707-278-6736 rob@rumjury.com

The Consumer Rum Judge Competition and Awards

the annual blind tasting and judging event

The Consumer Rum Jury Competition

The Rum Jury Competition is a subset of the prestigious RumXP competition.

The members of the International Rum Expert Panel are seasoned judges who participate in international rum tasting competitions around the globe. Their RumXP awards are among the most prestigious accolades in the spirits business.Rum Jury Competition

At the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April, RumXP leader Robert Burr organizes the Rum Jury to evaluate consumer preferences and trends in the rum category.

These qualified consumer judges were presented with an array of blind tasting samples to evaluate using the same strict standards and procedures employed by the international rum experts in their competition.

The results of the Rum Jury Competition — the Consumer Rum Jury Awards — were shared with rum producers, distillers, importers and distributors. Consumer rum tasting awards were issued to the top rated spirits as judged by members of the consumer rum jury.

Robert Alvarez

Robert AlvarezRobert began drinking and collecting rum in the early 2000s. While working on his PhD, Robert traveled and lived in many places, but his passion for trying new rums never ceased and he’s been fortunate to try delicious rums from areas that he never imagined produced high-quality rums. Currently, he lives in San Francisco and frequents Smuggler’s Cove and other great bars when time allows. He mostly drinks aged rums, e.g., Zacapa 23, Dictador, Clement, but lately has been getting into some funkier, slightly-aged, American rums like Cane & Abe and Owney’s NYC rum. He is continually pushing his palate to try new and exotic rums, to date more than 500. He joined the Burr family in their annual Rum Cruise to visit at least a half dozen great producers in the Eastern Caribbean while making many great new additions to his personal rum collection. Robert has participated as a judge in several Rum Jury Competition events.

Bill Carney

Bill CarneyAfter a wonderful experience on the 2016 Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise with the Burrs, an invitation to participate in the Consumer Rum Jury was gladly accepted. For my honeymoon we took a cruise in the Caribbean, and during a stop in Barbados we toured Mt. Gay’s Visitor Center.  I was never really a spirits drinker, but after a couple of samples I was completely hooked.  Rum moved me in a way no other spirit had. Other than being a consumer I’m not involved in rum in any way, except perhaps acting as a missionary bringing this spirit to my non-rum drinking friends. I’m a beginning collector, as up until recently I was a buy-it-and-try-it kind of person. I did have a bottle of Mt. Gay’s Tricentennial Selection purchased a very long time ago, but it was opened at the birth of my children and shared with their godparents. My recently acquired English Harbour 1981 likely won’t be opened until I have grandchildren. I’ve been enjoying Don Q  Gran Añejo, Flor de Caña Centenario 12, and Plantation XO 20yr Anniversary lately. Typically I gravitate towards the slightly sweeter rums of Central America, but after recently visiting St. Lucia Distillers and Mt. Gay I’ve also been re-introducing myself to their expressions again. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of rhum agricole, but I respect its position in the universe of rum. I’ve been to a few good distilleries including Bacardi, St. Lucia Distillers (3 times), Antigua Distillery, St. Nicholas Abby, and Mt. Gay (Distillery 1x, Visitor Center tour 2x).  I’m planning on visiting some in Belize next. My blog has a little rum-related content there, but mostly drink recipes and my travel notes. http://blog.billcarney.com

David Derricotte

David DerricotteI want to thank Robin Burr for inviting me to participate as a Consumer Rum Juror. I am a retired school teacher. I was first introduced to serious rum by Ben Jones at a “Wine Enthusiast” event in NYC. I found that Rum Clement VSOP made a very good Mai Tai and Papa Doble. Both cocktails are enhanced by substituting Clement Creole Shrub for simple syrup. It was the very first time I knew that rum could be made from molasses or agricole/fresh squeezed cane juice. The type of rum I like depends on what I am using it for. For mixing tiki drinks or rum substitution drinks like a rum side car or rum old fashion, I like Banks 5/7 island, Ron Barrilito 3 stars, Mount Gay Black Barrel and Clement VSOP. If I am in the mood for a brandy/cognac substitute I like Plantation 20th Anniversary, Dos Maderas PX, Ron Zacapa XO, and Mount Gay 1703 old cast selection among others. My first introduction into different rum distilleries was being fortunate to accompany the Burrs on their Carribbean rum cruise tour this past November. We visited St. Nicholas Abbey, Mount Gay, English Harbour and Chairman’s reserve among others.

