Rums of the World Unite for Awards and Festival

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Fourth Annual "Polished Palate International Rum Festival" highlights spirits' growth and quality including first ever "Best in Show" Award

It is obvious that rum's star has already risen. The amazing quality and the significant number of new producers joining the competition including those from Peru, Mexico, Africa, Panama and the U.S. bodes well for the industry. This year's events were a great success, and I look forward to 2010.

The largest and most comprehensive Rum Festival and Rum Competition in the U.S. celebrated its fourth year with its most impressive selection of entries to date, including the first ever 'Best In Show' Award. The series of public and private events was highlighted on Saturday, March 28, where a crowd of more than 700 attendees joined a series of tasting tours and seminars at the main festival event and enjoyed an array of rum styles from around the globe.

The competition, held from March 26-27, at the historic Ritz in Ybor City, featured renowned international judges who sampled, judged and compared 53 (51 sugar-cane based) of the finest rums and other spirits to select this year's honor roll.

Sponsored by multiple award-winning Imbibe Magazine, Rums of Puerto Rico, Empire Winery & Distillery, Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, Kilo Kai Spiced Rum, Cuca Fresca Cachaca, Teatro on Seventh, Rock-n-Sports Bar & Grille, The Nest, Gaspar's Grotto, Tortuga Rum Cakes, Dr. Cardoo, Carrollwood Wine & Spirits, 80 Proof Generation, Beverage Marketing On Line, A Cork Above, Soho Tampa, Tampa Gold, Mobile Tiki Bar and Rodriguez & Menendez Cigars, the Festival included a formal rum tasting dinner, a "Rum on the BBQ" event and the Main Event, which featured a silent auction benefiting The Sky Ranch Foundation. The auction earned the Foundation just under $2,000 thanks to generous donations from participating brands, sponsors and supporters.

Guests at the Main Event sampled award-winning brands including Bacardi, Kilo Kai, Montecristo, Ron Zacapa, Ron Botran, Diplomatico, Ron Barcelo, Tommy Bahama, Ron del Barrilito, Don Q, Mt. Gay, Cuca Fresca Cachaca, Empire Winery & Distillery's Rum-based Liqueurs, Captain Morgan, Ocucaje Pisco, Blanco Aguardiente, Khukri, Prichards, Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, Ron Medellin Rum and Antioqueno Aguardiente.

The 8 prominent judges, including rum connoisseurs and editors at top publications and hosted by Jack Robertiello of Drinks Ink, sampled the spirits before selecting Best of Category, Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards and the first ever Rum Competition Best In Show Award. For a brand to receive the Best In Show Award, each of the judges has to present the spirit with a score of 90+. Ron Millonario Solera 15 Reserva Especial from Peru received that honor and can be regarded as the best rum in the world for 2009.

This year's event featured 12 categories including White Rum, Dark Rum, Gold Rum, Rum Aged up to 8 Years, Rum Aged 9-15 Years, Rum Aged 15+ Years, Overproof Rum, Aguardiente, Flavored Rum, Rum Liqueurs, Spiced Rum and an Other category that included Pisco and Grappa. Of special note this year is that 23 of 51 rums were all new to the competition and that Colombia was especially well represented with eight entries. Interestingly, rums from Peru (a country renowned for pisco production as
opposed to rum) received acclaim from the judges - including the Best of Category (Ron Peruano) for Rums aged up to 8 Years and the Best In Show winner.

The series of seminars on March 28, videocast live by A Cork Above, were particularly well attended and featured essential topics including:

  •     The Basics of Rum Distilling (hosted by Master Distiller Phil Prichard)
  •     A tasting session led by Jack Robertiello where guests learned to score and rate spirits similarly to professional judges
  •     The history, legend and lore of 'demon rum' hosted by author Ian Williams
  •     The history of the Mai Tai & the Daiquiri--as well as featuring and serving his creation, the Gingirinha (Ginger Caipirinha) presented by Cocktail Historian Phil Greene, sponsored by Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur & Cuca Fresca Cachaca

Dori Bryant, President of the Polished Palate said, "It is obvious that rum's star has already risen. The amazing quality and the significant number of new producers joining the competition including those from Peru, Mexico, Africa, Panama and the U.S. bodes well for the industry. This year's events were a great success, and I look forward to 2010."

During the months ahead, features and tasting notes will be presented on the fine brands that participated this year.


Jack Robertiello - Wine & Spirits Writer, Journalist & Consultant, Drinks Ink (New York)
Terry Jones - Vice President, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits (Florida)
Ian Williams - Author, Correspondent, Journalist, (New York)
Arturo Sighinolfi - Director Mixology & Education, Southern Wine & Spirits (Florida)
Rick Crossland - (ret.) Senior Vice President, Bahama Breeze Restaurants (Florida)
Bill Dowd - Wine and Spirits Writer, Dowd on Drinks (New York)
Chris Sherman - Food Critic, Florida Trend Magazine (Florida)
Delon Cunningham - Owner, Carrollwood Fine Wine & Spirits (Florida)

About The Polished Palate:
Since 2005, the Polished Palate has been hosting cutting edge tasting events, educating the consumer on all aspects of each distilled spirit category. Through events and seminars hosted by recognized industry professionals, guests learn about the history and culture of each spirit, their impact on society, current trends and appropriate tasting techniques, while promoting responsible consumption--all in a festive format.

The Polished Palate International Rum Festival® in Tampa (formerly International Cane Spirits Festival®) and the Polished Palate Spirits of Mexico Festival® in San Diego are now regarded as world-class Tasting Competitions. The New York Spirits Awards will take place in June during the New York Bar Show at the Jacob Javits Center and will include entries from across all distilled spirits categories. For more information, visit


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Dori Bryant

Roseann Sessa
Savvy Drinks LLC
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