The Rum Festival Newcastle 28th and 29th April 2017

RUM FESTIVAL Review by the fat rum pirateThe Rum Festival Newcastle was one of the events organised by Lucy Douglas and her team.  Lucy is behind a travelling Rum Festival. Visiting towns and cities throughout the UK during 2017.

The Festival took place at Hoult’s Yard a office/create hub/venue just 5 minutes drive from Newcastle City Centre in Byker. Yes that Byker of Byker Grove fame.  No before you ask Ant and Dec weren’t in attendance. Neither was Jimmy Nail, Sting or Gazza.

However the North East’s best (and only) Rum Blogger/Critic was at the festival and here is my little overview/review of the event.

Originally, I was planning on attending a number of these events and doing some Guest Speaking. Unfortunately circumstances beyond my control meant this was not possible. Luckily at pretty much the last minute I was able to attend the event on the Friday and Saturday nights.

I work in Newcastle so upon finishing work on Friday I commuted into Newcastle City Centre. From the City Centre I hopped on the Q3 Quaylink bus and was at Hoult’s Yard in around 15 minutes.  A taxi ride would set you back around £5 the Q3 a bargain £1.45.

I wanted to get to the venue early to have a chat with Lucy and some of the exhibitors. Also just to get a feel for what its like “behind the scenes” of a Rum Festival.  First up I began helping unpack the rums and then set about setting up the bars.

I chatted with Lucy as we unpacked the rums.  Lucy had a selection of over 100 commercially available rums.  Many of which I hadn’t actually tried especially in the Spiced and Flavoured sectors.  Lucy explained that she had stocked the bar herself. It is not full of freebies from the exhibitors.  The exhibitors were separate to the Rum Bars.

At the Rum Festival Newcastle the entrance fee is much lower than the London Rumfest.  Tickets for the event where priced between £8.55 and £13.87 (including booking fee). Early Bird/Student Discount tickets being the cheapest. Compare this entry price to the admittedly much larger London Rumfest which is £50.

The Rum Festival GlassThis gives you entry to the Festival a large tulip glass and a programme.  The programme has a handy run down of all the rums behind the bar. For your money you will also experience a live band and a group playing calypso music on steel instruments throughout the session.

Hoult’s Yard is a office/creative hub complex. The part of the venue used for the event is known as the Clay Shed.  And it was basically a big shed.  I can’t dress that up.  To be fair it made for a cracking size venue for the event.  It was big enough to be busy but you weren’t overcrowded or feeling claustrophobic, even on the very busy Saturday night.

Not included in the the price of entry are drinks at the bar.  The bars were divided by category – White, Aged, Gold, Flavoured and Spiced.  Over the course of the weekend Spiced was by far the most popular.  Whilst this kind of saddened me I can’t say I was surprised.  Drinks cards were available costing £20 which gave the buyer access to any four rums from the bar with a mixer and garnish of their choice.  Ice was extra (I’m kidding).  The mixers were bottles of various Fever Tree mixers and Diet Coca Cola. Drinkers could also opt for cocktails which were priced from £7.50 to £11.  I had a Old J Tiki Fire Mango concoction which was way better than I expected!

Over the two nights the crowd was varied to say the least. Anything from female teenage students to Navy veterans and their wives and pretty much everything in between.  It was nice to see such a diversity. Many whisky and beer events fail to attract any female clientele.The Rum Festival Newcastle review by the fat rum pirate

The one thing I will say about attracting such a diverse clientele is the expectation of what you might get for your money at such events.  I overheard one chap comment that he’d “paid £20 for four Kraken and cokes and they weren’t even doubles”.  I asked him why he hadn’t went for the aged rums or tried something different “Wasn’t sure if I would like them” was his grunted response.

Over the course of the event (3 sessions) there were over 1500 visitors.  As these festivals are only in their first year, I think this is more than respectable.  The Saturday evening session was a sell out.  The venue certainly didn’t look empty at any point.  Ample seating was provided and it was all very relaxed.  There was a great party atmosphere throughout.