Jennifer Essex

Jennifer EssexI’ve been a fan of the tiki aesthetic since my first visit to Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room when I was a child, then when Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda in 2006, I lived less than a mile away and found “my people.” I joined their Kill Devil Club and was the first person to drink through their rum list twice! Then when Martin Cate opened Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, I started really learning about the spirit under his tutelage. I have now tasted over 540 different rums at Smuggler’s Cove and am a “Master of the Cove” and member of the “Black Tassel Brigade,” the highest level of Smuggler’s Cove’s Rumbustion Society. I also became the in-house rum consultant/educator for Tiki Hideaway in Charlotte, North Carolina, when I moved across the country in late 2014. I generally mix cocktails with smooth white rums like Cana Brava, Don Q Cristal, and SelvaRey, amber rums such as Appleton Reserve, El Dorado 12 and Denizen Merchant Reserve. For sipping I prefer the smoother, slightly sweet rums from Central and South America, like El Dorado 21, Ron Centenario 20 and 25, Ron Zacapa, Vizcaya, Abuelo, and Ron Cartavio XO. I also enjoy uniquely flavored rums like Chairman’s Reserve Spiced, SelvaRey Cacao, and Dos Maderas 5+5. I have to admit I’m not a fan of agricole style rums, but I can tell a good one from a bad one. One of the perks of becoming a Master of the Cove at Smuggler’s Cove is going on a trip to a distillery with Martin Cate. Distileria Serralles hosted our group in Puerto Rico, which included a behind the scenes tour at the distillery in Ponce. I’ve also visited the St. George Distillery in Alameda, CA several times and hope to visit more distilleries in the near future. I recently started a blog where I discuss rum, cocktails, restaurants, and other spirit-related topics. The site is www.rumspiration.com.

Kelly Lawrence

Kelly LawrenceI first heard about the Consumer Rum Jury at the Ohana Luau by the Sea. I attended a Seminar called Tiki by the Numbers and I won First Prize in the Great Rum Challenge tasting competition! Literally that was my first introduction to sipping different rums and tasting how they influenced the outcome of a tropical drink. Throughout the weekend I was introduced to many different rums a sip at a time. Until then I had never contemplated the differences and complexities in rum. I did find it extremely intriguing. I like to cook and have always experimented with spices in food but never really thought about how spices and flavors can impact the final taste of a rum. My favorites are spiced and flavored rums. (My favorite after Ohana Luau by the Sea is the Clement Creole Orange/Spice flavored Rhum Agricole from Martinique.) I’m fairly well known for my gourmet jello shots. The introduction of flavored rums exploded my recipe repertoire to a whole new level. I’m looking forward to learning more about different rums and creating jello shots with exotic complex flavor profiles. I have never visited a distillery and the thought of the Rum Cruise is very enticing. I have never blogged but occasionally bragged (on FaceBook) about the Friday night Jello du Jour for the summer Starlight Musicals.

Bill Mohler

Bill MohlerI’m honored to have been invited back by the Burr’s to participate in the Consumer Rum Jury again this year. I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania but in the future hope to live at the beach in a warm tropical location. I started enjoying rum in the 1980s and have amassed a continuously growing collection of over 1100 different rums. I enjoy tasting, evaluating and collecting rum as a hobby. I hope to run a craft distillery someday. I especially enjoy sipping barrel aged rums as well as spiced rums. I continue to visit craft distilleries throughout the United States in order to learn, support and promote them as a rum ambassador. I’m currently assisting Hidden Still Spirits, a craft distiller in Lebanon PA, perfect their rums. You can check on my travels to distilleries on my Facebook blog under RumUnliMited. Cheers!

