Meet The Man Who Drinks Rum For A Living

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We chat with Ian Burrell, the world’s first and only Global Rum Ambassador, founder of RumFest and general all round rum connoisseur.

Tell us more about your mixology background…
I started bartending in the early 1990’s. During that period I was asked by a rum company called J Wray & Nephew to be their brand ambassador which involved creating cocktails for them to inspire bartenders. After I left the company to become an independent ambassador I continued to create drinks, recipes and drink menu’s for bars all over the world.

What inspired you to the launch the Rum Fest?
Before 2007, when I created the RumFest, there were no international rum festivals in the world. My inspiration came from events that showed a diversity of products to its audience such as tropical food fairs, World travel markets and whisky festivals. UK RumFest was the first of its kind and has inspired rum festivals all across the globe

Tell us more about breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest rum tasting!
To create more media attention I thought it would be great to set a world record for the largest professional rum tasting, which is something I do every week. Surprisingly when I set the date for the attempt, an organisation in Colombia has arranged to set a world record too, 2 weeks before my date. Unfortunately for them their record only lasted a few days as I broke the record with 400 guests in my masterclass. The record is currently 800 people which I intend to break in the future.

What’s next on the cards?
I looking into new venues and countries to organise more rum festivals and events. Rum is such a fascinating category and fun spirit with so many stories connected to it. I want as many people in the world to have a great Rum experience

Do you have a favourite rum?
The one in my glass, the next one… or a free one!

Do you have any role models?
Growing up my role model was my best friend Don Smith. His understanding of what it takes to be successful was passed onto me, which in turn I try to passed onto others. He has become a lifestyle coach and trains professional speakers in how to  deliver that killer presentation, again something that has aided me to become the world’s only global rum ambassador.

Setting up a rum shack in Antartica is pretty cool – what inspired you to launch the project? What was the most challenging aspect?
I was asked by a journalist if I had been all over the world yet ? I replied I haven’t worked in  the Antarctic yet. After that conversation I set my mind on not only going there but to take a mobile Tiki bar to make cocktails as well as giving a masterclass. It was challenging because as I nearly lost my bar in transportation from Europe to the South of Argentina but luckily the bar arrived and I set the bar on a desk of the ship parked on the Antarctic peninsular. I also arranged a rum masterclass with Pusser’s Rum for the crew and passengers of the ship that carried us to the 7th continent.

Do you have have any favourite food and rum pairings?
I love rum & chocolate pairings. My chocolate of choice is Rococo Chocolates, as they make an array of flavours that compliment many different styles of rum.

If you could go for drinks with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I would go for drinks with Obama. I heard he drinks vodka, so I would need to correct his drinking habits. But also I’d liked to pick his brain on what motivated him, inspired and what were his challenges to become who he has become.

What’s your favourite bar?
I don’t really have a favourite bar as I believe that the bartender and fellow staff make or break a bar. I do have favourite bar experiences such as Dead Rabbit in New York, Smugglers Cove in San Francisco, The Mai Kai in Ft Lauderdale, A For Athens in Athens and finally the Faraday Bar in Antarctica.

Do you have any tips for aspiring mixologists?
Be passionate, Be inspiring, Be attentive, Be-lieve, Be yourself and Smile and enjoy yourself, as life’s too short.

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