Lets move onto the Exhibitors. Now at first glance it might not have appeared that there were very many.  There were 6 in total. These were as follows

Cellar TrThe Rum Festival Newcastle review by the fat rum pirateends – Now straight up you were meeting two very well known faces in the Rum and Spirits world in two Peter’s – Thornton and Holland.  Peter Holland is famous for TheFloatingRumShack and hosting numerous rum related events in the UK.  He is Rum Royalty without doubt.  Peter Thornton is also well known in the wider spirits industry. With them they had Re’al Syrups – which are syrups to be used in cocktails etc.  Rum wise they had the full range of Pusser’s along with Bumbu (there is photo evidence of me trying this) and Botran’s line up.

Next up came Mount Gay who had their range to sample headed up by UK Rum Ambassador Miguel Smith.  We then moved onto Plantation Rum with Nick Rodgers (and a sidekick whose name escapes me, though she was much prettier than Nick) wooing the crowds and rounding off the range of regular rums.

The Rum Festival Newcastle review by the fat rum pirateNext came the Spiced and Flavoured rums with Lara and David heading up Beach Craft Spirits.  Excitedly selling the very first batch of their Sloe Rum. Next we had Dom Joly (more than a passing resemblance as you can see) showing us Cloven Hoof. Finally Old J were there showcasing their New White Spiced Rum.

There was also a very exclusive exhibitor in Ian Linsley who was there promoting  Expressions by Old Man Rum Co.  You had to do something special to get a tot of his exclusive £1800 aged rum mind!

So all in all you had over 30 rums to try. On top of 4 rums of your choice from the bar, entry to the venue, a glass, a programme, a steel and regular band to entertain you. All for a little over £30.  Now that can’t be bad can it?  There was also Caribbean food available both inside and outside the venue.

I spent a few hours at the venue on each occasion.  Overall my personal impressions of the event were very positive and the crowd did really seem to be enjoying themselves.  I spoke with a number of people at the event and offered them help and assistance. Some people seemed unaware that there were any exhibitors (I’m not sure quite how as everything was in the same room).

I’ve seen a few comments online regarding help and advice and the usefulness of the staff behind the bar in offering help with mixers etc.  As this is a mobile Festival Lucy has to rely on local staff. Some of whom she might not meet until the day of the event. The best bartenders in Newcastle are likely to be working Friday and Saturday nights The Rum Festival Newcastle review by the fat rum pirateso yes this can be a little problematic.  The staff were a little inexperienced in the world of rum that cannot be denied.

Quite what the solution to this might be I don’t know maybe a couple of people “supervising” each queue and offering help and advice? Maybe try and get a couple of experts in?  Maybe have more suggestions etc in the programme?

Again having spoken to Lucy she is very keen to get the Rum out of London and get people around the country to enjoy events closer to home.  A little patience is perhaps needed whilst she irons out any minor gripes etc.  Overall for a first time at a venue and her first year of organising the Rum Festival I thought the event was very professionally ran.  If you went to enjoy yourself I can’t see how you could have failed.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Rum Festival. Due to it being relatively small visitors were able to spend more time with the Exhibitors. Having spoken with Peter Holland and Nick Rodgers they felt it was good to spend time with people and give them a bit more background and information regarding rum in general.  Especially those new to rum.

Another bonusThe Rum Festival Newcastle review by the fat rum pirate was a marshaled taxi queue outside the venue.  Ran by one of Newcastles most reliable and reasonably priced taxi firms – Blueline Taxis.  They immediately arranged you a taxi as you began queuing. On both evenings I was on my way home within 5 minutes.  Both evenings I was just a little tiddly!

Oh and finally here is that photo of me with Bumbu Rum. Mrs Fatrumpirate even quite liked it……..the rum not the photo. Shame on her.

 

 

 

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