Alex Sobtzak

Alex SobtzakMy wife and I have been to several rum festivals over the last ten years.  I was chosen to be a judge for the Tampa Rum Fest. Miami Rum Renaissance is our favorite. I hated beer in college. Captain & Coke became my go-to beverage for the next 10+ years. About 10 years ago, my wife surprised me with VIP tickets to the Tampa Rum Fest for my birthday. At the time, we had never been to anything like it, and didn’t know what to expect. I left with a new improved appreciation for rum. One of my favorite finds from last year’s event was the Siesta Key Spiced Rum. I also managed to get my hands on a bottle of their Beer-Barrel finish #3, which was made from a Cigar City Cherry Stout. My favorite sipping rums are Diplomatico, Vizcaya, and Ron Cartavio (another find from last year). The Vizcaya is a bit more “oaky”, and pairs well with a cigar. The Diplomatico has more of caramel sweetness that I’ll usually enjoy by itself. I’ve been to four distilleries (two moonshine and two rum). In the last year, I’ve been to the Siesta Key distillery a few times, and have even had a behind-the-scenes tour with the owner — complete with samplings of stuff he’s working on and a couple of barrels that were “in process.” Most recently, I was invited to tour the Copper Bottom distillery. It’s a brand-new distillery that just opened in Daytona. They’ve made a substantial investment in starting right, and it’s paid-off. I have over 800 friends/followers on Facebook, and they all know me to be a rum enthusiast. Many ask for recommendations, and enjoy my occasional postings about my latest discoveries.

Glen Wilneff

Glen WilneffFor the past 20 years I have been a rum fan, as of the last 5 years I have focused on building a collection of premium rums from all parts of the globe, which today number over 100 great examples of craftsmanship and tasting excellence. As a follower of various penmanships, including Robs Rum Guide I had discovered an opportunity to participate in the inaugural consumer rum jury in 2015. A wonderful experience that was complimented with a tremendous rum festival. My preference is tilted towards dark, aged and premium aged rums served neat, while the odd time a well-crafted cocktail finds a limited lifespan in my hand. Traveling has given me the opportunity to visit some distilleries and most of all allowed me to indulge into different examples of what the rum world has to offer. I enjoy taking a non-rum drinker and converting them to a rum believer while endeavoring to deliver some rum producer facts and trivia. As of today if I had to pick five rums to be marooned on an island with they would include a 25 yr. old Flor de Caña, Plantation pineapple (Stiggin’s Fancy), Diplomatic Reserva Exclusiva, Brugal Siglo de Oro and Bumbu. Having just recently acquired my importation license, I will be striving to have a distinct portfolio of rums to import and sell to my fellow Canadians and perhaps in the future to have a unique private labeled rum brand to showcase and build a following upon. If opportunity allows I would also like to continue and further develop the judging aspect of this wonderful spirit, we call RUM. Best rum experience ever would have to be meeting rock music icon Neil Young and sharing a few rum and cokes. The rum was by no means legendary but the company was in my mind.

Mario Gomez

Mario GomezI am a physician and my interest for Rum started a few years back after being introduced to Millonario XO. Since then it has been a challenge to keep up with my friends in the McAllen Rum Club, in Texas. In our meetings we taste a great variety of unique rums, and enjoy while learning about them. Also, by traveling to the Renaissance Festival yearly my enthusiasm and Rum knowledge base increased exponentially. I particularly enjoyed the offerings at the VIP bar last year. I am excited to participate at the Consumer Rum Jury this year and look forward to a great experience. The rums I keep nearby include Millonario XO, Diplomático Ambassador, Opthimus 25, Brugal Siglo de Oro, Cartavio XO and Barcelo Imperial 30, to name a few. Hopefully the list will continue to expand over the years.

Reuben Valentin

Reuben ValentinI’m a physician in Texas and part of the McAllen Rum Club with 3 other friends. My interest in rum has always been in my blood being a Puertorrican. I grew up with Bacardi and Don Q, however I did not have the financial privilege to buy more exquisite rum. I moved to McAllen 6 years ago and there I met a rum fanatic, like me, and since then we have tasted many prestigious rums. A couple drinks later the McAllen Rum Club was formed. This is our 3rd year at the Miami Rum Festival and we wanted to be more involved in the event. The Consumer Rum Tasting Jury was a perfect fit for me. I have visited all the Puerto Rican distilleries like Bacardi and Serralles, which makes Don Q. Rums that have impressed me are Millonario, Rum Del Museo, Papa Andres, Barcelo Imperial, Don Q Reserva La Familia and Facundo Paraiso. I can speak on behalf of the McAllen Rum Club that we will cherish this opportunity for years to come.

