I am totally torn about how to review this, as there were great positives, and also very big negatives.
- There were very few exhibitors. I found 5 stands, Pussers, Dead Man’s Fingers, Bayou/Botran, Alnwick Rum and the Royal Naval Museum for HMS Victory Rum. There was a presence for Old J in the cocktail exhibit, but you couldn’t test them neat there.
- The main exhibition room was too small. If you sell that many tickets, you have to assume that many people will want to get to the rum stands. Twice I was turned away from returning to the room as they were at capacity. This meant I got to try very few rums. When I did get in there I would be stood for 10 minutes to get near to a stand. This probably also disappointed the exhibitors as they were not getting chance to discuss their product with people. Even if you wanted to buy a beer in the bar, that was in the same room as the exhibitors so it seemed like the queue ran round the room twice. They also had a very loud PA setup in the room from the bands. Again, not conducive to the brand ambassadors describing their products.
- The secret bar – long and slow moving queue to get into it. Standing in a queue is not fun and I came home with my un-used black spot in my pocket.
- The tot cup included was a tin cup with an event sticker on it – it would have actually looked better thought out if it didn’t have the sticker.
- No list of rums on exhibit, so I couldn’t easily make notes on what I’d tried.
- No dedicated shop for the rum sales. Rather than having each stand try and sell items/take payment, let them concentrate on letting people try the rums, and then have a dedicated sales stand.
- Absolutely brilliant location! What says rum more than a sailing ship? The Pussers tasting bar was onboard the HMS Trincomalee.
- The staff. The museum staff were very friendly and helpful, possibly in challenging circumstances.
- The museum added a lot of value, such as the talks about the history of rum in the navy, demonstrations of firing muskets etc. They had a cute idea of having someone dress as a pirate, giving out a black spot to get you into a ‘secret’ tiki bar. Which would have been great if they had the capacity for people to be in there.
- The food stands were very good, with a smokehouse, pizza and mexican.
- There were bands playing outside to add more entertainment and atmosphere. Not my cup of tea, but appreciate the effort.
- It wasn’t super expensive at £20 for a ticket.
As this is their first event in the North East like this, I can see that there were challenges on the organisation and getting exhibitors to travel. Hopefully they made enough sales to justify coming back to the event, I know that Dead Man’s Fingers sold out of their coffee rum, and I bought a bottle of the Alnwick Percy Warmer.