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People Profile: Pauline Holland

Pauline Holland is one half of the crew at The Floating Rum Shack, the UK’s premier cane spirits blog.  Check out our interview.

How and when did you become interested in rum?

To be honest I don’t actually remember becoming interested in rum.  It’s always been there, what with having a Bajan mum and a Vincy dad, rum has always featured whether it was Bacardi or a bottle with no label.  A long time ago it was impossible for Dad to get a bottle of Sunset rum – he had to make do with what was available.  It’s only recently, that it seems to be possible to stick solely to a rum from your own island.  This I have seen with a number of dad’s friend.

I can remember when I was quite small hearing a story about one of dad’s friends having brought back a bottle of rum from St Vincent in his suitcase some of the bottles had broken and had disintegrated their labels everyone laughed saying he should have wrapped the bottles more.

Now when we travel we make it our business to seek out the local rum and bring back some sunshine, (ok bottles!) home for our friends to try.  Generally the rum has a story to tell and that’s what makes it interesting for us and our friends when we tell them all about it.

How many rums are in your collection?

It’s a joint collection with Pete (we are married and what’s his is mine and what’s mine is me’ own) and at the moment we have 74 bottles from all over the place some are from the Caribbean, South America and even the Philippines but strictly speaking not all of them are full (i.e.; empty) and next pay day will be looking for something new.  We are hoarders/collectors and like to keep an empty bottle as a keepsake.  Does an empty bottle constitute a valid part of a rum collection?  I’d like to say that the angels share was a lot bigger in this case.

We have tried loads more though and just never made a point of recording them!

Research

Research

What is your favourite rum (or rums) in each category and why?

That’s a tough question.  Sometimes a flavour works well for me and other times the opposite is true.  Rum Ambassador (Ian Burrell), say’s ‘whatever is in my glass’ and I sort of have to agree. There really aren’t many that I don’t like and I’m not naming those so…

White – Havana Club Blanco.  This rum works really well for me in mojito’s (especially when Pete makes them for me) and even my occasional drink rum and pineapple.

Golden – Mount Gay Eclipse and Appleton VX.  Chairman’s Reserve seems to be excellent value and a great drink.  I’ve been adding these rums along with apple juice to my mulled wine and they taste fantastic.

Aged rums – Mount Gay Extra Old and pretty much any of the El Dorado range and XM  Royal Demerara all these are excellent pour a rather large glass and then just chill.

Both Atlántico and Ron Zacapa Centenario are solera rums and so the age statement is a little difficult to put your finger on.  Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is not really old but the style is just fantastic – we get through a lot of this in our house.  So my final three named rums are in a special class I’ve just invented called “lovely rums”.  Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Atlántico and Mount Gay Extra Old.

Do you have a favourite rum bar?

I really wish High Wycombe had a rum bar.  We noticed that the Glasshouse (bar) now has Pampero!  Nothing out of the ordinary you think, but for us here outside London – it’s pretty exciting.  If I become Prime Minister, the first act will be to make Public Houses have a legal minimum of rums available.  It’s time that vodka’s and whisky had some competition in the bars.

I like Trailer Happiness in Notting Hill a lot because of rum club and they are a really cool bunch there.   We get down there fairly regularly because of Rum Club, but really would like to hang out there a bit more.

There are other bars which I must mention such as Floridita, Cottons and the Artisan.  The list is growing of other bars with a large selection of rum which I want to visit like Mahiki and Kanaloa to name a few so it looks like 2010 will be getting busy for the Holland’s.

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All in the name of serious journalism

Do you have a favorite cocktail?

Well most people that know me will know I love a good Mojito.  Unfortunately I have had plenty of bad ones in our local bars, but still it does not put me off the next one.

I have been known also to stray to other cocktails.

1. Pina Colada at one point I used to drink so many of them Pete used to call me Pauline Colada.

2. Cuba Libre – a classic, especially when in doubt with the dubious cocktail making skills of some of our local bars.  You can’t go wrong making this.

3.Cotton Mouth Killer (Trailer Happiness special!) – caution required there though!

Do you have a favourite spirits shop for buying rum?

If in London we usually visit the Vintage House or Gerry’s otherwise they are purchased online from the Whisky Exchange or thedrinkshop.com.  Heading to Soho and making a purchase of a new rum is still a treat.

Which rum would you travel to buy?

I would certainly travel for Atlántico.  Thanks to a couple of US based friends recently visiting the UK for Rum Fest we got another bottle of Atlántico to replace the one we had just finished.

Can I just say that the sooner Atlántico get a UK outlet, the better?  We’re starting to run out again!

When did you launch TheFloatingRumShack.com and what is your focus?

By accident or coincidence whichever way you look at I chanced on Rumfest while looking for something to do on a weekend in London.  It was fun discovering and trying different rums and just chatting to like minded passionate souls who were from either behind and in front of the bar.

When we returned home we tried to look online we couldn’t really find any UK based sites; the majority of the sites were US based and some of the brands mentioned were not relevant to the UK market so we decided to write a blog for fun and as they say the rest is history.  To be fair, we have only been going since last February.  It took a few months to get going and the real spur, was our first rum club meeting at Trailer Happiness – it would have looked a bit odd – us turning up, claiming to be bloggers a not having a site.  As it was, Pete pretty much worked his socks off through the Sunday before hand.

The focus of our website is our joy of rum and all things related.  We just want to spread the rum word to everyone in our own little way.  If it inspires someone to try something new then we have done something right.  It gets us out to parties and always meeting someone new.  It’s been the best social thing we’ve done for ages and it even took us to Miami earlier this year.  We’ve plans to go to Rum Renaissance again in 2010.  You don’t get that sort of event taking up knitting or just staying at home.

Pete does the majority of the writing.  I on the other hand do the proof reading and try to be the voice of reason.  Sometimes he needs reining in as he goes off on one (in a good way!)

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Pauline & Pete

2010 will include our upcoming visits to Jamaica, Miami Rum Renaissance, and more Trailer Happiness Rum Clubs and of course Rumfest 4.

New additions will be competitions & giveaways, more reviews of new products and those yet to be reviewed on our site.  Basically a big drive to fill www.TheFloatingRumShack.com with consumer news and events and trying to get people involved whilst doing this.

Words of wisdom….etc….

Always have an open mind.  I have heard so many times people who say they don’t like rum but how can you say that, there are so many different brands strong, sweet, dark, golden, light etc you are bound to find a rum you like as well as maybe one you don’t!  But at least you should have fun trying!

So don’t knock it ‘till you try it!   This is what we are trying to do with www.TheFloatingRumShack.com – education, education, education – to quote a former PM!