An Interview with Mads Heitmann – Romhatten.dk

MADS1The Danish Speaking world has one of the better Rum websites to boast about.  With reviews, articles and its own forum Romhatten is impressive and its design is sleek and modern.

A lot of websites could take a lot of pointers from the site.  Unfortunately for English speakers such as myself the site doesn’t automatically translate too well from Danish into English.  However, with a bit of persistence it is possible to pick up on the meaning of most of Mads’ pieces especially his reviews.

Rum is very popular in Denmark and Mads is an individual who is very active in spreading the word in his home country, organising rum tastings and other events.

Curious about the popularity of rum in Denmark and always keen to hear from other “rummies” I decided to ask Mads a few questions which he very kindly answered for me.  Enjoy, there are some cracking answers here and I’m sure a lot of you will nod in agreement.

1.  What inspired you to set up the Romhatten Group?

The “Romhatten Forum” group on Facebook is an offspring of Romhatten.dk. Romhatten.dk is a Danish website that I formed in 2010. The website only deals with rum and is based on the rum reviews that I make. I also write articles on rum for the web page

I set up the Facebook group in 2012 in order to gather all the users of romhatten.dk. On this platform, the Danish rum lovers can meet and talk rum. It’s a great forum where we all can learn more about rum – information is what it’s all about.

In 2015, the website has so far received over 80,000 hits and some of these users are looking to the forum on facebook. The forum has almost  2,000 members. Romhatten.dk also has a facebook page which so far has over 5,500 likes.

FYI: The word “Romhatten” is a Danish word that I have made up. The word covers a person who is crazy about rum. An English version could for example be “Rum Loony”.

2.  How popular is rum in Denmark?

Rum is very popular in Denmark. My interest of rum began in 2007 and since that time I have seen a huge development in rum in Denmark. Rum was in 2007, something that people in the general public did not consider to be something you could drink neat as with cognac and whisky, but that is no longer the case. Today, when I travel around in Denmark I see that people have accepted rum as a sipping spirit.

Rum has found a foothold in Denmark. In the Danish wine and liquor stores, rum takes up more and more space on the shelves and many of these shops rely more and more on selling rum – they follow the increasing demand. Many shops are experiencing that sales of rum have long overtaken whiskey, cognac and gin. I have spoken with several owners of liquor stores who say that when they sell ten bottles of spirits then seven of them are rum where cognac, whiskey, gin, vodka and tequila are share the last three bottles. It is very impressive!

However, the sweeter rum are the most popular rum in Denmark. The bestsellers are Ron Zacapa and Ron Diplomatico but also Oliver & Oliver’s products (Puntacana Club, Opthimus and Quorhum) sell very well.

3.  How expensive is alcohol in Denmark? Prices here in the UK are pretty high compared to other EU countries especially France and Spain but Scandinavia is notorious for its high alcohol prices and strict alcohol legislation. Is this the case in Denmark as well?

It is not the case in Denmark. Denmark is an alcohol friendly country when compared to Norway and Sweden. In Denmark, we don’t have the same state-owned alcohol monopoly as Sweden – in Sweden it’s called “Systembolaget”. In Denmark, we have a free trade in beer, wine and spirits. The prices are a little high, but is overall in line with those seen in England, I believe. Due to the high prices we unfortunately see that many Danes go to Germany to buy wine, spirits and beer. On the other hand, we also see that many Swedes buying their alcohol in Denmark.

4.  What are the aims of the Romhatten group? Do you have any views which members are expected to be in agreement on?ROMHATTEN

Maybe some more events for the members. We have already held a series of events in Denmark with Skotlander Spirits, where all the users of Romhatten were invited to a free tasting event. All over Denmark (in Aarhus, Aalborg, Odense and Copenhagen) rum lovers showed up to select Skotlander Spirits next rum. All fully booked events and all in all 500 participants. Five different blends were showcased and the result of the votes was this Skotlander Cask Rum. It’s the users of Romhatten.dk who selected the blend for this rum – I am very proud of that.

