Interview with Peter Holland – The Floating Rum Shack

Peter Holland
The Floating Rum Shack – Mastermind

1) Bucket List items for this upcoming year.

The truth is that 2016 has arrived at such a rate of knots that I feel I’m hardly ready for it. There are so many things I could look to do, but if the coming year is anything like last year, then I strongly suspect I’ll be balancing what I want to do against the various projects that come out of the blue.

Key goals are

  • Continue spreading the good word of ‘rum and sugarcane spirits’ to all those who will listen to me. Particularly the area on the South coast of the UK that I’ve just moved to. I love talking about the category in general and helping people to understand the value proposition of whatever rum we have in front of us at the time. I’m always looking to try and help people understand why an age statement is just a number and that the depth of flavour you experience when you sip is due to a great many other factors. Understanding this helps to you to decide if a long aged light rum, or a lightly aged pot, or pot/column blend is more your thing. There is nothing more important than personal preference, but an educated viewpoint is helpful right?

  • I’m also keen to keep visiting the rum producers around the world and I’m particularly excited about my forthcoming trip to Martinique. I’ve an ever increasing love for agricole rhum and getting along to Martinique and as many other islands in the French Caribbean feels like a dream come true.

  • Keep learning.

  • Keep drinking new rums.

  • So much of what I do is ‘behind the scenes’ and I want to keep on being busy on that front – helping where I can, but for commercial reasons I’m not going to share that side of things for now.

  • The architecture of TheFloatingRumShack.com is getting a little behind the times – I really must make time to give it a spring clean and update to more modern standards. I’ve been saying that for a long time though… Really must knuckle down on that front… Soon come right?

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

All I can say in response to that question is that if I’ve helped to spread the word of the wonderful category of rum then that was the intention. I love the diversity, I respect the opinions and I love drinking the distillates. If the enthusiasm shows, then that’s great, but I can’t make any other claims.

3) Favorite Drink + Recipe

It’s such a difficult question. Just like trying to narrow down your favourite rum, the drink preference is based on my mood and time of day. But… If anyone were to offer me a classic well balanced, hand shaken daiquiri then I’ll happily accept it pretty much any time. You’ll ask what rum now and the preferred specification now right? Well I’m a stickler for using a white rum in my daiquiri and I guess my current preference is Clairin Sajous, but believe me when a good bartender balances out a great Bacardi Carta Blanca daiquiri, I’m not going to turn one of those down either.

I guess I tend to use Doorly’s 3YO, Plantation 3 Stars, any one of a number of white agricoles like Clement (or JM or Trois Rivières or Neisson…), El Dorado 3YO, Botran Reserva or SLR from St Vincent. The benefits from having an extensive rum collection is standing in front of the shelves and seeing what I fancy at that moment in time.

I am something of a sucker for well-made tiki drinks – anything from a Mai Tai, to a Painkiller. That said right now it’s pretty chilly here in the UK and mostly I’m drinking warm cider (for the American’s – that means the alcoholic kind) fortified with a healthy splash of rum.

Did I tell you I’m a bit of a rum and coke fan? One part Appleton V/X (or Signature Blend as they now call it) with two parts full-fat coke – hold the ice, lime and straw – equals amazing!

Basically, I’ll pretty much drink anything put in front of me…

4) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?

Here in the UK and I guess elsewhere in the world, the rum market has continued to grow steadily and I’m super happy that this is the case – I don’t want a boom/bust situation.

We see brands coming to market that are all smoke and mirrors (or all fur coat and no knickers as a friend of mine says), and they will appeal to those that like to be seen to be spending big money on well packaged vodka. For me to spend over £40-£50 on a bottle of rum, it needs to have something else about it – something tangible, something special. The options are increasing and I can see the next five years continuing to offer more and more.

With any expanding market, there will be more and more overpriced, under achievers-rum-wise on offer. I suspect a large number of these will do quite well, but the fact that there are more and more rum commentators out there means that the tricksters will get found out and those genuine superstars will get more coverage. This makes me happy.