Ben Blee

Ben BleeI’m a rum enthusiast and maybe a rum ambassador but I’m not involved in the beverage industry in any way. Aside from the 2015 Rum Renaissance, the only other public rum tasting I’ve attended is First Midwest Rum Fest that was held in Louisville, KY in early December 2014. I have hosted and contributed to informal rum tastings for friends in private settings like my home and have acquired many bottles during driving trips to other states. I buy them to drink and share with friends who are interested, not to admire on a shelf. Along with enjoying rum on its own, I like experimenting with different rums and mixers, in traditional rum drinks and as substitutes for whiskey in classic cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. I tend to prefer aged rums but there are some younger white rums I like too. I like rum that tastes like rum but also has some complexity and character to its flavor. In other words, I like rum that stands out a little as unique but not so much that the flavor is off or strays too far from tasting like rum. Most mass-produced spiced rums don’t appeal to me but there are few spiced rums I like from smaller distilleries. I’m not a big fan of rhum agricole but as I’ve explored more rum, agricole is growing on me. I’ve visited two Bourbon distilleries in Kentucky: Markers Mark and Labrot and Graham, makers of Woodford Reserve. I participate in rating rums on the rumratings.com website under my member name, DelectaBlee. I’m also a member of the Ministry of Rum web site but participation there has been minimal. I have enjoyed participating as a judge in several Rum Jury Competition events.

Myssi Davis and Joe Horstkamp

Joe and MyssiDuring our first visit to the Miami Rum Fest last April — I noticed some of the rums had won awards, and after looking a little more closely I saw that there was a consumer award. It was interesting to see that there was an award category from the average rum enthusiast in addition to the ones from expert judges. I grew up in Maryland and moved to Florida five years ago to follow my dream of living in paradise. I work in the banking industry as a project manager and systems consultant, and also run a small cupcake business from my home called Cupcakes and Dreams. When I’m not working, I love to scuba dive and stay fit by doing Pilates and Zumba. I’ve always been a fan of rum, not just because of the way it tastes but also because of its interesting history and ties to the Caribbean. During my honeymoon to St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2005, I discovered a unique and potent local rum called Sunset Very Strong Rum which was in all of the drinks and was even poured on the french toast I had for breakfast! My husband and I had to bring a bottle back home to share with our friends, and that’s how our rum collection began. We currently have 137 kinds of rum and are continuously adding more. About a year ago, I was offered the opportunity to become a brand ambassador for Blue Chair Bay Rum. This is the best job in the world — I go to liquor stores and bars where I get to talk about rum and provide free samples to customers. I also attend industry events like Miami Rum Fest and the Hukilau to promote the brand. I enjoy flavored and spiced rums — Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum is my favorite, and I love Koloa Kauai Coffee Rum, Pink Pigeon Vanilla Spiced Rum, and Siesta Key Spiced Rum as well. I also recently began developing a taste for older aged rums like Flor de Caña Centenario 25 and Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. I have visited numerous distilleries: Sunset in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Old New Orleans in Louisiana, Siesta Key and St. Augustine in Florida, John Watling’s in the Bahamas, Toppers Rhum in St. Maarten, Brinley in St. Kitts, Antigua Distillers, St. Lucia Distillery, and St. Nicholas Abbey and Mount Gay in Barbados. My husband and I recently started a website, www.rumtraveler.com where we plan to share reviews and pictures of rum distilleries we visit as well as tips on interesting things to do nearby. We want to inspire people to travel to new places, try the local rums, and experience unique activities along the way. We are also on Facebook (Rum Traveler), Twitter (@RumTraveler), and Instagram (the_rum_traveler) where we share stories and pictures from our travels.

