Rumfest 2021: £1500 Rum Tasting

Following on from Rumfest’s ‘Best Of‘,….

Renowned as the not-to-be-missed Rum fest event, the last Ian Burrell £1500 rum tasting [WLP] in 2019 included stellar rums going as far back as 1939. A lot has changed in two years, not least, continued price inflation of rum and virtually all premium spirits for that matter. As such, it will be hard not to compare that session with this.

Those who attended the tasting in 2019 will remember Dawn Davies twice charging in with a hunting knife to assist Ian with his battle over a few broken-corked bottles. This year, the organisers have decided to pre-pour all the rums – a very good idea! Let’s begin.


SMWS Panama 2004/2016 12yo Ob. R9.2 Paddington Bear’s First Sip [243 bts] 59.2% WF78 RSB88 Benswhisky

Distillery ‘unknown’, but the two main distilleries in Panama are PILSA / Las Cabras and Don Jose Varela Hermanos.

  • N: Medicinal meatiness [bacon/roast ham] with a cane fruitiness, and yes, perhaps marmalade,…. though Paddington was from Peru was he not?
  • T: Remaining medicinal, phenolic [Islay-esque], what’s most striking about this rum is what it isn’t – namely Foursquare, Doorly’s, The Real McCoy [WLP]….
  • F: Not the epitome of spirit-faithfulness, but I like it all the same.
  • C: A commendable and tasty rum in the SMWS’s inimitable style.

Scores 85 points


Foursquare Triptych [2016] Single blended rum Ob./Velier [5400 bts] 56% WF90 RSB97 rumdiaries tFRP4.5

Pretty sure I’ve had this before,…. in 2017 as it turns out [WLP86]. Last year’s new releases become next year’s old & rare!

  • N: With a floral fruitiness and resinous-woody-freshness, we’ve a charming modern cask-steered nose. 
  • T: Fresh, young, [charred > toasted] bourbon-y sourness,… plus the madeira cask influence,…
  • F: ,… which works so well throughout, and with the Foursquare spirit in general.
  • C: A very candid rum blend that utilises three popular wood-driven styles: ex-bourbon, madeira, and virgin oak – a mix that works very well for both rum and whisky.

Scores 87 points [one point more this year]


With rum #3, we’re going way back in time.

BB&R 1977/2004 27yo Ob. Jamaican Rum 46% WF88~90

Our host tells us that this isn’t New Yarmouth or Appleton,,.. but that it could be Monymusk, Hampden or Long Pond.

  • N: A fruity perfumed nose with a bone-dry [turkey] meatiness.
  • T: Honeyed sourness with a cane-based chew and very soft funk. 
  • F: Finishes sour.
  • C: If not totally thrilling, it is a treat all the same – a 1977-vintage 27yo Jamaican rum for goodness sake!

Scores 86 points


Next up, Appleton, containing juice from 25-years up to 30 years of age.

Appleton Estate 25yo Ob. ‘Joy’ 20th Anniversary Blend 45% RR9.2[52] RSB95 tLC89

  • N: Candy-light sweet, cognac-y, armagnac-y,… calvados-y, Bunna +30yo/Cynelish-y,… so there’s been a fair amount of spirits convergence.
  • T: Whilst some find it woody – which isn’t unfair – it’s well within [my] limits/penchant. Indeed, I find this likeable/loveable through and through.
  • F: Finishes on vanilla berry juice with a sugar cane-driven yet barley sugar-esque conclusion. 
  • C: Super stuff and a secondary price that reflects it too, yet there’s a precariousness to it that stops it just short of the launchpad 90 mark. Didn’t stop me from finishing it, however.

Scores 89 points


For reasons I don’t recall, there’s a reference to the film ‘The Man Who Sued God’ [trailer] – something to do with the duppy’s share, perhaps?


Foursquare Destino 2003 14yo Ob./Velier [2610 bts] 61% RD5+/5 [tFRP] RR9.4[12]

I’m pretty sure I had this before too. it’s the grain-like one, yes?

  • N: Indeed it is,.. and still grain-like [whisky] for sure. Another [resinous wood-spice] cask-driven rum, but what fabulous casks.
  • T: Hot to handle, neat. Starting like the rum it is, again, it becomes more [Caledonian-eque?] grain-like thereafter – from the perspective of a Whisky Loving Pianist.
  • F: Solid/dependable form.
  • C: I like this just as I did before. It will be interesting to compare scores [WLP188].

Scores 89 points


Last up, it’s [classically] the oldest of the bunch.

Port Morant 1974/2004 30yo BB&R Guyana Demerara Rum 46%

  • N: Blind, I might have had trouble guessing what base spirit this was. Not dissimilar to the spirit-converging 1977 Jamaican, here we’ve a nose that talks of an [apricot] fruity [turkey] meatiness with bone-dry [sherry] raisins.
  • T: The quirky old-skool fruity meatiness continues.
  • F: A complex coppery meatiness to the last.
  • C: Another excellent [if academic] treasure from BB&R.

Scores 88 points


Another fabulous Ian Burrell tasting comes to an end. This year’s tasting is a brilliant demonstration of what you can buy for £1500 in 2021, compared with just two years ago [WLP]. Prices are on the up and up and show no signs of stopping just yet.

Graph from

Prices aside, the popularity/interest in rum is growing, importantly, amongst a diverse globally-reflective group of young people. This can only be a positive for the future, especially if some of them end up stumbling across the more unadulterated end of the rum spectrum.

And what of the old guard? Remarkably, Caroni was still on free-poor in 2019! Like Brora, Port Ellen,… for example, in the whisky world, those days have surely gone. Foursquare, if not pushing the boundaries – some argue it has plateaued – remains an important benchmark of quality. As an independent bottler & distributer, Luca Gargano’s [WLP] Velier remains the pinnacle of Rumfest and bastion for artisanal/craft rum. Frustratingly, their [Velier’s] best stuff was not released/available to buy at the time of the show, but this is a minor quibble.

Interest for malt fans? Naturally. Many rum producers are now committed to the calculated cask [& previous cask contents] flavouring model that the whisky industry is [currently/still] so engrossed by. Whilst this cask-driven approach doesn’t always do the sensitive sugar-cane spirit any favours, there are plenty of triumphs.

Noticeably absent/missed at this year’s Rumfest included Mhoba, Hunter Laing’s Kill Devil, BB&R,…. for example. Furthermore, I thought the inclusion of cachaca [WLP] as a category at Rumfest 2019 was a brainwave and justified an extra session to focus on this unique spirit alone. Crossed fingers we see cachaca’s return to Rumfest very soon.


Back in the main room, the carnival is in full swing. It would be amiss if we didn’t all reach for a cocktail or two.





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