Founding Editor of inuakena.com
1) 5 Bucket List items for this year.
My bucket list is long and expensive! Here are a few of them I hope to check off in the short term:
1. For this year, I really want to expand my collection of European bottlings from the likes of Velier and Samaroli. Those rums are pure and true expressions of the distillers’ art, and I can’t get enough of them.
2. I also want to take my rum evangelism to the next level. I hope to do that via more in-person speaking engagements, leading more private tastings, and expanding my reach beyond the written word via audio and video over the Web.
3. I would love to get down to the Caribbean to visit some distilleries. Being in California, I’m pretty far removed physically from the home of rum production—it would be great to see my favorite rum makers and blenders in action on their home turf.
4. I want to drink more agricole. I think for a lot of new rum drinkers, the French style of rhum is less approachable, and admittedly it was an acquired taste for me. Now it’s one of my favorite things to drink, and I particularly enjoy vintage rhums from Guadeloupe in addition to those from Martinique.
5. Visiting the various European rum festivals is definitely on my list, too: London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin. If only I had more vacation time!
2) Biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplished for the rum industry.
That’s a tough one. I consider myself a rum evangelist, spreading the gospel of rum whenever possible. I really do try and convert people I meet (without being too pushy about it, of course). Each person I reach with my writing or conversations about rum is important to me, and it’s all of those little victories taken as a whole that I would consider my contribution to the rum industry. The people who really deserve the credit of course, are those who work their tails off to actually produce the products we’re so lucky to drink.
3) Favorite Drink + Recipe
I have really eclectic tastes when it comes to cocktails. Even though rum is my passion, our bar is stocked with all manner of amazing spirits, so there is a lot of variety in our drinks. Lately I have been enjoying the Kingston Negroni, which was created by famous NYC bartender Joaquín Simó. It’s just like the classic Italian bitter cocktail, but in this case, the gin is swapped out for a big, funky Jamaican rum. Joaquín uses Smith & Cross, and who am I to argue with his choice? The big and bold chewiness of the Smith & Cross stands up to the Campari like nothing else, creating an unlikely, yet perfect marriage of flavors. I highly recommend it, but it’s not for the timid!
1 oz. Jamaican rum (Smith and Cross)
1 oz. sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica)
1 oz Campari
Combine all ingredients and stir with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a wide orange peel.
4) Where do you see the rum industry today?
This is a really interesting time to be involved in rum. After a long period of vodka dominance, brown spirits have really taken off worldwide. Bourbon is of course the spirit du jour (especially here in the States) but the consumers’ willingness to try aged spirits has provided a real opportunity for rum as well. Many brands are looking to move up-market by offering super-premium products including different barrel finishes and non-standard rum blends. The notion that rum *can* be offered as a super-premium product is beginning to be accepted by the general public, and that’s exciting to me. Of course, we rum folks have known this for a long time!
5) Where do you see the rum industry in 5 years?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m sure we will continue to see innovation in the rum business. Different barrel finishes will continue to be an area of experimentation for example (especially given the scarcity of oak barrels in Kentucky these days). I also hope to see a continued push toward sustainability in areas such as vinasse treatment, water use, and energy conservation.
I also expect to see more pure, dry rums in the super-premium category as rum connoisseurs continue to seek out cask strength products that are unsweetened, uncolored, and unadulterated. This will be of key significance to rum brands as they attempt to capitalize on the popularity of brown spirits and win over whisk(e)y drinkers.
Finally, I’m interested to see how the work of the Authentic Caribbean Rum program affects the public’s perception of rum and the sales of its members’ products. Setting standards for rum production is always a controversial topic, but it seems like some are quite ready for it.
6) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have helped you.
My two biggest mentors in the rum world are probably Lance Surujbally and Paul Senft. Lance writes amazingly literary rum reviews at thelonecaner.com and Paul Senft writes fantastic reviews for RumJourney.com and GotRum Magazine. These two gentlemen and I chat regularly, and enjoy sharing notes about rum and keeping each other up-to-date with the rum news of the day. If I have a question about a rum or the distillery where it’s produced, there’s a very good chance one of those two guys can answer it. Each has been very supportive of my writing, and helped me get over some significant hurdles along the way. Rum folks are the best folks, and those two are no exception.Info at: