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October 13, 2011

Polished Palate Biography

Ian Williams

Ian Williams
Ian Williams

Ian Williams with Mark Seddon
’05 RumFest NYC with Mark Seddon

Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776
Purchase Book

Ian Williams admits that his career has been all at sea for most of his life, which is why he is now drifting into various ports to talk about the role of Rum in history.

In August 2005 Avalon Books published Ian Williams’ fourth book Rum, the social and sociable history of the real Spirit of 76, on the forgotten role of Rum in World History. As a longer term project, he has been working on a novel set during the naval wars in the Caribbean during the Napoleonic era and has been conducting his research in tandem with his explorations of rum and its role in history.

He has written about rum for the Financial Times, Cigar Aficionado, Carib News, Carib Impact, and Maxim magazine among other publications and has spoken about its developmental importance at several Caribbean conferences. He appears frequently on shows ranging from PBS to Fox and the BBC.

His speeches on various aspects of rum go down very well with audiences, not least because they are usually plied with copious samples of the subject in hand. From the launch at the former US Coast Guard HQ on Governors Island in New York harbor, he has spoken at venues ranging from the Yale Club, Fraunces Tavern and South St Seaport museums to the St George's Society Trafalgar Day commemoration.

Born in Liverpool in 1949, he graduated from Liverpool University , despite several years’ suspension for protests against its investments in South Africa . Consequently, he had a variegated career path, which included a drinking competition (not rum, mao tai) with Chinese Premier Chou En Lai and an argument on English Literature with Chiang Ching, aka Mme Mao. He worked on the buses and trains, and eventually became a full time labor union official until the early eighties, when he moved into full time writing after winning a Nuffield Fellowship to study Indian unions in 1984 – and almost dying in Darjeeling during the Monsoons.

In 1986 he won the Liverpool Press Club award for “ByLine Mania” – a centerfold for the Baptist Times clinched it – and he has not looked back since. He has, he claims, “more columns than the Parthenon,” on business, politics, world affairs, and whatever takes his fancy. Last year he had an article - but no centerfold - in Penthouse, on the treatment of the military, for example and this year, he hits the opposite end of the Baptist Times spectrum with a piece in Hustler! .

In 1987 he was a speech-writer for UK Labour party leader Neil Kinnock during the elections. (Joe Biden’s presidential ambitions were derailed when it was revealed that he had plagiarized a Kinnock speech). In 1989 he moved to New York , where he still lives.