Oct 102016


October 10th, 2016

Last post before bailing tomorrow morning. Direct flight to Frankfurt and then ICE train to Berlin.  Yes, I could fly but, like Sheldon Cooper, I love trains.  More space, bigger windows, better view, less common, no airport hassles.  I’ve been moving through international airports since I was a kid in the early 1970s and the changes are not all for the better – they’ve become impersonal and overcrowded zoos without a decent bar in sight.  Nothing to do with rums, just thought I’d mention it.

Grandma Caner has all in readiness. Sample bottles check, tasting glasses check, Fest tickets, check, transport cards are a roger.  Pens, notebook, backpack, laptop, cameras, maps, addresses, everything from that perspective is a go.  She has no internet access in her place, so I’m sorry to report that updates will cease until I can find both the sobriety and a wired cafe somewhere, to let you know how things went.

Not sure I mentioned this but the ‘Caner AfterParty will have around eighty rums in it. About half of those are from last year which the boys did not get a chance to sample or share.  The other half are all new, ordered online or passed on by friends who wanted to share, didn’t like them, or just wanted to apprise me of something unusual and hopefully original.  A few are samples, some are purchases, and there’s a couple that are outright thefts.  Did I mention the Caputo 1973 from the Heisenberg distillery? No?  Better not, then. Forget I brought it up.

You’ll forgive me for being so childishly enthusiastic about all this, but if you’re stuck in DryLand for months at a stretch and can’t regularly taste the Liquid Candy of the Lord, well, I think you’d be pretty peppy yourself at the thought of meeting friends, tasting the hooch and wandering around with the beautiful Mrs. Caner next to you, not a respectful three steps behind. And (gasp!) being able to hold her hand, look into her eyes, and maybe steal a kiss in public.

See you all soon, and wish me a good trip and a great experience.

Oct 072016

Part 4October 7th 2016

Got sidetracked last time.  So…who’s exhibiting this time around?  Velier is still a miss (I think they lack a distributor in Germany or something).  JM…J. Bally…Real McCoy…RumFire….By the Dutch and their arrack; there’s an amusingly named new one from Mauritius called Lazy Dodo, along with Gold of Mauritius; I think all the old stalwarts are likely to be there, including Mount Gay and Rum Nation and the Compagnie. Plus the Dominican Republic and the Panamanians. I really have to take a look at the Origines series. I intend to see what the fuss about Don Papa is about.

It’s hard to make a list of the booths I want to visit, when the website shows so few of them…so far.  A day or two later more exhibitors will likely show up than are listed…Rum Nation and the Compagnie both just wrote to tell me they’ll be there, as will Nine Leaves and some others I know from past visits.

I’m specifically looking for the obscure this time around.  Small distilleries, small companies, new independent bottlers.  Delicana and Severin Simon made no great splash in the world since I first ran into them in 2014, yet it was good to go off the beaten track a bit, away from more common fare (even if no-one reads the reviews).  And cachacas, always need more of those.  They’re a niche market of a niche market, one might say, yet, like with Tanduay and Old Monk, in their own part of the world they are well nigh unbeatable on sales (not necessarily quality), so why aren’t more people trying to write about them?

FInalized the AfterParty attendance, Grandma Caner is arranging glasses, itinerary is set, and Mrs. Caner has started sleuthing out sales and mapping shopping areas with potential. Little Caner is dreaming of a week off school. I’m dreaming of rums and hoping I can taste ‘em all.

Oct 052016

graphic (c) thespiritsbusiness.com

October 4th, 2016

Was tempted to apply to be one of the judges, then changed my mind.  Last year I spoke to one of them after he came tottering out of the tasting room, listing sharply to port like a sailor doing a hornpipe, crossed eyes dull and glazed (well…I exaggerate a little), and he remarked rather incoherently that perhaps tasting 60 or more rums in two days was a tad excessive.

Matt Pietrek wrote about his judging experiences in Miami and what that was like, and re-reading his article makes me say to myself, “Better skip the idea.”  I can’t taste that fast, I don’t want to taste that fast, and the pleasant ritual of leisurely going through ten rums (max) a day, cross checking, cross tasting, bringing up a reference rhum from the stash to compare, doing it all over many hours with no hurry, is much more my style. I usually complain and whine about my mother’s place not having internet access (or a TV), but there’s no question that the lack of distraction does focus the mind on the task at hand quite handsomely.

This has nothing to do with me judging, but I feel that until every single festival in the world adheres to the same classification criteria for rums that vie for an award, the medals are valueless because they are not comparable.  Since the same rums are never in competition in all festivals, what good is it to say a 4 year old agricole wins its spot in Festival A (under “Agricoles less than five years old” category), when it can only be entered in Festival B in the category of “agricoles between four and eight years”? (I’m stretching the point for effect, but you see the problem).  

