Welcome to the Voyage (Image by Gillian G Gaar)

The Final Voyage

Tiki-Kon” has sailed its last. The long-running Portland, Oregon, festival began in 2005 as “NW Tiki Crawl” (essentially a bar tour), then transitioned to “Tiki Kon,” drawing revelers from around the country to celebrate all things tiki. Now organizers, Greg Clapp and Justin DuPré, who’ve been running things for about a decade, have decided the time has come for a much-needed break. According to their website, the Tiki Kon brand isn’t going away entirely, and you can expect other Tiki-related events in the future (be sure to sign up for their mailing list). And I was happily able to snag a ticket for this year’s “Final Voyage,” donning my tropical attire and shell lei in anticipation, ready to indulge myself in a weekend of exotica music, aloha shirts, and, most relevant for WWG purposes, rum cocktails.

Tiki Village

The hosting venue, Portland’s DoubleTree Hotel, had been transformed into a mini tiki village, with a thatched hut-styled entryway, a separate tiki lounge with palm fronds and appropriately subdued lighting, and vendors hawking wood carvings and other wares. There were seminars on the history of the spice trade (spices being an essential ingredient of the holy cocktail) and the secrets of Disneyland’s “Jungle Cruise” ride (as presented by David “Dr. Skipper” Marley). And, of course, there were the official Tiki Kon cocktails to imbibe.

One for the Road

The sweeter drinks (those with more fruit juices) proved to be the most popular. “One For the Road,” featuring Plantation Original Dark rum, lemon and grapefruit juices, caramelized pineapple puree, honey mix, and ginger syrup, went down nicely, the citrus and ginger giving additional zest to the dark rum. “Happily Ever After” was for those who like a rich, smooth drink featuring Plantation 3 Stars rum, papaya puree, orange and lime juices, cream of coconut, and vanilla syrup.

Just Rum

I preferred the “Just Rum Historical Grog,” featuring Just Rum Oak Rested, Just Rum Dark House Syrup, lime juice, and water. This tangy flavor blended well with the rum – a drink to bring out your inner pirate (yaaaargh!). One of the waitstaff even gave me a glass of the mix (sans rum) to take home with me. I’m sipping a Grog as I write this.

John HasBrouck, Just Rum’s owner and operator, took time out from serving up samples of his wares to talk rum. He noted that the Historical Grog should’ve been shaken, not stirred: “The shaking of all the ingredients together creates a tasty foam on the top that was lacking when they didn’t shake the drink.” He prides his distillery (based in Sandy, Oregon) on creating a back-to-basics liquor, using only refined products.

“We use cane juice as our base. The yeast we use is proprietary grown in a lab.” There’s the robust Uncle John’s Cut, “our still strength; uncut, unfiltered, unaged clear rum bottled as 122 proof. It’s surprisingly smooth, and one can taste the cane juice flavor in the spirit” (Simple White’s a bit lighter at 102 proof). Oregon Oak Rested is “stave aged for four months and mimics a whisky with a little ‘oakier’ taste up front and a butter toffy middle with a lingering finish.” This rum, in particular, was enjoyable straight-up. Ditto the Seasonal Spice, relying on orange and lemon peel, vanilla beans, and whole spices for its flavoring, not sugar, syrup, molasses, or artificial coloring.” Just Rums can be found in Oregon and Washington, and soon Idaho; mail order is on the way.

Pop-Up Bars

There were also pop-up bars around the hotel in a setup known as the “Hospitality Suite.” This entailed getting in line early outside the designated suite, then being escorted into rooms elaborately decorated to resemble an underwater grotto or a haunted grove (complete with erupting volcano) to sample a specialty drink. There were at least eight such suites to explore over the weekend; here were my findings:

Devil’s Reef

The “Devil’s Reef” room (a popular tiki bar in Tacoma, WA) served up drinks with more Plantation rums. I opted for the “Mercenary Sea,” another drink on the tangy/bitter side, featuring Plantation Old Fashioned Original Dark rum, spices, and dry citrus. The spices again accentuated the flavor of the dark rum wonderfully; all hail the spices!

Monkey Hut

The drinks in the “Monkey Hut Forward Camp” suite featured syrups made from the very ingredients we’d just been hearing about at the history of spices lecture. The “Golden Hour” cocktail had Plantation Barbados rum, lemon, and orange juice and was nicely flavored with SOS Powder Douce Nouveau syrup (featuring allspice and cassia), also available for purchase. Not too sweet, as is my preference. Yum!

Burnt Bridge Cellars

Burnt Bridge Cellars (based in Vancouver, WA) concocted what they called a “Wine Tai,” using dry white wine instead of rum, with lime juice, pineapple, and orgeat syrup. It doesn’t quite have the same kick as a rum drink, and I’d probably goose it up a bit by adding some club soda, but I give them credit for imagination.


The “Passionola and Kon-Tigo Tiki Bar” was the hand’s down winner for the event’s prettiest cocktail, which featured an orchid as a garnish. Of course, the main attraction was that the drink was made with Lemon Hart & Son’s Original 151 rum, meaning a long line outside this suite and no chance for seconds. A strong rum can benefit from a quality mixer, and Passionola was up to the task. It has a hearty blend of organic tropical juices, with passionfruit being “fruit-forward” in the mix.

Fond Farewell

If you build it, they will come. Tiki-Kon began around the shared enjoyment of cocktails, and it went out the same way. And as the splendid smorgasbord of rums available this year demonstrated, there’s always a way to craft a new cocktail to experience

Image Gallery

Click for the full-sized image:

Plantation Rum


Tiki Drink Menu 1

Tiki Drink Menu 2

Mercenary Seas


Devil’s Reef

151 Rum

151 Drink