Now in its sixth year, the festival features more than 80 rum producers worldwide offering tastes of over 200 rums to rum enthusiasts, pirates, and modern tiki gods.
And, like the spirit it celebrates, the festival is much more complex than just merely indulging. In addition to the grand tasting exhibition, Miami Rum Renaissance offers entertainment, a lifestyle showcase (because you need a hula girl lamp and a few tiki shirts), and expert seminars by some of the most knowledgeable and entertaining authors and distillers in the business. The festival is also the host of the world tiki cocktail championships, where top bartenders will be tasted with making the ultimate Tiki drink. Bartenders will be judged on showmanship, presentation, execution, taste and creativity by a panel of experts. The results will be announced at the festival.
The festival will also hold its annual RumXP international tasting competition, bringing together leading rum experts to judge dozens of rums in three days of blind tasting sessions. Winning rums are announced at the festival's trade day preview on Friday, April 25. The trade day, by the way, allows embers of the spirits industry a sneak peek from 3 - 7 p.m. at a discounted admission price of $20.
The festival will open to the public on Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27, from 3 - 7 p.m. VIP ticket holders can access the festival at noon each day. General admission is $50 each day and VIP admission is $75 per day. In addition, a three-day VIP ticket is $150 per person. The festival is offering a special "friends and family" BOGO special in VIP tickets. Until April 14, use code FFD14MRF when ordering and you'll receive two VIP tickets for the price of one. All tickets are available online at rumrenaissance.com or by calling 877-855-3378.
We asked Rum Renaissance's Robert Burr what's so special about rum and what we should look out for in 2014.
New Times: What can we expect at this year's festival that's new?
Robert Burr: First, we're attracting more interesting rum expressions from small artisanal and boutique rum producers. These are exclusive rums consumers may not be able to sample anywhere else. Second, this year the festival will feature more luxury, super premium rums than ever before from top distilleries in the Caribbean, Latin America and beyond. This is easily worth the price of admission. Third, we're offering hands-on cocktail demonstrations where participants can interact with expert mixologists to make their own classic cocktails, learning the simple techniques to easily make great cocktails for themselves and friends. Fourth, we'll offer an expanded lineup of interesting seminars from leading rum experts coming to Miami from around the globe to share their knowledge of rum. It's all bigger and better than ever.
How many rums are available for tasting?
The festival will feature more than 85 exhibitors showcasing more than 200 rums, from new high quality white mixable rums for making cocktails, to gold and aged rums that reflect the great variety of style available across the Caribbean and around the world. In addition, we have fabulous flavored and spiced rums that bring the essence of the tropics to every drink they touch. Finally, we'll present an outstanding array of luxury rums made by the finest master distillers and blenders in the world.
What's the rarest rum at the festival?
There are only 2,000 bottles of Don Pancho Origenes Reserva 30-year-old rum in the world. The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival may be the only chance VIPs will have to experience this exclusive rare luxury expression. Likewise, Brugal's Papa Andres Reserve de la Familia only distributes 500 bottles worldwide each year. There are others, but you'll have to inquire as they won't be widely available.
Three rums that shouldn't be missed are...
Three? Ouch. The new Selvarey Cacao from Panama offers a fine infusion of chocolate that will turn heads, already winning awards only weeks after being released to great fanfare in in Hollywood.
The amazing Lost Spirits Navy Style Rum made in the Monterey region is an expression that reflects the old British Navy style high ester rums with big rich tones of flavor, bottled at 136 proof.
From halfway around the world, Arcane Delicatissime from the island of Mauritius is an exquisite golden rum with crisp, light and fresh cane qualities. Do I have to stop at three?
Nah, keep going. You're making me thirsty.
The new Bundaberg Blenders Edition from Australia will surprise those that thought the rum down under was below par.
Cubaney Centenario and Opthimus 25 from the Dominican Republic will be at the festival for the first time, surely to gain greater appreciation from those that love truly delicious luxury rums.
Gosling's Family Reserve Old is a well-kept secret from Bermuda with exemplary aged rum flavor in a champagne bottle.
Finally, The Real McCoy rums from Barbados are for serious rum lovers and collectors, offering a genuine reflection of rums from the Prohibition era, now revisited.
Why a festival for just rum and not all spirits?
We love all spirits and we're certainly open to exhibiting all great spirits at the festival. We plan to explore welcoming other spirits in this future from vodkas and gins to whiskey's and tequilas and more. We're traveling the world extensively to discover the finest rums, savor the best from each country, learn how it's made and aged. We know rum best, but like our friends that attend the festival, we enjoy the discovery of all great spirits, so maybe we'll see a wider variety of distilled spirits at the festival in the future. Miami Spirits Festival has a nice ring to it. But rum will always be king in Miami.
Let's have a lesson in Rum 101 If the only thing I know about rum is that it mixes with Coke, what should I know about this spirit?
Rum presents an incredible range, from light and mellow tones to rich and tropical notes to bold and beautiful expressions. So many wonderful places around the world make rum, so many styles are presented, so many variations exist for every possible purpose. But, first and foremost, I hope our friends will realize that rum, as a category, is not ordinary at all. Rum is fascinating. The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival proves it.
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SHOW ME HOW
One last question for the newbies. What's the difference between the $12 bottle of hooch and all these expensive rums? And now that I have a bottle of rum, what can I do with it, beyond the Cuba Libre and the mojito?
Even at the entry level, rum is fun. Rum is delicious and rum brings friends together for good times. Yes, there are rums that we save for very special occasions, rums that impress our friends, rums that are a reflection of our high-class status or level success in this life. The little known fact is that many fine rums aged as little as four to seven years can be truly incredible. And approachable. And accessible to everyone. You can find rums for $12 or $15 or $20 that you'll gladly share with friends. You can't say that about scotch or tequila or bourbon. Pour that rum on top of a few good ice cubes in a simple tumbler and experience it as it begins to blossom in the glass. You can sip good rum by itself or you can create wonderful cocktails and mixed drinks that really show off rums finest qualities.