I was sitting here debating writing a 2019 recap and found myself in a swirl of emotions related to the year. Overall when I stacked the proverbial scales with the positives and negatives, the good and bad of the year, it was clear to me that I am blessed to have a fantastic group of friends, family, business associates, and editors that keep me grounded and focused. Having an inner circle that challenges you instead of going along with wherever your passions and emotions are taking you is a valuable thing and I am thankful to all of them for their helpful guidance and at times “management”. You know who you are.
What does this have to do with Rum? In 2019, well, a hell of a lot. It was another year of “living in interesting Rum times.” It was a year of asking the questions that maybe I had not asked enough of in the past. About looking at what were once trusted voices with a skeptical eye and being unafraid to challenge them. Finally I was motivated to let go: of people who brought the worse out in me, who demeaned me or the people I care about-(friends, readers, other writers),and most importantly lost my trust due to their own words and deeds. It was also a year of truly embracing kindred spirits; “Rum Family” reached a new level of importance, and constructive conversations and debate done in good faith became priceless commodities. The Spirits industry lost quite a few people last year and the passing of Rocky Yeh stunned many of us and left a void that all of us who knew him will be feeling for quite some time.
The challenges related to the developing Geographical Indicator for Barbados and threat to the established Jamaican one dominated conversations like few subjects I have ever seen in the Rum community. Guardians of Rum and “Save Barbados Rum” became viable groups and movements that demonstrated that they were not afraid to push back and show their opposition that their collective cares and concerns matter. In the Global Rum Community, the conversations became livelier; more and more Rum enthusiasts chose sides to the point at the end of the year a group of consumers came together and launched a boycott of Plantation Rum products. 2020 will reveal if this impacts the Maison Ferrand shareholders bottom line, but if enough people stop buying their products in stores and request that their cocktails be made with different products in bars it is bound to sting somewhere. I will be following the story closely and am curious to see if the boycott gains momentum or not.
As far as travel, 2019 started out with a bang at the Miami Rum Congress. In my humble opinion, the two day festival really did raise the bar for Rum Shows in the United States. Other travel highlights were returning to Cuba and finally getting to visit Jamaica and the beloved Hampden Estate. Tales of the Cocktail was exceptional and, as with the MRC, I’m looking forward to returning again this year.
There are a good many things in motion as I write this and I encourage everyone to enter 2020 with clarity and a foundation built on self reflection and honesty. The lines between business and friendship can get blurry and you need to trust your instincts, ask questions, and make your own educated decisions. It is perfectly okay to ask questions and challenge agendas if you detect a red flag. Finally I encourage everyone to enjoy your exploration of Rum and please drink responsibly. I will do my best to keep my event calendar updated with the shows I am attending and if you would like to meet up at one of them, please contact me, because all of these experiences are improved by sharing them. In the mean time I will continue to write, host seminars and tastings, and share the journey with you. Until next time- Happy New Year! Thank you for reading.