I started an essay on the subject last year but it’s still a work in progress since I have no better solutions of my own to offer aside from standardizing, and look how well that’s gone over with classifying rum to begin with. And then the Cocktail Wonk goes this morning and does a better job. His essay on classification is really worth a read.

Oct 032016

All logos taken from RumFest-Berlin.com


October 3rd 2016

Spending some time perusing the Berlin Rum Fest website for distributors in 2016. I never get to see them all, and the last two years I’ve passed over Havana Club and Mount Gay and Pancho’s Panamanian stuff (it’s always too crowded around there).  The Jamaicans – Worthy Park and Hampden – are coming on strong and gaining a lot of street cred. Maybe I should try those.  Benoit is doing an agricole session, that looks to be something I could do.  There are two “rarities” sessions for an extra €90 (each) on both Saturday and Sunday, but looking at the sample set, I don’t think it’s worth it for me – tried too may already over the years. I’m a damned snob sometimes, sorry. I’d recommend it to others, though, without hesitation, if you want to know how rums from Ago taste like and have the cash.

I want to say hello to colleagues in the rumworld from the Producer’s side…Yoshi from Nine Leaves, Bert Ostermann from Delicana (wonder what Brazilian craziness he has this year?), Florent from CDI (think he might bring the Danish series of fullprooofs with him?…we can hope), perhaps Simon Warren from St. Nick’s – if he has the 18 year old around this year, try keeping me away from that.  Maybe I’ll make some new acquaintances…I hope Daniel from Ekte will be there, heard good things about his juice.  Same with Christian Nagel of Our Rum and Spirits. It’s always a fluid set of people at these things, old ones not coming and new ones popping up. Oh, and I should say hello and introduce myself to Dirk Becker, the owner of the Rum Depot, which has put up this fest for the sixth year in a row. Maybe not – I don’t do much self-promotion which is why I’ll be poor all my life. It’s a personal opinion of mine that if you have to announce “I am this-or-that High Muckety Muck King Turd of Stink Hill” in order to gain respect, you’ve already lost. It’s like being the mouse that roared, y’know?

Mrs. Caner and I (or just me) usually walk around by ourselves and I’m more or less unrecognizable in my low-class tatty peasant attire, and I’ve never done the grand “I’m the Caner” spiel, as if that means something.  Two years and a hundred rums ago, Rob Burr didn’t give me a second look, which was great.

Still, I’m not sure how long my “I’m jes’ plain ole folks” act will work before my face is known and anonymity is a thing of the past. When that happens, I can just see the distributors scatter in horror for the exits — “Hide the shite rum! The friggin’ Caner just walked in!” Or (and I like this one more) — “Oh my God, is that Mrs. Caner?! Quick, polish the bottles, clean the booth, make space for the lady.  Pour a shot of the good stuff. And somebody get her a sandwich!

Sep 302016

The selection from last year….

September 30th, 2016

Having settled the masterclasses and being in a lull right now, it’s time to start making serious arrangements for the so-called Caner AfterParty.  This is just a get-together of a few rum chums, people I correspond with and am happy to call friends – though admittedly, friends or not, they would stampede through a wall and over my spine if they knew I had a Velier Caputo 1973 in stock, and ensure they got their sample before I even cracked the only bottle in existence.

The list of friends has to remain small, because the place is quite tiny, and my experience with the Liquorature crew suggests that any group of more than seven people harbours the danger of side conversations derailing our discussions (and tastings).  So far I know that the Danish contingent will come for sure; the agricole boyos are a maybe; one Italian might make it and there’s a German or three in the offing; too bad none of the Brits are coming but they have their own party a week later so that’s understandable.  The Fair Lady of Sweden has to be checked with (later she tells me that alas, she can’t make Berlin this year). Others have already said no for timing reasons. I love modern social media.  There is no way I could get in touch with these people all at once back in the day, short of writing a telegram. Now it’s a matter of minutes.

Reviewing the list of rums (not samples, but real bottles) is daunting.  Have I really bought this much?  I cast a guilty look around, but Mrs. Caner is busy looking around the Louis Vuitton website for (you guessed it) more purses.  But it’s a great selection (rums, not purses) — it’s from all over the world, from unaged bathtub white lightning to 1970s era cask strength mastodons (and I have no idea what the Chums are bringing).  Martinique, Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica, Japan….Nothing quite as impressive as last year when I had the Black Tot and Chantal Comte rums, plus Trois Rivieres, Veliers, Bristol Spirits and so many others, but I’m not complaining this year either – even among all the good stuff, I have something special waiting for them.  I just shudder at the effort that will be required to schlepp them all out of the basement, and up four flights of stairs.  And glassware, need to get that organized too. I’ll get Oma Caner cracking on that, she helped out big time last year (and was generous with her sampling too which is why some of my bottles are suspiciously low right now).

