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Meet the Maker: Ian Burrell

The former professional basketball player and international recording artist talks to Douglas Blyde about founding the world’s first rum festival, the inspiration for Equiano, and the latest ‘Legacy’ expression, Ominira.

What does ‘Ominira’ mean?

In Yoruba, a language spoken by many in West Africa where our namesake, Olaudah Equiano was born, Ominira means “Freedom”. Thus, we used our freedom to create and marry vintage rums from the African continent with rare rums from the Caribbean.

Noting this is Equiano’s inaugural ‘Legacy Blend’ – what does this mean?

Ominira is indeed the first release of our exclusive LEGACY BLEND SERIES. This collection of rare vintage blends celebrates the art of rum blending, African and Caribbean heritages and the remarkable journey of our namesake, Olaudah Equiano.

How old is the blend?

The youngest rum in the blend is eleven years old, but it has older rums. The eleven mirrors Equiano’s age when he was taken from Africa. It is also bottled at 52%, with the 52 representing Equiano’s age when he passed in 1797.

Which distilleries inform it?

It is a rare blend of rums distilled by both Foursquare distillery in Barbados and Gray’s distillery in Mauritius. The respective rums are blended at Foursquare by our award-winning master blender, Richard Seale.

How does it taste?

Ominira blend features aromas of ripe banana, sweet molasses, vanilla, allspice and cedarwood on the nose, while the initial taste on the palate reveals luscious dark chocolate, sweet caramel and tropical fruits layered with a subtle hint of buttery oak. The mid-palate introduces a delightful spiciness with cinnamon and nutmeg, adding unique depth, while a long and satisfying finish incorporates light tannins, showcasing the exceptional balance and smoothness of the rum.

How many bottles have you produced?

A limited batch of 3,000 bottles only.

How can we buy it?

You can find it on our online store (£180, and in-store at Harvey Nichols.

Who is your target consumer?

Equiano’s target consumers are discerning conscious epicureans looking for authentic, high-quality product experiences. They care deeply about what they consume and support brands which share their ethical values.

How did the design of the bottle come about?

The goal was to show that rum can look and feel as elegant as any other super premium spirit and to dispel the clichéd imagery of pirates, palm trees, and plantations. With our bottle design, you get to see more of the natural, unadulterated liquid.

What does it mean to be the only global rum ambassador?

I never really think about it; I just do it. However, I do feel a sense of pride when the rum industry acknowledges my work in raising awareness for the category. It is nice to have a job that I love, as it doesn’t really feel like work.

What have been your proudest professional and personal achievements to date?

Creating the UK RUMFEST, the world’s first international rum festival in 2007. Since then, my annual event has inspired Rum Festivals in no fewer than 20 countries across the globe, helping to create a platform for rum companies to share their knowledge, culture, and rum with discerning consumers around the world.

Finally, to whom would you raise a glass of Ominira, past or present?

That would have to be Olaudah Equiano…

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