A first timers look back at the weekend that was the 2015 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival.

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival of 2015 was an incredible and fascinating experience.  This year was Yolo Rum’s first opportunity to be a part of this amazing event, and it did not disappoint.  From the first moments of the festival up until the very last it was wave after wave of fun, incredible, beautiful people.  And these people were all here for one reason, because they love rum!  It was an incredible honor to be in the same room as rum royalty, recognized the world over for their knowledge and expertise.  We were able to meet face to face with many of the RumXP judges that stopped by our booth to introduce themselves, find out a little more about Yolo Rum, and even took the time to share their thoughts about Yolo Rum with us.  We were also able to meet thousands of savvy rum connoisseurs, and those that had a thorough and deep understanding of the rum category and it’s history.  It was easy to see that Robert, Robin, and Rob Burr Jr. have put in a great deal of time, energy and passion in cultivating the Miami Rum Renaissance festival to worldwide prominence in the event’s 7 year history.

 

The first day of the Festival took place on Friday April 17th.  This day is primarily for VIP’s and industry professionals.  Of the three day event, Friday offers the most sophisticated and knowledgeable segment of the festivals attendees.  These are rums ambassadors, apostles, disciples, evangelists, and hardcore rum enthusiasts.  These were the RumXP’s, and the first ever Miami Rum Festival Consumer Rum Tasting Jury.  These were rum journalists, reviewers, and bloggers.  Without a doubt, this day was more about business than the event’s two weekend days.  Another contributing factor to the vibe of the show on Friday was the anticipation of the results of the International Rum Expert Panel (RumXP) tasting competition.  Nevertheless, Friday was an amazing time, and it offered us the opportunity to meet in person some people in the industry we had only interacted with online (if at all) up to that point.  One of the most exciting moments of the day was when everyone on the Yolo Rum team had a chance to meet with our very own master distiller / blender Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez.  

Don Pancho Fernandez had an energy in his presence that you could just feel as he made his way around the convention hall, as longtime friends and peers made their way to greet him.  It was easy to see in peoples reaction to him, that he was one of the most well respected and highly regarded individuals in attendance.  Finally as the grand tasting ended for the day, the focus shifted to the stage for the medal announcements from the 2015 RumXP tasting competition.  As Robert Burr read through the list of winners, the anticipation built as he reached the “Aged 10 – 15 year” category.  That’s when it was revealed to us that Yolo Rum (Gold Aged 10) won RumXP Gold.  This was truly a great honor, and to be able to accept the award with Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez on hand to share in the triumph was such a special moment for us all.

As the festivities opened for the day on Saturday, there was a buzz in the air around the Miami Airport Convention Center as cars lined up in queue off 7th St. to gain access to the grounds.  By the time the doors opened at 1:00pm, enthusiastic rum connoisseurs were in line eagerly awaiting the gates to open to rum heaven.  Finally the aisles had begun to fill just as quickly as the tasting glasses, as the vibe of the convention hall started to reach a full-on festival atmosphere.  These were the moments that the general population of rum loving aficionados had long waited for as attendees were able to sample some of their favorite rums and then simultaneously meet the people responsible for crafting them.  This was exactly as you would imagine rum paradise to be, as fans moved from booth to immaculately decorated booth.  

Photo credit to violaphoto.com

Some attendees were taking notes, some taking moments to pause in each rum expression’s unique characteristics, some probably truly experiencing quality rum of this variety for the first time.  Regardless of the guests rum IQ, everyone had a smile on their face, and rum in their glass.  To add to the atmosphere, the Robby Hunter Band and a couple of different DJ’s alternated playing music to keep the crowd’s energy level high.  The resident Captain Jack look-alike made his way around the venue, cracking jokes and dropping rum-centric one-liners all the while stopping to pose for each photo request.  Our booth neighbors from 786-Bartend were hard at work across the aisle whipping up an assortment of drinks, including a delicious passion fruit habanero cocktail with the Yolo Silver.  The Miami Rum Festival was in full swing, and we were welcoming each and every opportunity to introduce Yolo to the rum loving masses.  With each introduction we took great pride in telling the story of Yolo Rum, and how we came to be.  Most of the people we met were probably tasting, and even hearing about Yolo Rum for the first time, but while many had not heard of us before, many were very familiar with the work of Don Pancho Fernandez.  This was a name and a quality that they were well aware of, and time after time people agreed that Yolo was a standout success for the Master Ronero Don Pancho Fernandez.  We were thrilled, but hardly surprised by the warm reception to the product, but we might have even been most excited by peoples response to our presence.  People loved our rum, and they also loved our Yolo Rum t-shirts and the stickers as much as we loved sharing the love back with everyone.

 

Sunday was the perfect extension of Saturday.  By now there had become many recognizable faces of newly forged friendships, sprinkled in amongst those new to the 2015 iteration of the festival.  As we handed out more of the popular t-shirts and stickers we encouraged some of our new friends to pose for pictures and take videos with us.  Many of our new companions hung out with us for some time, chatting and laughing with us, exchanging Twitter and Instagram handles, and just sharing their enthusiasm with us, it was really quite infectious.  Quite often the interactions would lead to impromptu shouts of “YOLO” that you would hear echoing around the assembly hall.  All in all there were about 200 rums to taste, and many times over we heard people exclaim to us that Yolo was one of, if not their absolute favorite.  All weekend long we received compliments for our enthusiasm, our youthful exuberance, our positive energy, and how much they loved what the brand stands for.  And it was beautiful because we had those emotions reflected back at us from the people that we interacted with.

The feedback was always equally as positive about the Rum.  People’s spirits were high and everyone was feeling great, an amazing weekend was drawing to a close.  And then with just a couple hours left in the show on Sunday, an impromptu conga line rolled past the Yolo Rum booth as the sounds and the energy of the Caribbean filled the air. People begin to dance by themselves or with partners, and let the enjoyment of this moment take them away. Late on Sunday we were also graced by the presence of Don Pancho Fernandez as he spent some of the last moments of the festival meeting with Yolo Rum owners Phil and Jessica Guerin, bidding their farewells, as Don Pancho signed some bottles as gifts for the Yolo Rum crew, providing a tangible token for what is certain to be a cherished memory.  And this brought to a close the 2015 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival where the theme of the weekend, as described by the Burr family, is “Fun”!  And we wouldn’t have it any other way, because rum is fun, and rum people are fun, and we are the fun rum!  #RumIsFun 

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We’d also very much like to give a special thanks to some of those that took the time to meet with us, and allow us the opportunity to share our story.

Bahama Bob’s Rumstyles – Bahama Bob Leonard

Beach Bar Bums – Tom and Nicole Westerhof

Caribbean Journal – Alexander Britell

Rum Journey – Paul Senft

The Atomic Grog – Jim “Hurricane” Hayward

The Floating Rum Shack – Peter and Pauline Holland

The Rum Lab – Federico Hernandez

The Rum Trader – Scott French

Uncommon Caribbean – Steve Bennett

 

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