Interview with: Steven James – UK Blogger / Rum Diaries Blog

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Steven James
UK Blogger / Rum Diaries Blog

1) 5 Bucket List items for this year.

There are few projects that I am working on this year, but the most important for my bucket list are:

  1. This year I would really like to begin to talk more to others about Rum. Perhaps those that are not currently Rum consumers, through small scale tastings, in an attempt to help others understand what it is that makes Rum such a diverse spirit and more than worthy of their attention.
  2. I would like to get myself out and about to more Rum tastings and masterclasses as a consumer. To contribute to discussions and to speak with like-minded people.
  3. My tastes have changed a lot over the past few years with regards to Rum. I have a few independent bottlings but I would like to obtain more by Velier, Silver Seal, Rum Nation and the like.
  4. I would love to invest more time into making more of the Tiki classics that I read about in Beachbum Berry’s many books. I have a tendency to drink my Rum neat and in the few cocktails that I’ve experimented with and honed to my liking…..I need to up my cocktail game.
  5. To attend the UK RumFest again. It is such a great event attended by some truly wonderful people and it presents such a great learning opportunity and an opportunity to speak directly to producers and if you’re lucky, you get to meet and attend a seminar given by your Rum heroes!

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

This is a difficult one as self-promotion isn’t really a trait that I possess. I suppose the amount of money that I spend on Rum may keep some distilleries afloat! Joking aside, I have had nothing but positive feedback on my articles which has been a great encouragement. If through my writing I have encouraged even one person to think about purchasing a bottle that I’ve written about or to consider ordering a Rum based drink in a bar, then I consider that to be a great achievement on a personal level.

3) Favorite Drink + Recipe


Another difficult question. Almost as difficult as the “What is your favourite Rum” question. So many factors can change the answer. I suppose that I’m quite fickle in that way but my tastes often change. There is the simplicity of drinks like the Daiquiri. Three simple components and just the right amount of dilution can create the most beautiful of drinks…..and that’s before you start playing about with using a blend of more than one Rum! I’ve been enjoying the Rum Old Fashioned too lately. Again, dilution plays a big part, as does the choice of bitters. I find that Dr Adam Elmegirabs Teapot Bitters bind this drink together perfectly. If I had to choose one drink though it would have to be a Mai Tai. I’m a fan of the Trader Vic Mai Tai and whilst I love the recipe using Appleton 12 and Clement VSOP, I’ve enjoyed playing around with the Rums. One of the combinations that I think really works is:
1 oz Appleton 8
0.5 oz Smith & Cross
0.5 oz Rum Nation Jamaican White Pot Still
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
0.5 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
0.5 oz Orgeat
0.5 oz Simple Syrup
0.5 oz Lemon Hart 151 float
Shake all but the Lemon Hart 151 with cubed ice. Strain into an amazing vessel over crushed ice (mine is a ‘Make Mine A Mai Tai’ ceramic mug by Trader Jim at Pocketiki). Add the Lemon Hart 151 float and I usually add a couple of Maraschino Cherries.
This strikes a great balance of flavour and power. Try it.

4) Where do you see the rum industry today?

I think that Rum as a spirit is in the ascendancy for sure. The work of people like Global Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell and the the Burr Family amongst others has really put Rum into the public consciousness. For example, Ian has appeared numerous times on a popular Sunday morning TV show here in the UK extolling the virtues of Rum. There is a lot more awareness of just how vast and varied the Rum universe is. But it is also suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. On the one hand it has the roguish pirate persona that promotes the more flippant and fun loving aspect of Rum that has served it well for years, and on the other hand it longs to be taken seriously as an equal to whisky and the like. It is a wonderfully varied spirit with so many different styles but it needs to start believing in itself a little more and letting the consumer know that it IS worthy of their attention for the right reasons. That a Rum can be as pure and valuable a spirit as a single malt whisky and therefore it commands equal respect. There are a lot of people involved in the industry with a lot of great ideas and a lot of good things to say and this includes the recent push on education by WIRSPA and its ACR Marque Training. I only hope that a common ground can be reached between all parties to define a way forward for the betterment of Rum. I for one find it a wonderful world to even be even remotely involved in.

5) Where do you see the rum industry in 5 years?

It’s difficult to say really with the DeLorean still on the ramps in the garage. It really has the potential for world domination and in the future that I hope exists, I will assume that common sense will prevail and Rum will become an equal to whisky and cognac etc. So I guess that the scenario in 5 years will be that like I can currently go into any supermarket here in the UK to buy a significantly matured sherry finished single malt whisky, I’ll also be able to buy a significantly matured, say port finished Rum and expect to have to pay the appropriate price as the craftsmanship is no less deserving, and the public will be more than aware of this. In this future, the public will also be educated enough about Rum to know exactly what constitutes a ‘premium’ product being sold for a ‘premium’ price….and that it is not just a sweet smelling dark spirit in a pretty bottle and box.

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

I tend to have people that inspire me rather than mentor me. The first inspiration for me would have to be Richard Seale of Foursquare Distillery. He has such an open and honest dialogue on the various Facebook groups such as The Global Rum Club and Ministry of Rum. It sometimes gets a little heated and very blunt and to the point but I admire the fact that he practices what he preaches. Integrity is a great trait to be in possession of.Secondly, Peter and Pauline Holland at The Floating Rum Shack have been and continue to be trailblazers in the UK, both for their knowledge of Rum and for getting some public awareness out there. They have worked hard to open doors that myself and others here in the UK have been fortunate enough to just walk through, and for that they do need to be acknowledged.Thirdly, this is a collective. It is the brand champions, educators, evangelists and other writers, both here in the UK and globally.  The writers and bloggers that write about Rums in such a way that when I read their articles I get transported to other places. That when I read their opinions and watch their YouTube videos I get a sense of just what being involved in a ‘Community’ of Rum fanatics brings. They encourage you with positivity, challenge your writing, call you out when they smell something fishy and enter into discussions with you. The ‘community’ also has a tendency to promote each others’ writing. There is no competitive edge, just a desire to spread the good word. I have made some good friends and long may this continue.

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Author: Fede

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