The prospectus for the Rum Experience University week looked great – a mix of field trips and a number of seminars covering a wide variety of topics themed around the noble spirit of rum. Base the week in the ancient sugar capital of Andalucía and it’s difficult to image how it could go wrong.
Well, the if you image the actual course to be the main spirit in your glass, then when you add some great rummy chat with a group of likeminded classmates whom represent many aspects of the drinks industry from producer to distributor then you’ve a mixer that fills your glass to the top.
We’ve arrived early and made the most of the Sunday free time, exploring Salobreña and relaxing into the laid back pace of life that this part of the world exudes. With so many of our friends arriving on the Sunday, it was natural that the hotel bar would become the evenings focus. It was with much amazement we found the back bar still had a number of great brands and old stock that hadn’t been consumed since we last visited. We quickly realised the heavy handed pour wasn’t a fluke from last time either. Seriously large glasses of rum to be had…
Day one starts with a presentation on food pairing by Bernard Lahousse. Any doubts about how this was going to relate were quickly quashed as the science set my mind alight with possibilities. I’d recommend checking out their website https://www.foodpairing.com/ and I know it’s something I’ll be looking to follow up on for sure.
The second session was led by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller whom took us through the role that the Cuban Cantineros influenced the cocktail scene. It’s a history lesson and a semi-permanent state of digression whenever Jared and Anistatia talk, but it always wonderfully entertaining and I often wonder why they are not given a longer time slot as they could surely talk for hours! If the opportunity to attend a presentation arises – take it – you’ll not regret it. So much of the modern era of the cocktail owes itself to the golden age in Cuba you’ve got to wonder what the world would be like if prohibition hadn’t happened in America. One small snippet I’ve got to share is that a major US bourbon producer had designs (and the financial muscle to back it) on turning Cuba into the home of American Whiskey during prohibition. It was the work of Facundo Bacardi that prevented this and kept Ron de Cuba as one of the jewels of the Caribbean.
Our afternoon took us outside of the hotel and down into Motril to the Museo Preindustrial del Azúcar and the Museo del Azúcar de la "Fábrica del Pilar" – basically the original, pre-industrial (and ancient) methods of sugar production and then the newer, mechanised approach. A little known fact, but this region was producing sugar in the 7th century thanks to the Muslims that had occupied this part of Spain. We’ve visited the pre-industrial museum before and so it was nice to reinforce the knowledge gained before. The Industrial Museum is a much newer place – still unfinished, but a good glimpse of what is to come.
Whilst this area was “the” hub of sugar in Spain, the region no longer produces as economic factors make the production of sugar simply not viable. A sad truth, but commercial reality overrides nostalgia. As I write this, we are due to visit the last (working) sugar cane factory in Europe later this afternoon. It (however) shut some years ago. Motril and the surrounds may once have been exceedingly rich due to the sugar production, but now it’s a region looking for other methods of earning a living.
Day two is to continue with “White Rums” The Foundation of the rum category and a Professional Speaking lesson, a change from the schedule as the rums Richard Seale needs for his presentation have yet to be safely delivered to the site. We can only pray that they make it here safely… ;-)
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