Sep 292016

masterclass-002September 23rd, 2016

The Berlin Rumfest list of master classes is out.  Looks like they listened to some of the complaints from last and prior years. Previously, attendance to masterclasses could only be registered (for free) on the day of the fest itself. This created a long lineup every year, right by the entrance, and – not unnaturally – a lot of people who sauntered in late were s.o.l. because the early birds got all the seats.  I doubt that the issue will ever go away entirely because certain presenters will always be sought after (like Richard Seale, for example; and if Luca was to ever show up, prepare for a rock-star level riot in the aisles) and therefore there will sometimes be more interest than available places.

However, on this occasion 50% of the seats will be sold online for €5 each, while the other 50% will still be available at the door for nothing.  Since I’m a firm believer that one of the purposes of money (if and when you have it) is to buy back one’s time (which otherwise would be wastefully spent standing too damned long in a line waiting for a freebie or a sale, or squeezing into a cheap airline seat at risk to both blood pressure and patience), I decide to take the hit and shrug it off as the price of my peace of mind. And given the legendary bad tempers of the Caner Clan (or so the sweet and demure Mrs. Caner says) that’s probably a wise investment on my part.

The question is, which ones? Here’s the list in no order: the full listing by day can be found on the ‘Fest website

  • The two “Rarities” tastings which I’ve already decided (not without some regrets) to skip
  • Nine Leaves with Yoshiharu Tkeuchi
  • The Real McCoy with Bailey Pryor
  • Santa Teresa & Soleras with master ronero Nestor Ortega
  • “How to taste like a professional” and “Rum Versus Whisky” run by Bernhard Schäfer
  • Don Q with Roberto Serrallés
  • Tres Hombres with Andres Lackner
  • Rhum Agricole “The Other Style” with Benoît Baile
  • Rums of Venezuela
  • Ron Origines with Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez
  • Ron Botucal with Gilberto Briceno
  • The Art of Artisan Rum production in Europe with Santi Bronchales
  • Ron Brugal with Tanja Bempreiksz
  • Rum’s Place in the spirit’s World with Richard Seale
  • Five “rum and cigars” pairing sessions over the two days

Well, there’s no question but that I have to go to Seale’s session, and with my current interest in agricoles, missing Benoît’s makes no sense. I have detailed notes and unpublished essays on Aldea rums, so Bronchales’s class tickles my fancy. I’ve written a bio on Nine Leaves and always say hello to Yoshi-san whenever I see him, and will be content with that. Rums of Venezuela and the Origines and Botucal classes are tougher to decide on.  I’ll think about those. Actually, I’ll buy the ones I want and make up my mind about the others when I walk in — and that includes the Rarities, which I cannot entirely dismiss; and that, my friends, is how I get snookered into buying some very expensive rums indeed, from time to time.

Sep 272016

minionSeptember 19th, 2016

Damn but I’m busy.  People keep quitting at my office and their work comes to me.  And I have to plan my Berlin visit in somewhat more detail. Where do I find the time?

Bottle pictures are often an overlooked aspect of the review, and I take all my own. My cameras are strewn over the floor as I decide which lenses to take with which camera body.  Finally settle on my small and trusty D7000, ‘cause it has its own flash and the D3S is too heavy. 50mm 1.4 lens. I’m looking with longing at the 105mm 2.0 Defocus Control lens which provides amazingly creamy soft bokeh, then regretfully put it aside.  Charger. Memory cards.  Little Caner is right next to me, he’s taking his rig as well, because he wants to take some night shots in the city. “No, you can’t come to the RumFest and take bottle shots” I tell him, but he’s cool with that since he prefers street photography himself, and thinks my hobby is utterly stupid. (“Why would you enjoy something where the object of your interest disappears over time?” is his not-illogical question. Can’t fool that boy.)

Mrs. Caner wanders over. She could care less what I bring, since I’m going to have to carry it, not her, and she has other self-imposed duties at the Fest.  She’s the self-annointed, self-appointed Producer, you see.  She directs me to each booth in turn — “You haven’t tried any of those yet, dolt,” she’s fond of saying to me, and gives sharp and crisp orders to exhibitors when I talk to them and do the sampling, notes and photos. “Move aside, you’re in the frame!” “No not that bottle, a full one.” “You there, please give the man some space!” “Why are your bottles dusty? Why is this place such a mess?” “Your tie is crooked, here, let me fix it.” “I want to try that rum too, please, why is he the only one who gets any?” There’s some Guyanese in that woman somewhere, honestly. Fabio Rossi of Rum Nation, who’s met her twice now, always treats her with wide-eyed nervousness, trembles a little, and makes sure she gets some chocolates as soon as we appear.

