Ten years ago you'd have struggled to find one international rum festival. Today, there's more than you can shake a tiki mug at. Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell was ahead of the curve when he founded UK RumFest. Now, as he prepares for the eleventh outing, he talks to Imbibe about the journey the show and rum have been on.
The news rum is set to hit the £1bn sales barrier this year was welcome news to some but for Burrell it is just the tip of the totem pole.
'We have only just started with the shouting about rum,' he said. 'Rum is one of the most amazing spirit categories but there are still many people that either under value it, or misunderstand it.'
What does he think the biggest misconception is? 'That rum has no rules, no regulations and just has to be made from sugar to be called rum. [If you] come to a masterclass at the UK RumFest you'll quickly realise that those misconceptions are for the people that just don't know much about rum.'
More than 50 companies with close to 400 rums will be on display over the three days of RumFest (13-15 October). The trade day, Boutique RumFest, and conference is taking place on the first day and the next two will be more of a consumer affair. Close to 3,500 people are expected over the course of the show.
'The conferences are about discussing openly some of the burning rum questions that we hear today,' Burrell explained.
'We've gathered a panel of rum experts such as Luca Gargano from Velier, Richard Seale from Foursquare Distillery, Alexandre Gabriel from Plantation Rums and many more to discuss the hot topics in the rum category today.'
The trade has an important role to play in the continued success of RumFest, according to the founder.
'The UK RumFest has been a platform for the rum category for several years now,' he said. 'Before 2007 there were no international rum festivals for rum connoisseurs, aficionados, experts, rum makers and consumers to gather under one roof to share the rum love and knowledge.
'Now there are rum events everywhere, which is great to see as the category still needs to develop. The UK RumFest is a learning centre for the trade to empower themselves about the versatile spirit in their place of work.'