Guyana Rum Fest hopes to be top spot for tourists
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Patrons at the all-white Secret Garden Brunch on Sunday (Elvin Croker photo)
Patrons at the all-white Secret Garden Brunch on Sunday (Elvin Croker photo)

-offers unique perspective on Guyanese culture through education

THE Guyana Rum Festival, which exhibits the flavour of Guyanese culture and tradition through a product internationally associated with the Region – rum – aims to be a reason which lands tourists to the country on an annual basis, while at the same time educating the local populace on the rich history of the drink.

The second annual Guyana Rum Festival 2021, a four-day event, ended with ‘the Secret Garden’ — an all-white event open only to the vaccinated sector of the population — that was described as the ‘ultimate brunch experience’ on Sunday at the Scout Association Lawns, Woolford Avenue, Georgetown.

The Guyana Chronicle visited ‘the Secret Garden’ when the gates opened at 10:30hrs and caught up with Yonnick David, the co-founder and creative director of the Guyana Rum Festival whose vision is to make the event an international name as Demerara Rum, native to Guyana, itself.

British High Commissioner to Guyana, Jane Miller, OBE, at the Secret Garden Brunch on Sunday (Elvin Croker photo)

“Rum Festival is all about the culture of Guyana and where we come from; we’re all here because of our sugar plantation history and from sugar comes the rum and our rum has been winning awards all over the world, so it’s just a chance for us to celebrate that aspect of our culture,” David told the Guyana Chronicle.

That celebration was held through a number of virtual events, but a dining experience in the form of a brunch on Sunday saw over 250 people in attendance to witness live performances from Guyanese artistes Drew Thoven, Gully Ras, cKush, local disc jockeys (DJs) and the live sounds of steel pans and saxophone.

“The brunch is a chance for people to enjoy Guyanese cuisine, for people to socialise safely and it’s been over a year of no proper activities, so it’s just a chance for people to come out, socialise and just enjoy Guyanese culture,” David said.

He explained that the COVID-19 pandemic forced organisers to host the event under certain constraints; for example, the venue had to be retrofitted to ensure full compliance with COVID-19 regulations and guidelines; however, it still provided the opportunity for persons to socialise, as safely as possible.

The Guyana Chronicle caught up with the British High Commissioner to Guyana, Jane Miller, OBE, who was present at the brunch on Sunday; she envisions close partnerships in many areas, not only with the government, but also the private sector of Guyana and used the opportunity to mingle.

Yonnick David, Co-Founder and Creative Director of the Guyana Rum Festival (Elvin Croker photo)

“I really want to promote local industry and rum is something that is internationally famous. In the UK [United Kingdom], if I talk Guyana, people know about the rum and so I’m really keen to promote that and see what’s going on here.

“There’s so much to contribute here [locally]; it’s a beautiful country, you have tourism opportunities, you got amazing industries like the rum industries … it’s a beautiful country with so much potential and it’s an exciting time for the country,” the British diplomat told this newspaper.

Meanwhile, the virtual events included the rum-tasting on September 16 called ‘What name rum?’ where there was a comprehensive discussion on rum and how it is made locally; the Rum Fest 2021 Seminar & Cocktail Mix Session on September 17 that opened discussions on rum, the agriculture and tourism sectors of Guyana and the cocktail ‘mix-off’ competition on September 18.

“Our major push is education, we have an issue with rum and alcohol in a whole, so we want to put a twist to it and have people understand why rum is an integral part of our culture and economy,” David said, as he explained that the education component is executed through the seminars and other events.

Rum is embedded in the history of Guyana as its roots run deep into the sugar plantations of Demerara; it can be traced back to the early 17th century with the introduction of sugar cane cultivation and distilling as an externality by the early European settlers.

Recently, as of July 28, 2021, Demerara Rum was awarded a Protected Geographical Indication (GI) in the European Union (EU); this protects the name of a spirit drink or aromatised wine originating in a country, region or locality where the product’s particular quality, reputation or other characteristic is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

By the 1800s there were over 300 distilleries producing their own unique rums locally, each with its own marque identifying its origin such as PM for Port Mourant and LBI for La Bonne Intention.

During the early 20th century, all of the stills were merged and today Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), the parent company of the famous El Dorado Rum, operates the last remaining Demerara Rum distillery, Plantation Diamond, which preserves the history and quality of Demerara Rum.

With the El Dorado brand being described by some as the ‘best rum in the world’, Demerara Rum has gained international recognition and rum makes up a major export commodity for Guyana; according to the Bank of Guyana, the country recorded US$36.0 Million in rum and spirit exports for 2020.

David expressed that both the Government of Guyana and corporate Guyana played a massive role in making Guyana Rum Festival 2021 a reality as the event received sponsorship from the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, ANSA McAl Guyana, Digicel Guyana and Diamond Reserve Rum.

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