Cherryl Espinoza

Cherryl EspinozaBorn and raised in Trinidad where Rum is woven into the fabric of everyday life, I grew up with a healthy appreciation of Rum. I had my first taste as a teenager, a Rum & Coke made with Fernandez’s Vat 19 Rum, at home with my parents. After moving to the US, and decades of drinking greats wines, and good vodka, I wanted to return to my Rum heritage, and learn more about Rum. In 2012, I began researching and tasting various brands, and reconnecting with the magic and mystery of Rum, my history, and our interwoven history via Rum. My research led me to Robert A. Burr who has graciously shared his knowledge and network, and reacquainted me with my “Rum Tribe.” I’m eternally grateful to Robert and his family for these gifts. I’m a member of the Tonga Hut’s Rum Rhum Club in Los Angeles led by Forrest Cokeley and Marie King, and I enjoy sipping aged Rums, and simple Rum cocktails. As my palette improves, and I learn more about Rum, I recognize my preference changes with each season, region or meal. My preferred Rum includes, Angostura’s 1787 & 1824; RL Seale’s Foursquare Port Cask; Plantation Rum Barbados 5yr; Pussers Navy Rum 15yrs; Havana Club; Bristol Spirits-Haiti; Ron Cartavio XO; and Zacapas 23. I also enjoying the cocktails I create blending younger white Rums with herbs, peppers and lemons from my garden. My Rum collection is small, but it spans three continents, and after decades of driving by Angostura Distillery in Trinidad, I had a private tour of the facilities in January 2017, led by Master Distiller John Georges. Next up, touring Lost Spirits in Los Angeles, and distilleries in Cuba, Barbados and Jamaica. I share my Rum discoveries on my Instagram and twitter accounts: @rumandcompany. Video content from my Rum travels will eventually reside on www.sienamedia.com.

John Fortman

John FortmanEveryday I lookup rum distilleries, rum history, manufacturing etc. I have known about the Miami Rum Festival for some time but just haven’t made it there yet. We purchase bulk caribbean rum and the sales rep for the distillery has been there and we have had many discussions. He says it is a great forum, and a lot can be learned if you listen and asked questions. My background is manufacturing in the Food and Beverage industry working on fun brands such as Log Cabin, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, Cracker Jack etc. I moved from the midwest to Texas in 2010 to help turn around a struggling manufacturing business. We built the business up, found investors and opened the doors under new management in 2014. We switched the facility from all non-spirits to mostly filling spirits which is now 99% of our business. We receive bourbons, whiskey, caribbean rums, NGS, we take these spirits and blend, mix, flavor, create and bottle. In addition to bottling I do personally run the still for gins and also ferment and distill a few vodkas. I do daily tastings both internally and with customers to determine new blends and additions to current brands. I am not involved in all sales meetings, however I am asked to join any meetings that involve blending and producing of rums to give advice and suggestions. I like sipping aged rums neat and have over 130 different bottles so far. As far as mixed drinks, I usually let that up to the mixologist at the island that I’m visiting. Of course they usually pick a local flavor which adds to the Caribbean experience for me. I started in younger years with white rum, however now I tend to lean towards aged dark spanish style rums. With that said, like my music, I think there is a time and place for every style of rum. I am a member of American Distillers Institute and have been to distilleries in both Texas and Kentucky. Every Spring a small group of friends pick an island and take a week’s vacation in the Caribbean. They are starting to look for places that has distilleries nearby so we can visit. While not the same as being there, I have visited most distilleries on line to review their history, photos etc. I used to have a website called Punta Cana Vacation that included resorts, reviews, rums, local hangouts etc. I had to give that up when we opened the distillery due to the amount of time I was spending here and the intense amount of studying to understand Govt. regulations and developing policies and procedures. Life is a little easier now even though we are growing fast, so I have another domain name protected that I am considering dedicating to rum. I have put together a “menu” of my current rums and am adding a section on the Distilleries, History of rum, rum facts as well as a composite rum rating from various websites for each rum. It is a hobby that I love and have even began to hand carve a wooden cover for it. The nice thing about this hobby is that while researching I get to take a mini vacation to the distillery and island, even if it is only in my mind and for a few minutes.

