#rumfamily : Favourite Rum Writers-Wes Burgin
Another #rumfamily series interview and this time it is a world exclusive with thefatrumpirate, Wes Burgin. The word we use at Rumcompass HQ to describe Wes is integrity. He writes and reviews everything with honesty, what you see is what you get and more importantly he is a lot of fun to be around. We have enjoyed many hours of Rum drinking and laughter with Wes and we always use his site to guide us on our journey.
How long have you been blogging?
Wordpress kindly reminded me it was my 5 Year anniversary in February. Though in terms of being “live” on Social Media and revealing myself as thefatrumpirate it was more like December 2014. Up until then, I was learning how to write something half decent and battling with WordPress to try and get something which also looked half decent on the Interweb.
What got you started/what is your background?
A few things got me started. I’ve never really thought of myself as a writer. I still don’t if I’m being totally honest, I don’t think it’s necessarily good writing that brings people to a Rum website especially a Rum Blog. People want some opinions and a bit of personality. A connection with the blogger.
I decided to start a “Rum Blog” because I couldn’t see a single site that ever had anything bad to say about anything – ever. I had just paid over £30 for a bottle of Travellers One Barrel Rum based on a review. I was livid as it was dreadful. Looking back I didn’t realise it was down to additives etc – that had not been addressed in the “review”. I just thought it was bad Rum.
So after moaning on to my wife for a while she told me to start my own blog.
Before I knew it WordPress and myself became bosom buddies.
In terms of my background I am just someone who enjoys drinking – I don’t have any industry background. I worked in a Pub kitchen when I was a teenager…
What was your first memorable rum?
Way before my disappointment with One Barrel I had already began exploring Rum in a very rudimentary way. I figured I was paying around £12 for a bottle of supermarket Rum so I should really expand my horizons and try something more expensive.
Back then “booze” was something to get me drunk. I’m not ashamed to admit that. I used to drink cider and wine. I never touched spirits much aside from the occasional duty free bottle of Bacardi.
So looking on Amazon for a “great” bottle of rum threw up a lot of the now familiar choices Zacapa, Diplomatico and El Dorado 15. I baulked at the £40 plus price tags.
After refining my choices I ended up buying a £16.95 bottle of Chairman’s Reserve (with £4.95) P&P – I still remember clicking that PAY button thinking I had just paid £22 for a bottle of Rum.
My history with Dark Rum up until this point was limited to Negrita on a holiday a few months earlier and a bottle of Lambs Navy Rum.
When the bottle of Chairman’s arrived I mixed it with cola. I’ll be honest, I still do the same now with it.
I was amazed though when I tasted it. Back then I didn’t really know what I was tasting but it was good. Almost instantly I needed more of this dark Rum.
And down the rabbit hole I went……….
How has the Rum industry changed since you have been blogging?
The problem with the Rum Industry is that it is ‘attached’ to the industry as a whole so is often seen as the runt of the litter. It hasn’t really found it’s own place. In many ways the diversity of Rum is as much a blessing as a curse.
If Rum tries to take itself too seriously like say Scotch or Cognac, Tiki people get offended. Yet Tiki causes Scotch and Cognac drinkers to look down their snooty noses at Rum.
What Rum needs is more honesty and integrity from those in the Industry. The bullshit just needs to stop. No one is going to take Rum seriously when rubbish like Bumbu is on the shelves.
I honestly don’t think it has changed much since I have been blogging. It could but there’s too much money at stake sadly. Big Industry and money will always dictate. Bacardi and Captain Morgan will always be the top sellers.
In our little niche of Rum Enthusiasts you think people are drinking the “good stuff” then you go to a Rum event or festival and realise Spiced is still very much king…….sad.
What is the most challenging thing about blogging?
Just kidding. It’s actually finding the time to sit down and write. I now have two small children (3 and less than a year old). Obviously they come first, as does the day job.
Sometimes, it can be hard to think of a new topic to write an article about. Luckily I have hundreds of rums to review so I can always publish something. I’ve been quite disciplined with myself and made sure the blog is updated very regularly.
It can also sometimes be quite difficult to assess how an opinion piece might be taken. I’ve been lucky so far in that I haven’t managed to upset too many people.
I’ll re-phrase that I rarely upset anyone other than those I intended to upset in the first place.
What is the most rewarding thing?
It has been nice seeing the blog grow from 1,000 to over 50,000 views per month. It’s nice that it’s popular and well known.
The most most rewarding thing has got to be when someone contacts me and says how great they found a bottle of Rum I recommended. It is especially rewarding when its something fairly inexpensive, such as Appleton Signature or Mount Gay Black Barrel.
It’s good to see people starting on the good stuff as it’s so easy for people to be seduced by the sweeter spiced Rums.
The blog was set up to try and show people what “good” Rum actually is. I’ve stuck my neck out far more than many other bloggers would ever even consider, so it’s nice people acknowledge that.
Who has helped you/who do you respect in the industry?
Although I try to keep my distance from the Industry I have met a great number of people who have helped me evolve the site. Peter Holland of The Floating Rum Shack should be commended by every Rum lover in the UK for the work he has done. He was very helpful to me early on – inviting me to Twitter Tastings and sharing my posts etc.
Lance Surujbally of The Lone Caner has also been a great help giving tips and encouragement. We don’t always see eye to eye but we never fall out over it. I have a lot of respect for Lance and his site is one of a few reviews sites I recommend. It was lovely to finally meet him in October at the Hampden Launch Event in London.
Richard Seale and Zan Kong of Foursquare and Worthy Park respectively have also been great fonts of knowledge and information. They have always been happy to help me with information for my reviews.
And finally I must mention by biggest friend in the Rum World Steve James of Rum Diaries Blog. You will usually see us together at most Rum events and we have built a real friendship. Steve and Barnali (Steve’s better half) are a great couple. They looked after me at the first couple of Rum events I attended, which is a job in itself.
Most people in the industry have been extremely helpful and I have made a great many friends, yourself (and your better half), Dave Marsland, Peter Thornton, Lucy Douglas, Carl Stephenson etc.
All great people. Apologies to any I have missed.
What frustrates you about the industry?
You might need to hire out some more webspace to publish this answer!
I’ll keep it brief – it’s motivated by money and it can be very “cliquey”. Some producers and brand ambassadors are so far up themselves it’s at times unbelievable. There are some truly awful salesmen around.
What is your best bit of advice to someone new to rum?
Read my blog.
Any unicorn/bucket list rums you haven’t tried yet?
The Black Tot.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
This interview – no one has ever asked me before. Which might go back to what I was saying about the Industry being cliquey…
If you can, what would be your top three Rums ever?
Crikey, I wrote a post with my top ten rums a while back so the top three from there will be a good start (Top Ten Rums So Far)
What would be your top three easily obtainable Rums to have now?
Worthy Park Special Reserve
One from each of my 3 favourite Rum producing islands and all reasonably priced.
What is your drink of choice at the moment?
You can usually find me with a Rum and coke and a Rum or Cachaca chaser. Kind of like my own take on the Boilermaker.
Do you have any Predictions for the future of Rum?
The Rum Enthusiasts will go ape shit for anything Velier release over the next couple of years. Luca should bottle his piss. They’d buy it.
Likewise, Foursquare will continue their dominance of the true Premium Rum market with their Velier collaborations and Exceptional Cask Series Rums.
I also think Worthy Park and St Lucia Distillers will continue to grow in confidence and give us a few more releases over the next few years.
I’d also say keep an eye out on Cachaca – I’d really like to see more of the “good” stuff in the UK if possible.