Peter Holland, co-host of The Scottish Rum Festival masterclasses, tells us about Scotland’s thriving rum scene ahead of this year’s festival. 


Ever since Dark Matter hit the news in 2015 for being the first Scottish Rum-producing distillery to open in the modern era, the Scottish Rum scene has been growing year on year.

Fast forward to 2020, and a group of forward-thinking Rum producers, who just happened to be Rum category enthusiasts as well, conceived the idea of a showcase for Scotland’s thriving Rum scene. And whilst the peculiarities of the pandemic season forced the event to be held and realised successfully online, it proved that there is a core of dedicated Scottish Rum fans and that the scene needs to be celebrated and taken to a broader audience.

Proceedings are set to take a serious step up on Saturday 2nd September 2023 as the The Scottish Rum Festival moves to an in-person format for the first time at Patina Edinburgh, presenting the opportunity to explore both the liquid and the conversation surrounding it first-hand. Arguably, things are at their most vibrant right now, with new and existing distillers and blenders bringing exciting things to market. Confidence brings investment, which in turn increases production capacity. Things are great now, and there are signs of an awesome future ahead!

By the way, if you’ve not secured your ticket – don’t delay – commit to either the afternoon or evening session. Or – more sensibly – both so that you can strike a balance between tasting the excellent Rums on offer and enjoying some of the panel discussions. It’s not a stretch to imagine that some would have booked all of the panels, as, let’s be honest, opportunities like this do not come along very often and will be very attractive to the enthusiasts and folks keen to learn more.

Yeah – so the Rum scene is vibrant – is this it’s a case of ‘job done’ then? Well, maybe, maybe not. The panel discussions at the festival present an opportunity to discuss the current state of affairs and the potential for the future. What does it mean to be a Scottish Rum? Should the term come with some minimum standards or quality expectations? Is it enough to simply be a case of geography, or do we want it to represent something unique and recognisable? Basically – is ‘Brand Scotland’ enough? Topics like this and others present the opportunity for Q&A, for offering opinions, and not forgetting the important bit – tasting the Rums!

Other panel discussions consider Scotland’s Rum history and heritage. At the risk of putting folks off [spoiler warning], Rum was born out of the sugar industry, and the early days of the sugar industry were made possible by enslaved labour. It’s one of the darker periods in history, and yet the wealth generated funded so much of what we take for granted in the modern era. The links between then and now may seem a million miles apart, but cultural echoes remain, understood or not, and we ignore them at our peril. The reader might also consider a little rummy homework by checking out some of the previous virtual Scottish Rum Festival content on YouTube. Meet the producers and find the segments such as Scotland’s Rum History and Scottish Rum Tasting that were filmed for the 2020 online event.

Other discussions focus on production elements, such as the character in the freshly made Rum, the cask, and even the practices of combining locally produced or imported Rum with other botanicals. And if that’s not a complete and considered program, I don’t know what is!
I’ve not yet mentioned one thing that will surely attract the cocktail-lovers. Jamie Shields of soon-to-be-opened Edinburgh Rum Bar: Ruma will be at the show with a rum-slinging-amazing-cocktail pop-up bar. Mine’s a daiquiri if you’re buying! 

In summary – if you call yourself a Rum fan, you need to be fully informed, but given that the current scene is so young (relatively speaking), it’s not too late to get on board and become the category expert you know you want to be.

Ticket Information

The festival will take place in Patina in Edinburgh Park, and consist of two sessions: an afternoon session from 12:00 to 16:00 and an evening session from 17:00 to 21:00.

Tickets start from £18.50 and can be purchased directly through the festival’s website:                

Read more stories on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages.

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