Alcohol, like music or food, is something that transcends the barriers of time, place, gender and class. Almost everyone drinks and a fair few people enjoy, in some form or another, rum. Testament to its popularity was last weekend’s 2010 RumFest, brimming with connoisseurs and curious amateurs alike.
The event held a wide enough variety to satisfy all taste buds. For those not in the know, rum is distilled from sugarcane and is ethnic to Caribbean and South American countries. In the UK it is known mostly for its light varieties, used in cocktails like the mojito and the daiquiri. A younger crowd was drawn to the sweeter, lighter varieties like Banks 5 and Elements Eight and the cocktail stands of the more popular brands like Bacardi and Sailor Jerry. Slightly more serious, know-what-I’m-doing attendees hovered around the stands of aged, dark, oaky (read: £1,070 for 50cl) spirits.
Gosling’s Black Seal is a sweeter, dark rum with a slight vanilla flavour, best for an on-the-rocks experience. Brugal is vile on its own, but surprisingly refreshing mixed into a type of mojito. Jamaican-bred Appleton Estates rum is probably most recommended for those of us with a taste for dark rum but without an investment banker salary. Although, I may have been swayed by the enormous tiki head in which this particular sample was handed to me.
It must be said that the purpose of the RumFest is more marketing than partying. The represented brands are there with the aim of expanding their client base, and that does dry out the atmosphere a bit. In addition, seeing how both alcohol and business are male-dominated domains, representatives preferred to talk to my male companion under the assumption that I was his plus-one. Both amusing and depressing. The testosterone also seeps into the presentation for brands like Dictador, which was advertised by some eastern European dominatrix babes. Great to look at, but know nothing about rum.
However, the organisers did take care to diffuse the event with classes, competitions and presentations. Angostura hosted the European bartending championship, with cocktail artists from all walks of life whizzing up a wide variety of exotic drinks. Still, at £20 a ticket, the RumFest remains an event for the true aficionados. And for the love of god, have a big lunch before you go.
RumFest 2010 took place at Kensington Olympia on October 16 to 17, 2010.