Alas, on with the actual Rum Fest. I was finally well rested and mentally responsive. Hooray! I actually do not know where I did start but Rum Artesanal had the very first booth that was impossible to miss. From their new releases that I didn’t have so far I’ve tried the El Salvador (so-so at best) and the Australia (oh yeah! Dominik didn’t dare to say anything about its origin but let me tell you that it has to be about a round figure…). On to Kirsch, who didn’t have anything new for me but a nice selection of employees. Both, on the table and behind the booth ;). Edit: Oh I completely forgot about their Bielle 2001 single cask selection – extraordinary stuff, just like the other single casks!). Next to some Ceylon Arrack (good!) and caring beans with nerdy glass holders (whut??? – no worries) there was Rum Nation, with Mr. Rossi himself. It was cool to meet him, even though I didn’t get to talk to him more closely. As far as the Rums are concerned, they brought two new Savannas as well (the Grand Arôme was nice, the Agricole not so much, rather boozy and alcholic), a Port Mourant from 2001 (the real deal!), a Madeira which I didn’t try and a “British Guyana” blend (don’t ask what that’s supposed to be ;)) which was quite heavy on Enmore but all in all relatively boring if you ask me. So all of this was very close to the entrance and besides the Kirsch booth, who had some really nice decoration (and help from the ever so friendly Aurelie, what made especially Mr. Dutti very happy), rather standard.
But what the German Rum Fest and its exhibitors are doing better than every other Rum fair (let’s not even talk about Whisky!) is the ambience, the level of detail and the beauty of the booths, which really is unmatched I think. Of course there’s the general tendency that the worse a product is, the nicer is its company’s booth but there are great exceptions on both ends of the spectrum. All in all, being there just feels very nice and harmonious and there’s something new to discover every couple of meters. Well done! Haromex, whom you may mostly know from their The Secret Tresures line-up, was next and they brought the new single still El Dorados (who needs these products? – the idea is great, the rum not even close to its potential…), the new Bristols (a boring PM 2008, a great old Versailles, something I just cannot remember and a Felicite Caroni, but more on that in part III), Montebello, Savanna, and other good stuff. What stuck with me the most though was their representative’s ability to trash talk – which I just love. You are awesome, sir, and I did have some great laughs. HSE, Damoiseau, Depaz and Saint James were all there but didn’t really have anything new (if I recall correctly). S.B.S, who might have some of the coolest guys in all of Rum with Joshua and Gregers, came with a new Sherry cask finished DOK (ok, but miles away from the first release) which was the official fair bottling but besides that mostly known stuff. But Joshua wouldn’t be Joshua if there were no secret samples beneath the table ;). Oh and Gregers, dat Lemon Hart… Oh my! I was quite disappointed by the DonQ products, especially since I’ve heard mostly good things about them. From me, you won’t. My fave was their Vermouth cask, which essentially did only taste like Vermouth. Let’s get to the new discoveries. So not new bottlings of familiar stuff but Rum that was really new to us. On the fun side, there’s Cinecane, a popcorn infused Rum blended with Bajan juice. There has been a lot of hate for the product (rightly so) for it to be allowed to call itself Rum and its general lack of transparency (even their representatives were not able to explain how it is produced exactly) but listen: No, it isn’t Rum nor should it be called Rum or be among other Rums (you won’t be able to taste properly for a long time after having this) but it is a fun product. I can imagine it being great in some cocktails such as a Daiquiri, you just have to skip the syrup. Concerning actual rum there was a very nice molasses and juice blend from St. Barth, the Rhum Island range from St. Marteen/ Marie Galante, Sangar from Liberia (! – a review is about to follow) and MiM from Ghana who have been represented by Jakob, a very cool dude (the same could be said about the guys from Sangar and Rhum Island, sorry, I forgot your names…).
What else… I met a few cool new guys (you know who you are) and it seems like these were the very same guys you would see everywhere in the city on that particular weekend. It was a pleasure though! Christian Nagel with his Our Rum & Spirits line had a few interesting things (the TDL was quite good!), as did Nine Leaves. At the end of the day Mr. B. from B. and myself ran into a rather
fun beardy father and son combination, even though the drunk father quickly went out of control (“whom do you call xyz” – something that has never been said) and even got physical. When people introduces themselves as “extremely stupid” (son) and “aggressive” (father), just run I guess. There really needs to be something like a driver’s licence for drinking, or a special pass for “high risk individuals” who get a stamp for every dram they have and where the barkeeper stops them once it is full. I don’t know. But 99,5% of the people were very friendly, which also isn’t obvious at a “drinking event” if you think about it.
Finally, we need to discuss the bad as well. There were plenty of random “Punching brands” which I don’t really care about but that’s still a big side of the business of course, so let’s not complain about it too much or call names. Usually we would add Plantation here but they seem to be making tiny steps forward. Nevertheless, they didn’t earn any bonus points this time because of their unfriendly crew. Sorry, but if you don’t know what your company is doing (at least not as well as some stupid blogger) and if you give preferential treatment to bar owners relative to real rum lovers some negative words have to be said. This used to be different! What is more, there’s the Selected Cask Community by Mr. Kröger. Let me just say that you cannot pour some bottles in a barrel and call it a “washed cask”. In a different, i.e. bigger, industry people would sue you for that. But if someone can do this in clean conscience and still write “No Bullshit” on the label, I have to tip my hat. The awful (sorry to say this but your labeling and pricing policies are a slap in the face for the entire Rum scene!) guys from RomDeluxe had a new, old Enmore, which was very bad (without any prejudice even) and That Boutique-Y Rum Company disappointed with the vast majority of its bottlings. Add that all of them are waaaayyy overpriced and you get what is an absolutely unnecessary bottler (no harm intended, really). On the plus side, all samples were available free of charge. With Kill Devil it is pretty much the other way around; the quality of their bottlings is basically hit and miss (as with most bottlers these days) but mostly they are fairly priced – just not their drams at the/ a fair. Demanding this much surely isn’t good marketing and it is no surprise that their booth has been empty the whole time. Argh, I didn’t really want to write that much negative stuff acually but some things just need to be said. Enough of that. Ah wait. Kenneth gave me a sample of the The Duchess Diamond 1998 which, as they claim, is Enmore. Just let me tell you that it is not (how could it be, right!?) and the the Rum Artesanal Diamond 1998 is a lot better (even though my feelings were also rather mixed with that one).
The next stop was the Lebensstern bar again, who have a relatively noble restaurant (Bar Einstein) at the ground floor. The atmosphere at the bar is really nice and sligtly posh but for me it was mostly about the anecdotes (“No, I didn’t say anything about Mayonnaise” or “yeah, that will knock off your glass eye”, right, Stefan!?). Anyway, it was great fun, just like the rest of the evening at the Lebensstern, even though I didn’t have anything too interesting besides a nice Long Pond 1986 and a sniff of the legendary Martinique 1940. There was a Tiki theme with a special bartender but the drinks were exactly the same as the night before. Next time, we shall continue with a few impressions from a private tasting that has been held on Sunday.