Being a Somebody now cuts me exactly zero slack, mind you…I’m not exempt in the slightest: “You speak German, take me to the sandwich counter and get me two. Quickly now, there’s more rums to try.”  She’s gentle like that.  Somehow I’m absolutely convinced a Prada purse is her price for helping me out, since I bought a Chantal Comte rum last year with funds she had privately earmarked for it.  She maintains a studied indifference to my press credentials, just to ensure I don’t get too full of myself.

Sep 252016



September 1st, 2016

Hey lookie here, Rum Depot sent me an email telling me I’m one of the cool kids and get a press ticket. I guess that passes for credentials. Can pick them up at the press booth on the day. I feel very important all of a sudden.  Yes, I’m Somebody (in my own mind). A ping comes in from Henrik…he just got his too.  We strut around importantly on FB messages like we’re Big Ones, giving each other high fives and chest bumps (figuratively speaking). He pours two glasses of an older Velier to celebrate over there in Denmark, and scarfs them for both of us.

Damn, this means I might actually have to write real press coverage.  Hmm.  Okay.  Better get started. Let’s see…”Full of hope and glory, I set forth one misty morning to do battle with the hordes of the sodden, drunken, monstrosities bestalking our fair land…” — No that won’t work, that’s for some other event. This is about rums, and as all whisky drinkers readily (and enviously) acknowledge, we are sober, serious and industrious people who take our tipple neat and get it for half the cost of the malty stuff. 

How about “It was a dark and stormy night over RumLand, where the terrifying spectre of undeclared sugar stalked the trembling peasantry…”. Not bad. Sounds a lot better.

Of course the Berlin Fest is into its sixth year, and so might require something more serious. Maybe. It’s hard to do with a sense of humour like mine.  Until I get there, I’ll just amuse myself with little updates like these.

Sep 232016

July 15th 2016

Still waiting.  No response from Rum Depot on credentials, which is my driven office existence demanding results in five minutes.  What the hell, it’s summer holidays, would you respond?  Not likely.  Hope the guy is having a good vacation, cause y’know, one of us should.


My list of rums in storage in Berlin keeps mounting.  Seventeen rum from France (including some very interesting agricoles I wanted). Two sets of Rumaniacs samples.  Stuff from Africa, the Far East, Japan…India is coming too. White lightning from a half dozen islands…I’m getting a real liking for those. Some local non-export hooch from the Caribbean. Surinamese rums few know anything about – not even me, and I used to live right next door. The purchases I make are usually more high-end rums, more rare, since it’s unlikely my friends will have those (I’m often the source for them). Still, I buy just as many mid- and low-tier rums online as I can, because it’s needed to provide balance.  The flip side of that is my storage space is creaking under the strain. 

Hard to keep track of all this, or who sent me which samples (and there a lot of those), but I have to say this – rumfolks, even those who don’t write, are extraordinarily generous.  My list of people who I have to send samples to is also getting longer, since I want to share, and anyway, this is the mechanism for building the network and maintaining goodwill. Fortunately, my pockets are deep, and the stuff I have to send is not only low-end table tipple but some real good juice, so there’s no shortage.

50℃ outside and still no rum. My palate is dessicating right in front of my eyes. I write a few more reviews from my notes taken on a recent trip to Paris, just because I need to stay sane, and the memory of a good rum is better than no rum at all.  I publish them and site visits take a nosedive.

Sep 202016

June 17th 2016

dsc_0064Henrik of the RumCorner did something I wish I had thought of first: he applied for Press Credentials with the ‘Fest…how cool is that?  He wrote a really readable online diary of his Berlin experience last year and I guess either they approached him or he saw the menu option on the webpage and went with it.  We talked it over.  Unclear whether it gets him anything concrete, like free entry to the Fest, immediate entry to the Master Classes or such like. But who cares? It’s a step up from being a mere participant, right?  You get a fancy looking badge to string around your neck and people might even look at you different…you are Somebody (yeah, right).

I came up with a brilliant idea of my own.  I love rum, I’ve been writing since 2009, publishing my work since 2010, I love rum, I’ve attended a few tastings, master classes, rumfests, my collection is nothing to sneeze at, I love rum, so hell, why not apply for credentials too? I’m as close to a real rum journalist as anyone else…and better than most of the magazine hacks who write fillers, blurbs, clickbait and idiotic articles displaying a monumental ignorance about and indifference to, rum. Plus (did I mention this?) I love rum.

So I fire off an email to the Depot, glowingly listing my few accomplishments (I write, I have a website, I like rum, y’know, the high points of my disputed magnificence), and settle down to wait.  I wish I had a few rums to sample.  It’s 47℃ outside, my family is enjoying themselves in Canada while I’m under the stern discipline of Ramadan, RumFest is still four months away, and I had a hard day.

It’s sundown. There’s an apple in the fridge.  I’m giving serious thought to fermenting the thing.

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