I would like there to be some further descriptors to the category of rum – subcategories if you will. At the moment it seems to encompass such a diversity – I’d like people to have more confidence in what they are buying. The notion of pure pot still, through to light categorisation is as good a starting point. I’d also like enforced confirmation of anything other than straight aged, unadulterated distillate in the bottle, from the use of caramel upwards. It will help people justify laying out good money.

To sum up the next five years: exciting and challenging all at the same time.

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

Without a doubt, Mr Ian ‘Global Rum Ambassador’ Burrell has been a big influence. Without my visit to his 2008 RumFest, it’s highly unlikely that I would be in the position that I’m in now – he invited us (my wife – Pauline – the ‘other half’ of TheFloatingRumShack.com) to lots of other events, introduced us to a great many people and generally got us involved in the beginning. Ian’s a chap who I’ve seen work hard and tirelessly for so long – he is (and I hate saying this out loud), something of an inspiration. He’s a great public facing celebrity and really does take rum to the masses via media like TV, radio, mainstream print and, of course, his RumFest. Thank you Ian. Much respect.

Paul McFadyen was also pretty key to things going the way that they have. The regular Rum Clubs at Trailer Happiness; invariably hosted by Macca were a great source of education for us. Writing up the events were also key content for TheFloatingRumShack.com – he, it, and they were a key component to us getting noticed right back at the beginning and included in the rum world. The fact that he’s a lovely chap and a good friend is a wonderful bonus – thank you Macca.

If I’m mentioning influences, then back in 2008 when I was looking to put the website together, there were three key sites that influenced me: Refined Vices, RumDood and RumConnection. Their approach and the look of the sites really ticked all the boxes for me. Tatu, Matt and Mike have all become good friends and their expertise is something I really value. I have to admit though that Mike’s RumConnection website and his Key West life style have been ‘the’ key influence in my decision to try and carve out a full time career in Rum. Gentlemen – salut!

There are so many people that I would love to name check – so many people that helped to educate and inspire. I really could be at it all day. Perhaps the next gen TFRS website could have a wall of fame page. Actually – that’s a great idea – I really must make it happen.

6) Any last words?

Firstly: Perspective. Manners.

An opinion is based upon your perspective. I’m lucky to have travelled and so I have first-hand experience of the variation in people’s perspective. Who am I to tell a person that the rum they love is terrible? It seems like poor manners to me. I’m happy to share why I think rum ‘x’ is good and I like to enthuse – but ‘where’ and ‘when’ is such an important part of ‘why’. Geography and social influence have their parts to play in the story and allowance for other people’s perspective seems only fair.

Secondly: Please don’t get too hung up on an age statement. Its more about the quality of the distillate. If the distillate needs time in oak to give it something, then it probably wasn’t ‘all that’ to start with. If the new make spirit tastes amazing, then the aged version will most likely pretty damn good.

7)Learn more about Peter Holland

I’m genuinely surprised about just how life can throw things your way. Back in 2008, Pauline and I needed a little something ‘new’ in our lives, something to take our minds off of ‘other’ things. So, partly because of our travels together, Pauline’s family influence (Barbados and St Vincent for reference) and our first RumFest – we decided to put together the website to help record our travels and learnings.

The next few years saw us attending as many rum clubs, masterclasses and events that we could possibly attend and spending every last pound we had on travel to the Caribbean (and beyond). Visiting rum festivals around the world introduced us first hand to lots of people, processes and rums and I think that has been at the heart of our progress and the fact that we have made so many cool friends along the way.

Sharing the knowledge and experience gained was the next obvious step and without a doubt, getting into rum has been one of the coolest things we’ve ever done. Switching my method of dissemination from written to verbal has meant that I get to enjoy the buzz of educating the next wave of rum fans and connoisseurs face to face – I wish I had more time to write things on the website, but I’ve had years of that and things move on. There’s been ups and downs, but the futures pretty bright.

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Author: Fede

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