Pirates, Porn Stars and one serious hangover. Rumfest 2011

Dressing a large exhibition hall to resemble a Caribbean beach is quite a challenge, and on this occasion one so big that the organisers admitted defeat and didn’t bother. No sandy beaches, no catwalk models in bikinis; what I believed to be industry standards in rum adverts.

I’d taken on this guest blog commission with such fervour and zest, I was already skipping ahead to scribbling down the phone number of the scantily clad model – I’d called her Natalia – before I’d written one letter of it.

It was hard escaping the fact that I was in Kensington Olympia 2, the set up of stalls, the bland signage and the brusque security guards. But then there was a welcome change in scenery, cue stage left, sequins, gyrating flesh, and cleavage. “Would you like to try a shot of Kraken?” And so it began my day trip to Rumfest 2011.

And there was certainly no pretence. My last tasting experience involved me quaffing copious amounts of Chablis and pitting my wits against the newest of the new world Pinots; but here the atmosphere was like that of a warehouse party, in the middle of the day.

Demonstrated best by a man in his sixties, doing his best to relive the sixties, downing shot after shot, shrouded in the respectability of a weathered face and fine Harris Tweed.

With more than sixty stalls of rums from around the world, this event is one of the industry’s most important dates of the year. It’s where new products are showcased and consumers get to taste as many different varieties from the multitude of brands on display.

“It’s fine until about 4 pm, and then things get a bit mental” said Alyson Bartrop from Rum St Barth, a new rum, launched this year and owned by the former Manchester United and Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre. “It’s true that some do take the 12 year old blended rums as shots, but you haven’t got to be a connoisseur to come here, although obviously there are some”

If there were, I didn’t meet any of them. But what I did see, were lots of groups in pirate hats, friends doing the conga, and, enthusiasts who were happy to form orderly queues to try different rums.
“We came because our friend told us about it last year. We thought that she’d hyped it up too much, but it’s actually been brilliant”. The verdict from one girl in a pirate outfit wearing troupe.

Now it really was time to join in the party.

After the fourth or fifth sample I for some reason felt very relaxed. “Yeah Mon!” proclaimed my friend Seth. Not from Jamaica but a Jewish television producer from East London.

The spicy Chairman’s Reserve had left an impression which urged us to attempt Caribbean accents, soon after shots 4 or 5. After shot 13 I was in a state that induced me to interview myself. It began when I asked myself the question “Am I really seeing a famous porn star taking photos with fans, whilst also becoming particularly intimate with ladies?” Their boyfriends looking on were more than happy with the scene.

It wasn’t the rum talking and it really was the porn star Ron Jeremy. There to promote his rum Ron de Jeremy. “Ron is rum in Spanish, and the guys who were developing the rum needed a famous Ron. Ron Howard is too busy making movies, Ronald McDonald is too busy with his burgers, Ron Reagan is dead, and Enron are a bunch of crooks. I’m the only Ron left!”

He’s a royalty performer for the brand which was developed by two business partners in Finland.

“I haven’t actually invested any of my money, just a lot of my time, and I get paid to do it. We’ve developed it with master blenders from Panama, and we’ve had excellent reviews. The joke goes that Ron de Jeremy rum is smooth and it goes down well!”

And he still finds time to perform too. “It’s too much fun to quit the adult movie business. I’m not taking Viagra and no other penis pills, which I’m pleased about.” What a relief.

After that I had to have a sit down, with another rum. Appleton’s this time and I decide to try and identify the blend of flavours that the sales team assured me were there. It was 4pm and my palette, if I were a painter, resembled that of an angry toddler attempting to prove they’re skilled enough to create a Monet with a 2″ brush and primary colours as their only tools.

I’d been lucky enough to experience the world of rum in a day, but I’d perhaps done it rather too quickly because as I was leaving, it seemed as if the world was still spinning.

Warren Nettleford, guest blogger

WARREN NETTLEFORD
When Warren isn’t busy organising parties or playing live music in a band, he finds time to be a journalist in London. Doing his best to make the most out of the city, food and drink have become one of his passions. You’ll usually find him in a cocktail bar on Fridays asking for the hostess to test him with something new. He works for BBC London TV News looking for the next big story.