After last year’s spectacular success, The Bristol Rum Festival has made a reappearance, this time taking place in one of the South West’s largest venues, The Passenger Shed. A space like no other, the high vaulted ceilings, abundance of windows and colonnade along one wall give this venue a uniquely timeless ambience. Where better to hold a festival dedicated to the celebration of rum? There were stalls lining one wall with representatives of rum distilleries offering samples and insights into their most exciting rums, and a musician in the corner played popular classics on steel drums. Rum enthusiasts will be intrigued to hear that the stalls included representatives from Atlántico, The Real McCoy, Thomas Henry, Neptune, Ron Cubay, Diplomático and El Dorado Rum. We wandered along the stalls, sampling different flavours and picking out our favourites. We also spotted the popular pop-up Low N Slow and enjoyed scrumptious helpings of pulled pork and beef brisket with our rum.

Our booking included access to the secret Tiki Room. As well as a complimentary rum cocktail, we were given a limited edition Tiki mug designed by French artist Baï, which made the experience extra-special as only 100 were made. We were also given a fascinating talk on the history of Tiki by our informative host Sergio. Tiki is a style of rum cocktail named after a Polynesian idol, the first man to be created in Māori legend. It popped up in America in 1933, just after the end of prohibition. Sergio explained that ‘the heart and soul of Tiki is escapism – the desire to be transported to a new world’. He said that the early Tiki bars used semi-darkness, artificial waterfalls and a new mode of music called Exotica — traditional Hawaiian and Malaysian tunes interlaced with jazz – to create a totally immersive experience. This spirit of escapism was alive and well in the Rum Festival Tiki room. Thin wooden partition matting and multi-coloured string lights gave the room a warm, intimate lighting, while potted palms and Tiki statues made it hard to believe we were still in the heart of Bristol.

We were treated to a number of tasty rum cocktails, but my favourite had to be the Lei Lani Volcano. A drink unlike anything I have tasted before, light, refreshing and finely balanced, the Lei Lani Volcano is made from coconut rum, guava and pineapple. An authentic Tiki concoction isn’t about bright colours, it’s about capturing the most exciting flavours, often combining up to 14 perfectly balanced ingredients. As a more traditional contrast we also sampled a Mai Tai, so named because the first man to try one said ‘Maita’i roa ae!’ the Tahitian for ‘out of this world’. Trying one myself it wasn’t hard to see why! The Bristol Rum Festival have worked hard to re-create that true, authentic Mai Tai flavour. The drink they gave us was sour and boozy, and as well as the complexity of the combined Jamaican and Martinique rum, it had wonderful undertones of almond and orgeat. Our host and bartender used syrups concocted from passion fruit, almond and cinnamon, adding a whole new level of complexity to our drinks. We also sampled The Zombie – a concoction not for the faint-hearted, The Zombie is an intense, complex cocktail with citrus undertones. It is made with OFTD – a blend of 8 different rums from 3 countries, and with an alcohol concentration of 69%, any stronger and it would be illegal to transport on a commercial flight.

The Bristol Rum Festival will be back next year and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us. But rum-lovers who don’t want to wait for next year will be pleased to know that the Cardiff Rum Festival and Exeter Rum Festival are coming up soon! But be warned, tickets are selling out fast.

For more on the UK Rum Festivals, just follow this link:

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