Pam Palmer

Pam PalmerI heard about the taste testing jury from Robin Burr. In the Great Rum Challenge, I achieved a perfect score, so I won a chance to serve on the Consumer Rum Jury. I have enjoyed drinking rum for years but my friends from Atlanta have introduced me to higher quality rums from all over. I attended a Clemente Rum tasting in Atlanta which increased my interest in finer rums. I really like Clemente rhums and Siesta Key Rum. St. Augustine distillery is the only distillery I have visited. I post my Rum tasting experiences on Facebook and Instagram.

Christina (Chrissy) Pantoja

Christina (Chrissy) PantojaDuring a rum sampling event for Ron Abuelo’s cask finish series, I learned about your fantastic consumer rum tasting jury. I have a relatively diverse background but I love travel, music, and rum. If I can marry the three, I would consider that heaven. I’m a huge fan of the Caribbean for being able to fete through the next day, hearing happy and lively soca music, and yes, drink rum like there is no tomorrow. Fun fact, I fell in love with the Caribbean so much, I once worked for an airline just so I could fly down as often as possible. In a nutshell, I am a rum enthusiast that loves the social aspect that rum can bring. Rum people ARE fun people. If it’s rum, I’ll drink it. If given a choice, however, I am quite fond of aged molasses-based rums. My love for rum came with my early visits to Barbados and Trinidad so I appreciate the nostalgia I feel with these types. Old-time favorites include Mount Gay, El Dorado, and Chairman’s Reserve. I’ve visited the distilleries at Mount Gay Rum and St. Nicholas Abbey. I run www.allineedisrum.com and share my articles to anyone that might take to reading them. I caught the attention of Mount Gay which led to an awesome personal tour of their distillery and a beautiful sample of their most recent release.

Sarah Wilkinson

Sarah WilkinsonWe learned about the Consumer Rum Jury and everything else we know about rum from watching the Burrs. I am a minor celebrity with a piratey persona. So RUM was always a question. I love ALL rums but if I have to pick one then I would say Aged rum is the category I have always loved most … but then who wouldn’t! I have a fondness for many Rums but lately I have been big on Panama and Cuba … as far as companies Plantation always wins my heart but so many others accompany them there! I have been to 2 or 3 distilleries, all in Florida. I do have a web page and “in the works” is a rum section. I talk about Rum in public formats regularly as part of my Art Career. http://www.nigelsade.com/

Marcos Chavez Paz

Marcos Chavez PazI am a physician born in Perú but working in the USA since 2005. I have always loved rum. My interest started when I tried “Appleton Estate 5 years” more than 20 years ago. It change my world opening it to aromas and flavors that I did not imagine. Of course because limited resources at that time I could not afford having a rum collection. My objective was to sip at least once “Appleton Estate 21 years.” I promised myself to buy one bottle when I graduated from Medicine School, got a nice job, pass the tests to became a doctor in USA, got into Internal Medicine, then got my specialties, approve the boards…never happen; there was always something. Years passed and I landed my first job in private practice. I was eating lunch with my wife when we saw the bottle…there it was: My dream rum in the top shelf of the store. It was the right time: I bought it and sipped slowly…Then I shared with my best friends. I could have the satisfaction of that recompense after so many years. I soon started my collection and my club. The Club has my same friends as members, friendship grew and also my collection. I am blessed to have try some of the best aged rums in the world. I got book collections about rum. It has became an obsession… I am really excited.

Humberto Nunez

Humberto NunezI am a Peruvian physician working in Texas. I have always enjoyed having a good drink with rum, but my passion started when I tasted rum Millionario a few years ago in one of my friend’s house. Ironically, it’s from Peru, but I never heard of it when I was living there. Since then, I have tried the most delicious and exotic rums and going several times to the Rum Festival in Miami. With my friends always find a time in our busy life to share and enjoy the new rums in our collection, hoping find the best rum we ever tried, and always sipping the old ones, to keep our taste used to the best. I am excited to be part of the Consumer Rum Jury this year.

Rum Jury

Members of the Rum Jury are enthusiastic rum consumers who delight in the discovery of new rums, enjoy rum tasting events, love to travel to distilleries to increase their knowledge of rum production, and serve as judges in blind tasting competitions.

The annual Rum Jury Awards recognize outstanding achievement by rum producers and help track the evolving tastes, preferences and proclivities of American Rum consumers.