19 Rums in 30 Minutes: Judging at the Rum Renaissance Festival

Categories: Booze Hound
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Lots of rum to judge at the Rum Renaissance Festival
As I walked into the Deauville Hotel's lobby, I wondered how I would walk out. I was about to judge my first rum competition, part of the week-long Rum Renaissance Festival.

Festival Director Robert Burr gave me simple enough directions. Judging takes place in a "quiet room," meaning there's silence as each of the dozen or so judges (mostly bar owners, bartenders and major rum aficionados) rate each of a 19 rum flight. Then the judges take off their clothes and get naked with each other. I hoped Burr was kidding... about the 19 rums part, at least (though there was a time in Jamaica where I recall rum led to stripping).

The competition, once it got going, was completely serious. We would judge aged and spiced rums. They were laid out in glasses numbered 1-19, along with water, crackers and coffee beans (for taste fatigue). Rums were rated by the following categories: color and clarity (10 points total), aroma (20 points total), taste (50 points total), finish (20 points total) for a possible 100 points for rum worthy of Captain Jack Sparrow, I presumed.

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Taking lots of notes.
Some of the rums had amazing aromas. I caught hints of vanilla, wood, tobacco and, in one case, cantaloupe! One unfortunate rum smelled like paint (and tasted like it too).

Colors ran the spectrum of light yellow to a dark amber brown. I gravitated toward darker rums that were sweeter and more full flavored.

As we all forged ahead toward our goal of 19 rums tasted and ranked, the rums got more complex. Rum #12, for example, at first smelled too "light" for its color. A few swirls of the glass, however, coaxed out what smelled like a cross between a bakery and a dark wine (or rum) cellar.

Rum #13 tasted like what I envisioned pirates would drink -- hearty and dark.

Rum #14 tasted like birthday cake, but it was rum #16 that stole my heart -- rich, coconutty, sweet and dark, I wanted to sit under a palm tree in some exclusive resort with that rum in the worst way.

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Release the Kraken!
After I made it through all 19 offerings and tallied my rankings, it was time to learn what rum was my favorite. Judges were led into an adjacent room where the identities of the spirits were revealed. My new rum/love? The Kraken Black Spiced Rum from Trinidad and Tobago, at about $20 a bottle. At least I didn't choose Captain Morgan.

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Location Info


Deauville Resort

6701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: General

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"At least I didn't choose Captain Morgan." lol Great rundown!


Fun article! I have a bottle of Kraken, but I haven't done much with it. I'll have to give it another try.


Thanks for taking us inside the inner sanctum or rum. You didn't mention putting your clothes back on.

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