No trip to Barbados would be complete without a taste of the island nectar – Bajan Rum. It isn’t just a drink, but a way of life on the island. With exotic flavours, island spices and stories of salty sea farers and island pirates it’s a drink steeped in history and tradition. What better way to top off a day, than enjoying a sun-downer watching the sun set over a beautiful beach!
The Rum Revival
Rum has seen a huge revival in the 21st century and has seen some fantastic growth figures. Rum sales for the first decade grew by a massive 40%. Spiced rum and the flavoured varieties were especially strong performers with these new innovations appealing to a younger audience. In recent years Gin has also seen a renewed interest especially in the premium market. There are signs that the adventurous drinker is getting tired of Gin & Tonic and is looking for the next trend in the drinks market. It is predicted that the premium rum brands will fulfill this market.
History of Rum
Rum is traditionally made from sugar cane which was introduced to the West Indies by Christopher Columbus and is plentiful on our beautiful island. Once the cane is cut, the sugar is extracted and molasses is left as a by-product. This molasses is fermented, distilled then aged in oak barrels to produce the Bajan rum we know today. During the 18th century the molasses came to be known as ‘black gold’ because of the extra revenue it supplied the sugar plantations!
The Caribbean is at the core of all rum production. It’s the largest and oldest producer with the first commercial distillery, Mount Gay dating back to 1703. The American colonies acquired a taste for our rum along with sailors and the navy and hence a worldwide trade was established.
Today rum comes in a huge range of colours and complex flavours which are acquired from the variations in production method. From light gold to rich and dark, and with a fantastic array of spices and flavours -it really is a haven for the discerning drinker.
We have picked out some of our favourite local distilleries and our Barbados rums:
Mount Gay is the oldest and most famous distillery on Barbados and today it’s owned my Remy Cointreau. With its first commercial sales dating back to 1703, the company has a heritage to be proud of. The Mount Gay Visitor Centre is well worth a visit and you can also choose from five tours where you can find out more about Barbados’ finest and most celebrated spirit:
Mount Gays’ premium blend and oldest reserve is the 1703 old cask selection. After that their Extra Old (XO) is a blend that has been aged for 8 to 15 years. Black Barrel is a blended Barbados rum produced in small batches that has been matured for a second time creating a unique spicy aroma. Eclipse is a great quality rum with a golden amber colour and a rich smoky flavour whilst Silver is a white Barbados rum with banana, peppermint and citrus notes.
St Nicholas Abbey is a 400 acre estate with sugar cane fields, mahogany forests and formal gardens located in the hills of St. Peter. It’s a lovely place to visit both for the magnificent views from Cherry Tree Hill and to find out more about the history of the plantations and rum production. Spend some time in the formal gardens, check out the avenue of Mahogany Trees and enjoy some refreshments including home-made Bajan rum punch in the beautiful and tranquil Terrace Café.
St Nicholas Abbey produce a number of aged Barbados rum brands from 18 years, to 12 years to 5 years. They also produce a white rum which is fermented in their ‘pot and column’ still called Annabelle!
Foursquare is home to the prestigious Barbados rum brands of Rum Sixty Six and Doorly’s Rum and is located on the southern slopes of the St. George Valley. It is free to visit and you can see the original Foursquare ‘Distil House’ built in 1737 as well as the Modern Distillery built inside the old sugar factory. You can also access the fermentation room and admire the pot still, the column stills and wander between their premium Barbados rum brands aging in their white oak casks!
The Foursquare distillery also produces rum for the Real McCoy Rum Company. This rum is relatively new to the market and has been carefully researched and developed to closely replicate the rum of the pioneer rum runner Bill McCoy. Bill McCoy operated in the 1920s where he took rum from the Caribbean and sold it off ships three miles off shore from New York City to get around the laws of prohibition. Whilst many products at that time were cut with other liquids, the Real McCoy was never adulterated and hence the name ‘The Real McCoy’ came about.
Foursquare’s Master Distiller is Richard Seale a fourth generation rum expert. He is also responsible for some other notable Barbados rum brands to be developed and produced at Foursquare including R. L. Seale’s 10 Year rum and Tommy Bahama.
Berry’s Finest Barbados Rum is another brand of rum produced by Berry Brothers and Rudd in London but distilled in Foursquare.
Plantation Rum was developed in the 1990s and is the brainchild of Alexandre Gabriel, an entrepreneur business man. Gabriel developed Plantation Rum as an artisanal blend of the some of the best rums from the Caribbean and Latin America including Barbados, Guyana and Grenada. Plantation Grande Reserve is one of their much admired signature blends.
The Duppy Share is a blended rum from the Worthy Park Estate in Jamaica and the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. It is a premium brand with unique character oozing with tropical flavours!
How to drink Barbados Rum
Barbados rum can of course be drunk straight and that is how the locals like it! For this we recommend a glass with a good funnel so you can savour the aromas, although do resist the temptation to breathe in too deeply as the vapours are quite strong! Serve the rum at room temperature and you can even warm the glass with your hands if you like. Take your first sip and let the rum reach every part of your mouth to experience all the flavours and also take note of the additional flavours as you exhale!
If you want to spice things up a bit further, Barbados rum makes a great base for many cocktails and here are a couple of our favourites:
Barbados Rum Punch
Our Barbados Rum Punch is of course our most famous cocktail. Nothing beats a classic and this little rhyme helps you remember the recipe! “One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak!”
Dissolve the sugar in the water and add the rum and lime juice. Blend well. Chill and serve with a couple of dashes of bitters and fresh grated nutmeg.
Makes 4 servings of Barbados Rum Punch
A grown up slush puppy – these Rum Runners are perfect for chilling out with a tropical breeze! This recipe is enough for you and two or three fellow rum runners!
Add gold rum, blackberry liqueur, crème de banana liqueur, orange juice, grenadine and crushed ice in a blender. Blend until slushy and pour into glasses.
Float with the dark Barbados rum and serve with a straw and garnish.
If you fancy visiting Barbados and finding out more about our famous rum heritage, we have some great accommodation available. From our prime beachfront Silver Sands Beach Villa at Silver Rock, to our Golf Lookout at El Sol Sureno on the exclusive gated community at Durants, to our Anidale Spacious Condo you are sure to find something to meet your needs. All our properties are based towards the south of the island with easy access to all our beautiful south western beaches. Oistins and the St Lawrence Gap are on your doorstep, so plenty of places to sample our Barbados rum and pick up that Caribbean vibe!