Our friend Bob Davies, AKA-The Rumelier, has traveled the world and collected over 850 rums!! He recently shared his amazing story with us. Enjoy!
How and when did you become interested in rum?
I am originally from North Wales which could easily be described as a rum desert. I was a real ale drinker and an active local member of CAMRA (the campaign for real ale). I very rarely drank rum. In 1989 I immigrated to Grand Bahama as a Physical Education teacher in a small fishing village at West End. Naturally, rum is one of the most popular drinks in the Bahamas, where at the time there was a Bacardi Distillery.
After a couple of years I moved into the local Rugby Club as a live-in manager. Here amongst other duties I ran the bar. Not only did I run the Rugby Club bar I also had several friends who owned their own bars. One of the most influencial rum friends was the owner of Bahama Mamas, Kevin Lightbourn. He introduced me to all sorts of rum cocktails and even invented one named after me, “Moon Over Bob”. There is a good bar story behind that name believe me!! The rest as they say is history.
After spending 11 years in the Bahamas my wife, Teri and I decided to move down to the Turks and Caicos Islands. I first worked in the wholseasle food business before being invited to manage the wholesale department of the biggest liquor, beer and wine importer in the country. An offer that could not be refused.
How many rums are in your collection?
The last time I counted, which is not an easy job, there was over 850 bottles all over the apartment. Fortunately we are in the process of buying a new house and are building a seperate room for the collection and a bar where the rums can be displayed properly.
What is your favourite rum (or rums) in each category and why?
- White:- I must admit I am not a big white rum drinker but the new Mount Gay Eclipse Silver is very impressive as is Diplomatico Blanco and of course Bacardi Superior has always been one of my go to rums.
- Gold:- Most of the younger gold rums I usually mix with ginger ale. While I have many favourites I tend to try and drink a different one as much as possible so I get to “know” most of the rums in my collection. Gold rums are the largest segment of my collection. I have to say it was Bacardi Anejo that started me on this rum journey followed by Barcelo Anejo. Niether is currently available in the Turks and Caicos so I like to experiement with new rums all the time. Recently I have shown a preference for stronger flavoured rums, eg.Appletons.
- Premium:- My favourite category of rums is the premium section which I normally drink it over some ice and add a splash of water. I have a few go to rums that are always there in the collection, Mount Gay Extra Old and 1703, Appleton Master Blender’s Legacy and 21 Year Old. Other regualrs are Bacardi 8, Zacapa 15YO, Angostura Single Barrel and of course Bambarra Reserve.
Do you have a favourite rum bar?
One of the best bars for rum in Providenciales is Da Conch Shack. They have a great selection of rums and have a premium rum menu (designed by myself!!). They are famous for their tri coloured rum punch which they also sell by the jug. The location is right in the sand and coconut palms in Blue Hills. It is a real “island” experience, not to be missed if you ever visit Provo. Of course as the name suggests they specialise in Conch, where they keep the conch in pens in the sea and “crack” them fresh every day for there staple items on the menu. It is a great place to relax and chill out after work or with the kids where they can play in the sand or sea.
What is your regular cocktail?
I have never really been much of a cocktail guy. If it takes more than rum, ice and soda it sounds like work or cooking, neither which I came to the Caribbean for. As I said earlier ginger ale is my go to mixer, I like to keep it simple as possible. I have found if I buy some ingredient to make a cocktail I use it once then end up throwing it out a few months later!! Now and again you might see me making a mojito in the kitchen. Living on a small island can have it’s drawbacks as simple ingredients can be very expensive and impossible to find, another good reason to keep it simple.
What is the best place to buy rum in your area?
I am very fortunate to work at the Wine Cellar here in Provo. We currently have over 120 rums in our protfolio, which we are always trying to expand. We want to have one of the best selections in the Caribbean and feel that rum is what people visiting the Caribbean should be trying when they visit us. We also want them to taste rums from all over the region. Of course I have been put in charge of this section of our business and we are currently expanding the shelving to hold more rums. It is nice to be able to combine my favourite hobby and my job.
I am not sure about this as it is so expensive to get out of the Turks and Caicos Islands. I am always checking out all the stores on the island that sell rum to see if they have any new arrivals. Also I like to travel as much as possible around the Caribbean to visit distilleries. On my travels I try to pick up as many new rums for the collection as possible. I am always trying to fly rums in from all over the world where I have developed relationships with some great suppliers. I even trade empty beer cans for bottles of rum with a friend in Portugal.
When did you launch TheRumelier.com and what is your focus?
I launched the site in February 2008. I did not really have a plan when I started, really I just wanted to talk about my collection and it just grew from there. I really just want to focus on the great rums produced in the Caribbean and how the whole rum process works from start to finish. TheRumelier.com has opened many doors for me. I find it very easy now to contact a distillery I wish to visit and just mention the website and how it could benefit them if I add a page on the site about their rum. This along with being a member of Robert Burr’s Rum XP Panel makes life much easier.
I also maintain a website called OldBahamas.com which is old photographs and postcards of the Bahamas, mainly Nassau. This has proved very popular with Bahamians and is used as teaching aid by many schools throughout the country.
Another site I currently operate is CaribbeanWaterfrontProperty.co which is really just an ad for a beautiful piece of property we are trying hard to sell. Then I can make a bigger bar!!
As many people know I am very heavily involved with Bambarra Rum, the best selling rum in the Turks and Caicos. We launched the rum in October 2008 and it has gone from strength to strength. We curently have a Two Year Old Silver and Gold, a Coconut, and Eight Year Old Reserve and a Fifteen Year Old Trouvadore. There are big plans ahead for Bambarra. It has been a great project to be a part of and a great learning process from start to finish. I also maintain bambarrarum.com but wish I had more time to keep all the sites up to date. We have a sister company called Flavours of the Turks and Caicos (FOTTAC) who are the exclusive distributor of all things Bambarra, including rum cakes, hot sauces, jellies, coffees, t-shirts, etc. This a favourite store for my two young daughters who love sampling the different rum cakes. They are starting their rum journey early!!
I am also involved as a consultant on a couple of other rum projects that are in the very early stages of development, both in the Caribbean and the UK. Hopefully these projects will fully develop in the near future.
What should we watch out for from the Rumelier in the coming year?
If all goes well and we manage to purchase our new house I think I will be lying low for a while and cutting back on the travelling unfortunately. Travelling the Caribbean is always great fun, every island is different and they all have great rums. One of the highlights of the rum calender is Miami’s Rum Renaissance organised by the Burr family which I WILL be attenting later this month. After that I have nothing planned besides a quick trip to Antiqua in June if funds permit. I also hope to find more time to devote to my websites. Of course the new house will take up most of my time, with the bar and the bare garden. So I forsee lots of building and gardenning combined with some R&R with some of the world’s finest rums. One thing I have tried my hand at recently is making my own rum. I have a small copper pot still with two retorts and a condenser, based on the old stills at Mount Gay. It has been a great learning experience, which was the main reason for trying it. The resulting rum does smell and taste like some moonshine, however I have no idea how strong it is as I have nothing to measure the alcoholic strength.
Words of wisdom……
I have had an amazing rum journey in really such a short time. I have visited some beautiful islands, tasted amazing rums and met some great people. Travelling is a true education, something I think I inherited from my dad who was in the Royal Navy and would spend the cold Welsh winters pouring through travel brochures looking for deals. I am so glad I decided to apply for a job in the Bahamas all those years ago, not thinking I would ever get it. Be adventurous and take a chance, you never know where it may take you.