I called it my winter wonderland windfall. The Christmas before last I won the Christmas draw at Tipples of Manchester. Delivered to my door, before Santa had even harnessed up the reindeer, £1,000 worth of mixed spirits, genuinely artisan stuff. The gin quota has long since gone, servicing my Negroni habit, ditto the Donegal vodka to create my Bloody Mary of choice, while the bourbons/whiskies assiteded greatly in my quest for the perfect Old-Fashioned. Bizarrely the handful of bottles that remain in the cellar are primarily of rum, which I like to sip neat, the darker the better, but only when the weather is braw.
Still I have been a touch neglectful. It’s not as if I haven’t been a champion of rum in my writing. Take this article from five years ago – Getting the Abbey rum habit in the heart of old Barbados. . Or from my last overseas trip before lockdown – Spice up your life with a rum ramble around St Lucia (2020). The previous year I’d even dared to question the hegemony of gin in the company of rum’s great and good – Dark Spirits. Rum Rocks, but could it take over from gin? Who could doubt the wisdom of one of those gurus I quizzed, Ian ‘Rum’ Burrell, of Channel 4 Sunday Bruch fame: “My three favourite rums are the one in my glass, the next one, and a free one”?
On Saturday, July 8. World Rum Day, comes the chance to live that dream (on repeat!) as Manchester Rum Festival returns to the Mercure hotel, Piccadilly. The 2023 version looks packed with delights. Check out the exhibitors here. It’s not just about access to some truly rare tipples. Also part of the package are Caribbean Street Food from Nyammin’ and calypso-inspired DJ sets. With some hats and shirts that awesomely get into the spirit of it all. Tickets are great value at £25 plus booking fee for seven hours of spirited exploration (12pm-7pm). Buy them here.
A big bonus is the chance for fest revellers to purchase a one-off, limited-edition bottle of the official Festival rum, which is a collaboration with Outlier Distilling Company of the Isle of Man. Named ‘Punk Croc’, this 41% limited edition blend is a Manx rum with a cask-aged bite. Blended exclusively from rum made in Outlier’s 160L wood-fired still, Punk Croc features rum aged in Sauternes, New American Oak and Islay casks. Perfect for Mojitos and Daiquiris with attitude, the bottling will only be available at the festival.
Additionally, Distillers Direct will be joining the summer festival with a very special limited edition single cask of Chairman’s Reserve Rum, which has been produced in partnership with The Drinks Trust. Festival founder Dave ‘Drinks Enthusiast’ Marsland is brand ambassador for St Lucia Rum, whose flagship product is Chairman’s Reserve.
The UK’s largest rum distillery, DropWorks, which is based on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire, will be making their very first rum festival appearance after launching at the latter end of May! They bring in the finest molasses, ferment it with their own cultivated trinity yeast strain, distil it in their bespoke stills, then blend and mature it in their own barrels across their three unique ageing locations.
Also debuting at the festival are Rhum JM, an historic rum from Martinique in the Caribbean with a super sustainable background focusing on biodiversity and the preservation of nature, and Takamaka, the first ever rum from the Seychelles to join the Manchester line-up. Two rums from Madeira – 970 and Tristão Vaz Teixeira – will become the first brands ever to exhibit from the Portuguese Island. Manchester debuts too for Ron Piet from Panama, Tilambic from Mauritius, Eminente from Cuba and Paranubes from the mountainous Oaxaca region in Mexico and Bone Idyll – a rum distillery based in less exotic Kingston upon Thames.