Dave Marsland’s sixth annual Manchester Rum Festival is on the horizon. He reveals the stats and highlights of the July event

Tell us about Manchester Rum Festival. Who runs it, how many years has it been running, where is it taking place and on what dates?

Manchester Rum Festival is wholly owned by myself and has been since 2017. This year’s festival will be taking place on Saturday 8 July from 12-7pm, housed within the Mercure Piccadilly Gardens in central Manchester for the third year running. The date is also World Rum Day, so an appropriate time to enjoy a tot or three.

How many visitors are you expecting and how many exhibitors do you have showcasing their rums this year?

I’m expecting to sell out once again. Every year so far I’ve had the pleasure to say that I’ve sold out of tickets in advance of each festival date, and I’m on course to sell the 500 tickets available for 2023. Ticket holders can expect more than 40 rum brands from across the world, with a combination of old favourites such as Plantation, Chairman’s Reserve, Rhum Clément and Gosling’s, to newcomers to the festival in Eminente, Paranubes, Drop Works, Green Island, Rhum JM and Outlier. Those new to the festival also include Monin, which will be hosting the festival cocktail bar, plus BVI natives Nyammin’, bringing the traditional Caribbean food vibes alongside Stratford Sodas and its specialist rum mixers.

Tell us about the education platform and masterclasses this year – what are the highlights?

Due to the layout of the venue, it has not been possible to host any educational masterclasses for the last couple of editions. However, each brand is encouraged to bring its knowledge to the table, whether through creative signature serves that challenge the customer perception, or perhaps engagement through VR and social interaction. I’m in talks to bring in an educational platform within a bigger venue for 2024 though, in which to expand on the expected topics and offer an exciting range of talks that focus on both newcomers and connoisseurs alike.

What other activations are happening this year?

One of the biggest highlights of the festival is the debut of Madeira. Madeira rum specialists Harold & Hansa are coming to Manchester Rum Festival, and have collaborated with Project Halcyon to offer everyone a ticketed opportunity on Sunday 9 July to discover some of the finest agricole Madeira rum from Engenhos do Norte and exquisite French charcuterie from Saveurs & Traditions. I’ll also be working with Outlier Distillery from the Isle of Man to produce the 2023 Manchester Rum Festival bottling, so expect some very tasty opportunities both in and around World Rum Day to experience. There will also be Rhum JM cocktail specials available at Blinker, plus many more brands present at the festival showcasing a variety of cocktails and serves across venues in Manchester and beyond for the weekend.

What sets Manchester Rum Festival apart from other rum festivals?

I’d like to say that myself and Ian Burrell (owner of UK Rum Festival) are a very similar breed in that we want to bring the educational element of rum to the forefront, insisting on the brand owners or representatives to attend personally. But to make Manchester Rum Festival stand out to London, the range available had to be an emphasis on traditional brands blended in with the trend of the day – spiced and flavoured – so a mix of newcomers would not feel out of place among the experts who attend. I try to pride myself in having at least a third of overall exhibitors to make their debut in Manchester, and offer them a taste of what it would be like if they invested long-term into the city and region with the live reactions from both trade and consumers. The key, though, is to give each exhibitor the platform to engage no matter their size, and to use this as an opportunity to showcase how they see fit and offer a very true brand experience to each ticket holder.

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