recently acquired stake in the legendary Long Pond Distillery.
Rum nerds also had plenty to slake their thirst for knowledge. The education sessions featured many of the afore mentioned bold faced names. Seale spoke about Barbados rum; Cid delivered a talk about the return of rum cocktails; and tiki legend Jeff “Beachbum” Berry enlightened the room about the history of Planter’s Punch.
Yet, the greatest appeal to many seasoned rum warriors was access. The truly unique aspect of the event was the ability to pick the minds of these industry leaders in person. Dialogue was not confined to formal Q&A sessions. To the contrary, one was able to converse one-on-one with these industry leaders throughout the entire fest.
The 2019 fest was almost twice as large as last year’s event. The growth is a microcosm of Hernández’s larger goal to build both knowledge and appreciation for rum. It’s a goal that we are fully behind; the 2020 incarnation can’t arrive fast enough… so, maybe we’ll check out Hernández’s California Rum Fest in San Francisco on September 7th.