The weekend arrived in Miami and it was time for the Public Grand Tasting. The Festival space was twice as big as last year. I sat in the lobby with some of the other rum judges watching the last minute preparations: Beautiful women, company executives, and to make the situation perfect, a couple of pirates entered and left on various errands.
The doors opened for the VIP's at noon and we wandered in. The rum marathon had officially begun! One big improvement over last year was that everything was in one room. Rum Companies, vendors, and the World Tiki Team Championships stage encompassed the space. Living true to the Rum Festival Survival guide, I had a list of rums I wished to try or revisit.
We started with Appleton, which was front and center when we entered the room. Then we began bouncing booth to booth: Diplomatico (please get in Georgia!), Dos Maderas (please, please get in Georgia!), Rums of Puerto Rico, Don Q, Bacardi, Dictador, Dzama, Traveler's Rum of Belize, Chairman's Reserve, Siesta Key, Bohemio, Tiki Lovers, Vizcaya, Rhum St. Barth, and the list went on and on.
The vendors were a lot of fun. We picked up a few Tiki mugs from Fashion Tramp (www.ealoli.com) and a Davey Jones print from the incomparable artist Nigel Sade (nigelsade.com). Last year we fell in love with the Jerk marinade made by Island Fusion (www.islandfusion.net) and had to restock it. I also enjoyed the art and conversations with Nik Satterfield (www.nsatterfield.com). Tortuga Tile Works had a lot of new pieces. There were also vendors selling rum cakes, hot sauces, and barware.
The Soundtrack of the event was spun by Mike "the Jetsetter" Jones, who also hosted the Mod Miami event Saturday night. The music was pleasant and when the silence started you knew it was time to check out what was going on at the stage. Between the World Tiki Competition and product demonstrations there was always something to grab your attention. Thankfully there was plenty of seating when you needed to take a break. Special Congratulations to the UK Tiki team for winning their third year in a row.
Meanwhile, in the meeting rooms, a series of seminars were offered by some of the biggest names in the Rum world from Ian Burrell's Pina Colada Paternity test to Carl Kanto, Master Distiller with El Dorado. We lost track of time both days and missed this part of the festival. However everyone who did make it to it told us it was well worth their time and learned a lot.
At the end of the day Sunday the medals were handed out and we watched everyone pack up and head home. Monday morning we departed Miami with a new list of rums to acquire and plot for our next rum journey in our heads. Thanks to everyone who made this event special. We look forward to seeing you all next year.