Miami Rum Renaissance Festival director Robert Burr is what you might call "rum obsessed."
The author of Examiner.com's national rum page has about 900 bottles of rum in his private collection, hosts rum cruises on which fans can tour various distilleries at exotic ports of call, and is hosting an interactive rum seminar at this year's Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
In fact, rum is sort of the family business, with wife Robin working with vendors and distributors and son Robert writing an authoritative guide to more than 300 rums, complete with tasting notes. Whoever said "do what you love and the success will come" had the Burrs in mind.
Of all their rum-based ventures, their annual flagship event is the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, featuring a two-day grand tasting this Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21. In addition to sampling more than 200 rums, there will be seminars, cocktail competitions, and lifestyle exhibits. After all, whether you align yourself more with tiki culture or consider yourself a modern-day Jack Sparrow, rum, more than any other spirit, comes with its own culture.
This year, the festival moves off the Beach to the Miami Airport
Convention Center at the Doubletree by Hilton. Asked why the move,
festival director Robert Burr said that many fairgoers had difficulty
parking on the Beach. The new venue boasts $5 all-day parking for 1,700
cars and a larger facility for the event itself. "We've got some room
now. We've widened the aisles so people can walk through the exhibits
easier, and each rum company has a larger space."
In addition to
the grand tasting, the festival is hosting judged rum tastings and a variety
of parties and dinners throughout this week, including a daily rum happy
hour at the Broken Shaker from 6 to 8 p.m. now through Thursday, April 18, and several VIP parties hosted by various rum companies.
for the Rum Renaissance Festival are $50 daily for general admission and $65 daily for VIP, which includes access to a lounge with complimentary
hand-shaken premium rum cocktails and admittance to the grand tasting
two hours before the general public. Tickets to the various parties
range in price and are available online. The Broken Shaker happy hours
are open to the public, and no ticket is required.
We asked Burr what to look for at this year's festival. He's excited about tasting Papa's Pilar rum, named for Ernest Hemingway's beloved boat, Pilar, and hearing Phil Greene talk about his book To Have and Have Another (A Hemingway Cocktail Companion) this Saturday at 5 p.m. ($10 additional seminar fee for GA; included for VIP).
Burr is also looking forward to hosting a special guest for the weekend. "Don Pancho Fernandez was the master of rum of Cuba in the 1970s to the '90s. He retired to Panama, where he still makes rum, including Debonaire, which will be at the grand tasting. He really never leaves Panama -- but he comes to Miami for the festival, and it's an honor to have him."
So take your tiki shirt out of storage and practice your pirate-speak, because the Rum Renaissance Festival is bigger and better than ever.
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Here's a short film from last year that shows some of the tastings, parties, and events that you can look forward to again: