Meet Eric Kaye & Maura Gedid – Holmes Cay

FRS: Many of our members know you both as being the dynamic duo behind Holmes Cay Single Cask Rum but can you give us a quick bio on yourselves leading up to the creation of HC?

Eric Kaye: My entire career up to the launch of Holmes Cay Rum in 2019 has been in music, composing and producing music for advertising, film and TV. When I wasn’t in the recording studio, I’d usually be out of the country, having visited over 100 countries to date. I’ve been a rum fan since my first trip to the Bahamas in high school on Spring Break. (Shh!) Maura and I are married and have two kids together, so we started with that partnership more than a decade before the rum business came along.

Maura Gedid: When I met Eric, my career was in financial marketing, so coming around to helping to found a rum business was a process. However, since I have known him, he has always been a passionate rum fan and collector. One of the first times that we spoke to each other, I was holding a glass of bourbon. He made sure to tell me about how amazing sipping rum was, and how I should definitely try some.  Rum was always a part of the package with Eric! 

FRS: Why Rum? And were you both 100% aligned that “starting a rum company” was in your future?

EK: As I became aware that special aged rums were available in the Caribbean and that a small supply of truly interesting single marques and unique expressions were going to Europe, I thought that it was time to make a shift into importing to bring special casks and amazing expressions to the US. Having no background in spirits or importing,  I thought, “How hard could it be?”  Although it turned out to be tough – filled with bureaucracy and quite expensive to enter new markets in the States – we have been amazed at the reception of the rum selections that we have made so far.  Most sell out quickly. We love being able to bring these rums to spirits lovers like those in the FRS, so that you have a chance to appreciate flavorful, pure, high-proof expressions and experience the world’s most diverse spirit.

MG: Knowing that Eric has run his own business almost since graduating college made me a lot more comfortable when he said that he wanted to pursue the idea of importing rum around 3 years ago. I can also remember him coming home from a Ministry of Rum event in New York City years before – half in the bag – and absolutely inspired and ecstatic with the quality of the rums that Ed Hamilton had arranged for the group. I knew he wasn’t kidding when he said that he could not find many great rums on the shelves in the US.  Since I have an MBA, and we were investing our own money into the business, I got pulled into the work right away. 

FRS: What was the main concept for Holmes Cay as a rum company as you saw it initially?  Has that changed any since then?

EK: We initially saw Holmes Cay Rum as a selection of aged single cask expressions that were offered at high proof and without additives.  Our view was to bring exactly the kind of mixture of difficult to obtain, aged rums to US spirits lovers that we have done over the past two years, while raising the overall profile of rum as a sipping spirit. Since we don’t have a 300-year history as producers or blenders, we focus on curating and educating about the different, excellent qualities of the rums we share.  

We see the opportunity to grow into other types of expressions, which is why we shared the Single Origin Fiji blend this year.  Any other expressions that we share, whether blends or single marques, must meet the criteria that we have for all of our offerings: flavorful, unadulterated and offered at the highest quality that we can afford to offer.  

MG: Our labels are clean and contain a great deal of information about each barrel and how it was made, because we felt that the overall lack of understanding about quality rum in the US was and is one of the category’s greatest challenges.  Rum’s reputation seems to always need some help, and we aim to be clear and transparent in our offerings.

We want to bring the conversation to be about the spirit itself, without leaning on palm trees or stereotypes of pirates to talk about rum. We took our packaging design cues from whiskey, because we started out believing that other brown spirits lovers would come around to buying and appreciating rum.  This was a bit of an “If you build it, they will come” leap, but as we had hoped, these fans have also welcomed us.

FRS: There is little argument that you have picked some amazing rums to bottle and bring to the Rum Lovers of the U.S., do you have specific characteristics you look for when selecting the rums to bottle?

EK: We try to find gaps in what is available in the US, like the introduction of Mhoba for the first time, and I look for delicious expressions that are unequivocally excellent versions of the distillers’ art.  At the heart of it, though, we basically just bottle rums that I want to drink, and can’t get in the United States.

MG: Eric will often point to Guyana Uitvlugt as one of his favorite rums. It is a rare bottling in the States, and is in his experienced view, a truly classic set of rum flavors. He shared it because he loves it and believes in it, and wants to add it to the reference set of tastes for other rum lovers.

FRS: Many of our members are newer to experiencing true sipping rums, I think you’ll agree that almost all of your bottlings fall into the category… Any tips/suggestions for newcomers on training their palettes to enjoy fine rums and find those flavor notes?

EK:  Try it first neat, and then don’t be afraid to add a little water, especially if you are not accustomed to higher proof spirits.  I remember the days when 55% was a dauntingly high proof to drink neat.  There really wasn’t much overproof aged rum out there fifteen years ago.  Now I find myself tasting samples over 70% and being able to appreciate the nuances.  That would have been inconceivable to me a decade ago. And it’s definitely something you need to train your palate to properly handle.  The downside to this, is unfortunately, your standard 80 proof spirits now tend to taste like water.

MG:  We have been working on a book right now on many aspects of rum that includes just these sorts of recommendations!  Happy to preview them for you.  

For inexperienced tasters, don’t be intimidated. 

Start in a place that is free of strong smells, but also free of noise and other distractions.  

Going slowly both with nosing and sipping initially allows you to get past some of the alcohol vapor that can obstruct more subtle flavor cues, so think gentle whiffs, small sips and lots of time in between both. 

Some folks like to add an ice cube from the start, but we prefer to start straight, then if needed, add water rather than ice, because the rapid change in temperature can shock the spirit. 

When you are ready to sip, take a small sip and let it spread across your tongue. You don’t even need to try to pick out flavors from the first sip. Instead, wait a minute or two before taking another sip. Let it rest on your tongue for a few moments.

Do the tasting flavors match what you smelled earlier?  

What flavors linger on the finish, after you have swallowed?     

When I taste aged rums, there is so much going on that I love to look at rum-specific tasting wheels, and where I can find descriptions of the same vintage, others’ reviews. I like seeing what others have tasted, even if it disagrees with what I perceive. 

FRS: We have started to see some of your newest expressions hit the market like South Africa, Mauritius and the highly acclaimed Australia FRS Exclusive release… any hints you can give us to other upcoming releases we should make sure to keep an eye out for?

EK: We will always try to make new expressions available for you!  It is going to be exciting to share our next exclusive find.  I will give you a hint — Some of you collect dusties of the brand from when it was young.  The brand is no longer on the market, and the distillery is no more, but the aged expressions that we have found are simply delicious.  

FRS:  You have had the chance to travel to some amazing places in the name of rum… are you able to call out a favorite or two that members should think about putting on their lists as travel starts to become more and more an opportunity?

EK: There are so many great rum destinations in the world, it’s hard to narrow down to only a few.  Some unique distilleries well worth visiting include River Antoine in Grenada, Hampden in Jamaica, and St. Nicholas Abbey in Barbados, to name just a few.  No self respecting rum fan should visit London without stopping at Trailer Happiness, go to San Francisco without visiting Smuggler’s Cove, or hit Chicago without visiting Three Dots and Dash.  They are three of my favorite rum bars, all with incredible selections.

FRS: And, on that note, is there anywhere that you each would love to get to as soon as possible for a visit (besides Florida, of course)?

MG: We are really backed up on trips! We are booked to bring the whole family to Barbados at the end of the year.  We will be celebrating being able to take the family traveling again, and I am really looking forward to getting recharged and re-inspired for our work in the coming year. While our kids aren’t super interested when we talk about rum at the dinner table, they are excited to hit some great beaches.  

EK: The great thing about rum is that you can find interesting things happening in rum production all over the world.  Going to Japan, Thailand, Scotland, Georgia, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, or Hawaii?  You will find locally distilled rum.  It is the most international and diverse spirit, and the rum community is one of the most welcoming in the world.  Be it in Kenya, Paraguay, or Queensland, the rum family is everywhere.

FRS: Speaking of Florida, any upcoming plans to visit the Sunshine State and, if so, where is the HC/FRS celebration happening?

MG: We will definitely be down in February for the Miami Rum Congress, and we’d love for you to come and meet us there.

FRS: At the end of a long day when it is time to wind down with a pour, are you each grabbing for the same bottle or is there a his and hers shelf in the liquor cabinet?

EK: I usually tend to crack open the bottle or sample, and then Maura partakes in whatever is open.  That way she doesn’t have to worry about unwittingly opening a $1000 irreplaceable bottle…

Also, it’s not always at the end of a long day.  We usually taste new samples at 9 am, when our palates are fresh and the kids have gone to school.

MG: True. I have gotten eyerolls in the past for killing a now very pricey Foursquare ECS bottle, but I too have grown to truly enjoy spending time sipping whatever the latest samples and new products are before we bring them out. We work with so many different rums, made in so many different ways, so there are always tastes to compare. It never gets boring, and we have to be totally immersed in what we are bringing out. 

That said, it’s also a lot of fun to play with drinks, and I appreciate everything that goes into the bartender’s art.  

I find members of FRS’s creations inspiring too! I love the work that goes into making unique or classic drinks and garnishes that inspire multiple senses.    

FRS: And, is it always sipping rum or is there a favorite cocktail or two you can share with the group?

EK: For me the daiquiri is still the king of rum drinks.  I love our Bula Daiquiri, made with the Holmes Cay Single Origin Fiji Blend.

INGREDIENTS:

2 oz. Holmes Cay Single Origin Fiji Rum
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice 
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup 
1/2 oz. Pineapple Juice

DIRECTIONS:

– Fill shaker with ice
– Add all ingredients and shake 
– Garnish with a mint leaf

Otherwise, my go to cocktail is usually a Richard Seale:  Rum, water, hold the water.

MG: I enjoy spirit-forward drinks, so I am apt to go for a rum variation on an Old-Fashioned, Manhattan or Negroni.

Join Eric, Maura and the FRS for our Virtual Happy Hour on November 30th

Meet Dan DeHart – Grander Rum

Dan DeHart is the Founder of Grander Rum. He describes himself as “a guy from Kentucky who makes a Panamanian rum with a guy from Cuba.” He lives in Central Florida with his family who all support him on an amazing journey to craft a rum that folks will appreciate.

FRS: Why rum?

Dan: This is very cliché but here’s the truth – being from Kentucky, I didn’t grow up with Rum and when I thought of Rum it had to be a frozen daiquiri, pina collada or mixed with a coke. I think many folks have this view, still today. My wife, Jill, and I started sailing bareboat in the Caribbean and once we rented a boat that came with an unopened bottle of Pussers rum. Of course we would mix it but I decided to have it neat one evening and my jaw dropped. I had never tasted a Rum like that before. I enjoyed it neat but also liked it in a cocktail – just like how I drink Bourbon. That was my awakening experience. I had always wanted to get into the spirit business and always thought it would be Bourbon but that all changed after that experience!

FRS: How did you end up selecting Panama/Las Cabras as the place to source the rum for Grander? 

Dan: I took a trip to Panama to meet with Don Pancho and Carlos Esquivel. I loved what they were doing and knew I could work with the distillate. Also, it’s nice to know that they grow their own sugar cane and don’t need to worry about hurricanes.

FRS: How has that relationship developed over the last few years?

Dan: The relationship has been collaborative and mutually beneficial. The team in Panama has been very supportive in my desire to do things they haven’t done previously.

FRS: We know you came from the Bourbon world prior to being into rum and creating the Grander brand. How would you characterize the difference in the two spirits with regards to the industry and their respective communities? 

Dan: Wow, that is a big question. First, I must say that Rum is way more diverse as a spirit than Bourbon. There are many more countries producing rum with their own twist yielding unique flavor profiles. However, in America, Rum is still being discovered by consumers where as Bourbon has been enjoying a renaissance. Regarding communities – I would say they are similar. You have casual consumers and you have consumers who can’t stop thinking about their spirit of choice.

FRS: The Rye barrel finish was a big hit with many rum fans and it’s rare to see a rye finish in rum overall.  How did that come about?

Dan: I like Rye whiskey and thought it may add an interesting layer of flavor to our rum. I also had some connections in Kentucky that allowed me to secure some freshly dumped rye barrels from Heaven Hill. This was my first offering in the Barrel Series program (finishing rums) and they all are experimental. Meaning if they don’t taste good, they don’t make it to market. Shipping barrels to Panama for this is not cheap but I think it is important to do any extra aging in Panama to maintain the single origin aspect of Grander.

FRS: How much of your time is spent thinking about what to do next and how to grow the brand? And anything you are able to tell us about what you’re planning next for Grander?

Dan: I think about this everyday. I am a “one-man-show” and manage production, marketing, sales and strategy. I love every minute of it. As for what I am planning next, some things I can share but some things are still way off and may or may not happen. But in the immediate future, we just filled more barrels with aged rum for our Barrel Series. Some of these barrels are ex- Bourbon, Rye, Wheated Bourbon, California Madiera and Angelica Port as well as Tequila.

FRS: What can you tell us about the Trophy release and how it differed from the 8 year release (beyond a jump in ABV)?

Dan: I am really excited about the Trophy Release. It’s my chance to select and blend my own product. I do a lot of sampling of rums when in Panama and I’m really drawn towards the rums between 8 and 15 years of age. The Trophy Release is a small batch of rums I select between these ages and will be bottled at a higher ABV than the regular 8 Year Old. Each batch will differ, showcasing the differences in rums we produce. The first batch is ‘sweeter’ due to many of the barrels were sherry seasoned. The second batch is ‘drier’. Both have lots of flavor.

FRS: Will more batches be produced or is this a limited edition that is gone when it’s sold out?

Dan: I plan to release new batches of Trophy Release, in fact now we are just releasing Batch #20B08.

FRS: What can you tell us about your barrel selection program and the process?

Dan: I love single barrels and am always amazed how one barrel can be so different from the next. I introduced single barrels four years ago and it has been well received. Interestingly, I started it because I had a retailer in Kentucky ask for it. The team in Panama had not bottled single barrels previously so this was exciting (or maybe painful) for them as well. What was very important to me was to bottle these uncut and unfiltered. This technique gives you the closest to what it’s like to sample straight from the barrel – like I do when in Panama. You will see sediment in some of the bottles because of this process. I sell single barrels to retailers, bars, restaurants, and groups. For people interested – they just need to contact me and we make it happen!

FRS: I’ve heard the FRS selection is sold out in almost record time. Will there be a sequel?

Dan: Yes!

Learn more in a Virtual Happy Hour with Dan later in July: Register

Meet Zan Kong – Worthy Park Estate

Zan is the Commercial Manager – Spirits for Worthy Park Estate. He comes from a Chinese – Jamaican background, grew up just outside of Toronto, Canada… the first generation of his family to be born in Canada. He grew up there but left once he graduated university to work in the hotel industry… which, eventually, brought him to the beautiful Worthy Park Estate…

FRS: Tell us about your personal rum journey.

Zan: I’ve been surrounded by rum throughout my life. It was always interesting to see the contrast towards rum (and alcohol in general) growing up in Canada but spending almost all of my vacation time in Jamaica where rum is a part of the culture. All that to say, I’ve always been surrounded by rum – but was completely and totally biased towards Jamaican rum (I mean, I still am…). I had the luxury of not starting to drink rum with a “cheap mixer” type but my starter rum was Jamaica rum! Working in the hotel industry I spent most of my time in the F&B side of the business so my relationship with rum (and bars) came from the purchasing and operational side. but never thought of making a career of it until I started working with Worthy Park.

FRS: What brought you to join the Worthy Park team?

Zan: Fate, serendipity maybe? I was working at my previous job and ran into Gordon Clarke the CEO and Managing Director for Worthy Park. I was ready for a change and he happened to be ready to start expanding his team and opening the export department. He took a chance on me and I have been here going on 6 years now.

FRS: Worthy Park is best known for their historic expressions of Jamaican rums… Do you have a clear favorite when it is time to sit down and sip at the end of the day?

Zan: That’s like asking who my favorite child is. If it is just me and my glass I’d probably go with Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve. Although my go-to has been Worthy Park Select and ice since we launched it a couple months back. If I can get my hands on some lime (it’s out of season right now) I’ll definitely go with an Overproof Daiquiri. Maybe I will split base it with Rum-Bar Gold if I want to have a couple. So to answer your question, no, I guess I don’t have a favourite!

FRS: Is there anything upcoming that you are truly excited about (even if you can only give us hints)?

Zan: So much! We’ve got a lot in the pipeline for releases this year. I can say I’m super stoked that we’re getting Rum Cream in market and I think the 109 Proof is going to turn some heads (in a positive way) when people get their hands on it. Now, I can’t get into specifics, but we are super excited for the barrel picks that are coming out.  It sounds so common, especially for any of the bourbon fans out there but for us the first time we’ve done this so it took a bit to get off the ground but I can say that they’re on their way to the US of A!

FRS: Before the “COVID times”, you traveled a lot, sharing the good word of rum… When travel starts to be welcomed back to the world is there anywhere that you just cannot wait to pack your bags and head off to?

Zan: At this point I’m on a plane the first chance I get to go anywhere LOL.  Well from the personal side, I definitely want to get the kids up to visit Grandma in Canada, they usually saw her for a few months at a time but obviously we’ve been kept apart of the past year+. From the work perspective, I hear there is some fun stuff going on in Florida. Would love to get there as soon as I can. On that note, 2020 was the year I was supposed to spend a lot of time working in that market but maybe 2021 will be the year.

On the global scene, I’m dying to get out to London. It’s one of my favourite cities out there and it’ll probably be high on my visit list once the world opens up. Oh, but how can I forget about Paris! The energy of that city is super contagious. Never mind the fact that I love to eat.

FRS: When not sipping rum what do you enjoy doing in Jamaica?

Zan: Do you want the fun, travel around the island, beach hopping, hotel staying, waterfall chasing, mountain climbing, forest exploring story? Or the going cooking dinner for the kids and in bed by 9pm story?

I joke, kind of. The beauty of Jamaica is in the raw-ness of Jamaica. Yes, we’re a country that is heavily indebted and lacks the conveniences of the first world so there is a much different pace of life down here. We have some bustling city centers, like Kingston, where a lot of the arts thrive; and you have the huge, all inclusive resorts on the north coast; but far and wide my favourite side of Jamaica is the rural side. I love getting out into the hillside and finding some rivers and waterfalls amongst the beautiful flora and fauna of the island. Your reminded that not having cell service or a Frappuccino is not necessarily a bad thing.

FRS: Rumor has it that you once crashed a Ben Jones Virtual Happy Hour and gave him a (friendly) hard time… if someone was to crash your VHH and bump you off you’re a-game who would that be?

Zan: OHHH yes, I forgot about that! I love Ben and have so much respect for him and the Spiribam team. But yes, I love to give him shit at any chance I get. I’d probably say if you got an Ian Burrell crash – he’d probably bump me off because it’s hard to get a word in versus him. Or a Maggie Campbell, just because she’s so damn knowledgeable and could definitely stump me in pretty much any subject!

FRS: MANY FRS members are hoping to travel to Jamaica when things open back up… besides a visit to the WP estate, what else should they not miss when visiting your beautiful island?

Zan: So much to visit! But I’d say you definitely need to get out to some of the rum bars that are around the island. The vibe and the energy are so different than what your used too in Florida. Plus you have to find your favourite jerk chicken spot, there’s so many across the island and all have their own secret recipes. Also, just as a general tidbit of knowledge – the spots you see cooking in the drum pans (the oil pans cut and turned on their side). This is pan chicken. Which is NOT jerk chicken but it’s own thing. I guess you could say some pan chicken can be jerk, but not all pan chicken IS jerk chicken. The authentic Jerk chicken is smoked over pimento wood. Both are very good, but very different!

FRS: There have been whispers of a collaboration between Worthy Park and your favorite rum community, the FRS… any truth to those rumors?

Zan: ….


Learn more about Worthy Park & Zan on this month’s RotM Virtual Happy Hour! – Register

Shop Worthy Park products in the FRS Shop

Rumdemic from Privateer

One of the early goals of the Florida Rum Society was to ensure that the best rums make their way to Florida. One of the best, if not THE best, rum made in the U.S. is from Privateer in Ipswich, MA.

Maggie Campbell, the President and Head Distiller, is one of the best in the world and Andrew Cabot, CEO, is an all around wonderful human being! Read more about Privateer on their site.

In Spring, right before COVID 19 turned the world upside-down, we were fortunate enough to be selected to relaunch Privateer’s “single barrel” program (now known as their Letter of Marque series).

Letters of Marque were issued during the Revolution to authorize merchants to act as Privateers. Our Letter of Marque collection comprises single batch spirits from the Privateer cellar, selected in cask by our trade partners as stand out expressions and bottled to specifications in partnership with the Privateer distilling team. This bottle is one of a limited release, never to be available again.

From the Privateer Letter of Marque bottle label

Samples were provided to us in April and six members of the Florida Rum Society connected virtually with Maggie Campbell to walk through six different rum expressions.

It was nearly unanimous that we selected a 109.2 proof New England Rum. It was aged 2 years and 10 months in a New American Oak Barrel. Because of the timing of the selection we decided that it should be known as “Rumdemic” (we think it fits).

The new oak gives it the character of a bottled-in-bond bourbon with a depth of flavor and tastes of oak, caramel, toffee, black cherry, dried pineapple and hint of cinnamon. It is fantastic neat, on the rocks or even in a simple cocktail like a classic daiquiri.

I’m thrilled to be able to bring this once in a lifetime rum to the rum lovers of Florida! There are only 214 bottles of it so don’t wait if you want to grab a few. It is only available at Five Star Liquor & Wine in Longwood, FL. You can visit to call (407-389-0710) for orders.

Black Tot Day turns 50!

For those that follow rum, there is a good chance you’ve heard about “Black Tot Day”. For those that haven’t, I’ll give you the short version…

From 1655 to 1970 the British Navy gave their sailors a daily rum ration or tot. This was until July 31, 1970 when the last tot was distributed. This day became known as Black Tot Day (ready more here).

This year was the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day and was marked by a 24 hour Virtual Rum Event hosted by the Black Tot Rum company. The Florida Rum Society was asked to join said event and made the video below. ENJOY! Up Spirits!