5.  Have you organised any events etc under the Romhatten name? (I note what looks like a rum tasting event on the site)

I started making rum tastings in connection with Romhatten.dk in 2012 and since then I have hosted about 100 tastings around Denmark. On Romhatten.dk I offer rum tastings for private gatherings and businesses and since 2012 I have held tastings for both large and small crowds – it’s has so far ranged between 4 and 120 persons.

Besides the rum tastings where one can book me to come and talk about rum, I arrange events to which people can buy tickets. These events include both tastings where I myself do the tasting, but also tastings in cooperation with rum brands. This year I have among other things, held tastings in collaboration with Ron Zacapa and later this year there will also be tastings in collaboration with Sprit & Co. who represents Ron Diplomatico in Denmark. Back in 2013, I also had the honor of arranging a master class with John Georges from Angostura, who was visiting Denmark. The attendance of these tastings are good – the events are usually sold out.

6.   On a more personal level how did your own Rum Journey begin?

I had my first sip of “premium rum” back in 2007. At the time I was drinking Bacardi Black with cola at the high school parties, but decided to try two bottles in the more high end category. Without knowing anything about rum I chose a bottle of Matusalem 15 Solera and a bottle of El Dorado 12 Years Old Rum and I was immediately hooked.

This year I publish a book on rum. The book will be called “Rombogen” (The Rum Book) and is put out by Politikens Forlag. As I drank my first glass El Dorado Rum in 2007, I had probably never dreamed that I would go and write a book on rum. It’s a little crazy to think about actually!

MADS27.  What rums do you find yourself going back to time and time again? What rums can’t you be without?

My first rum love was El Dorado Rum from Guyana, and what is it they say about first loves? However, I am becoming more and more nerdy over the years. Currently, I am very interested in the independent bottlers. Bottlers like Bristol Spirits, Silver Seal, Velier and Berry’s Own Selection are just some of the bottlers that I think is very exciting. The other day I bought a Bristol Classic Rum distilled in 1985 at the old Versailles Still. When I find something like this in a liquor store it’s like finding an old treasure. I just have to have it!

That said, my rum collection (which now counts well over 150 bottles) always holds a few editions of El Dorado Rum – the 15 and 21 expressions are very nice Demerara rums. El Dorado’s 25-year vintage edition of 1980 and 1986 stands out for me as the ultimate rum – a rum which I unfortunately only have tasted three times… so far.

8.  And on another notes are there any rums or producers/bottlers you actively avoid buying from? Any reasons?

There is products on the market that I think is less interesting than others, of course. And there are also rum products, which I not consider to be “real rum” but more as a result of a consumers market which demands certain things. You will find these products that I refer to in the category of rum because of lack of regulation. These products should perhaps rather be found in other spirit categories and not in the rum category as such.

9.  Do you have a signature drink or cocktail you could share with us?

I love cocktails and I want to be able to taste the liquor used in my cocktail. I am especially fond of the Rum Sour made with El Dorado 15 Years Old Rum. It’s a simple cocktail that always impresses guests – I usually use this recipe:

You need the following:

50 mL El Dorado 15 Years Old Rum

50 mL lime juice

1,5 tsp sugar

1 egg white

Angostura Bitters

1. Put all the ingredients except the angostura into a shaker with LOTS of ice. Shake enthusiastically. Pour it into an old-fashioned glass.

2. Add a couple of drops of Angostura bitter on top. A mouthwatering cocktail!

10.  And finally where do you see the Rum Category going in the 5 years? Where would you like to see it going?

Of course I hope that the popularity of rum continues to rise and with it, I also hope that the market is developing in the right direction. I would like to see more independent bottlers in the future, such as the newly established Compagnie Des Indes, which for the Danish market has made a series of single cask bottlings – delicious stuff. Bottlers sending rum on the market where the distillery, year of distillation, year of bottling, etc. is known is always exciting and it is not at least something that I feel that the rum category currently are missing. More products with more transparency.

And there you have it a very interesting and informative interview with a very interesting and driven individual.  Cheers Mads!

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