Interview with Ian Burrell – Global Rum Ambassador to the Rum Category / Founder of UK Rum Fest

Ian Burrell 

 Global Rum Ambassador to the Rum Category / Founder of UK Rum Fest

1) Who is Ian Burrell?

One of the most travelled figures within the drinks industry, Ian has redefined the definition of an international spirits ambassador. An ex professional basketball player in the UK and international recording artist, he has now established himself as the world’s ONLY global ambassador for the rum category. He has conducted masterclasses and seminars, sipped cocktails and judged competitions on no less than 7 continents around the world. And in 2014 he even took the time to break the Guinness World Record for the largest organised rum tasting & masterclass. His passion for rum and cocktails is infectious and in 2007 he not only created the world’s first international Rum festival (The UK RumFest), he also inspired the birth of rum festivals around the world including Miami, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Prague, Hong Kong and Cape Town. As an “Edu-tainer”, he is in constant demand by various rum companies and organisations to give key note speeches, rum tastings, cocktail presentations and demonstrations to trade & consumers alike. Ian is also currently the rum & cocktail specialist on television’s channel 4 entertainment show, ”Sunday Brunch”, where he is regularly seen by millions of viewers educating celebrity guests on various rums and rum cocktails.

2) Biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplish for the rum industry.

Before I was named as J Wray & Nephew’s Rum brand ambassador, I had never seen or even heard of such a job title within the industry thus I became the first Rum Ambassador in the UK. The natural progression, after I left the company, was to elevate myself to a Global Ambassador once I felt that the industry needed one after travelling around the world to learn about the rum industry in all its many guises.

But I think my biggest achievement was back in 2007 when there were no international Rum festivals promoting the entire category of rum through tastings, education, entertainment, culture and cocktails. Some people thought I was crazy to invest my savings and time on promoting a little known category to the world through that particular style of medium. But not only did The UK RumFest become the benchmark for other rum events, it attracted and inspired Ambassadors of rum to go on a create their own rum shows in cities such as Miami, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Cape Town, San Francisco, Chicago and many other cities. This year we celebrate our 10thevent as the longest ever running Rum festival.

3) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

As a person of Caribbean descent, rum was and is part of my culture so it was inevitable that I’d fall in love with the category. But I really fell in love with rum once I learnt about it’s connections to history and how it is seen as a way of life in the tropics.

4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry? ?

Knowledge…..and the smile on peoples faces as they sip their new favourite rum.

5) Favorite Rum Drink + Recipe?  

I have many favourite rum drinks, but it depends on the moment. If I’m in a party mood it’s Rum Punch. Before a meal it’s a Daiquiri or Rum Manhattan. After dinner it’s a Rum Old Fashion or if I want a long cool drink I’ll have a Rum Mule.

My favourite recipe?

One of sour
Two of sweet
Three of Strong
Four of weak
Five of spice to make it nice.
6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?

I see the rum industry becoming even bigger and better. While some like to focus on the negativity that surrounds the rum category, it has still seen growth in many of the markets globally. This through clever marketing, better quality products, independent bottlers, a growth in rum festivals and tastings, the cocktail culture, the travel industry and many other factors that have brought quality rums to the masses. But… we have to be careful that many of the new, boutique and innovative rums are not lost in the plethora of “fake” rums that are flooding the market with their short cut tactics to produce a “true” premium aged spirit.

7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have help you. 

There are so many mentors and people that have influenced my path within this industry. Ed Hamilton with his ministry of rum web site inspired and mentored a legion of rum bloggers, writers and Ambassadors. The next were Tony Hart and Mark Ridgewell from Taste & Flavour. Tony was the first person I met that told the story of rum how it should be told. Entertaining, impartial and educational. Mark Ridgewell set up a network of professional speakers that passionately taught the bar industry everything they needed to know about the spirit in your glass. Mark added me to his roster with gurus such as Dave Broom, Tom Esters, Desmond Payne and Nicholas Faith. Also all mentors to me.

Other key mentors were Owen Tulloch (RIP) and Joy Spence (Appleton’s last two master blenders), Laurie Barnard (RIP) St Lucia Distillery, Richard Seale (Foursquare Distillery) have all helped me to understand some of the wonders of Caribbean rums and how to convey that message to the world. Jeff Beachbum Berry with his knowledge of Tiki culture; Don Smith (My Best friend) mentored me on how to use NLP and hypnosis during my presentations and seminars.

8) What 3-5 things do you have in your bucket list for the next 12 months?

  1. To visit as many new cities and countries as possible to spread the gospel according to rum.
  2. To finish my Rum Book.
  3. To continue learning and sharing knowledge about the rum category
  4. To make a Daiquiri at Base Camp of Mount Everest in Nepal.
  5. To create my own Vodka brand.

9) Any last words? 

Yeah Three.

(a)  Today’s rum evolution could be tomorrow’s rum tradition.

(b)  Don’t tell me how or what rum to drink, and I won’t tell you how to sleep with your wife.

(c)  Enjoy what you like, but be careful what you pay for.

10) How can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page? 

Author: Fede

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