As any connoisseur or enthusiastic fan will tell you, rum is the Caribbean in a cup. Whether you pronounce rum the American way with an “ahh” to symbolize its divine taste or as the bolder ‘rhum’ in the native tongue, this spirit is universally adored.
So what makes rum a drink to die for and where does it originate? Here’s The Weather Network’s own Emily Vukovic to tease you with a little taster:
The History of Rum-Making in Barbados
Barbados is the home of the world’s oldest commercial rum distiller, which goes by the name of Mount Gay. The slogan for this golden, sweet-tasting nectar declares that “There’s a time and a place” – presumably the singular space in which the significance of this national drink has steadily grown in the centuries since its inception into Caribbean culture.
Barbados was always ideally placed – both geographically and temporally – for the proliferation of rum. Its largely flat landscape and favorable soil and rainfall pushed Barbados to develop the first successful sugar industry in the West Indies in the mid-17th century.
Plantation workers were the first to observe that molasses – the byproduct of the sugar-refining process – were ripe for the production of a liquor that would change the Bajan image forever. Molasses were thus fermented into the crude, early version of rum known delightfully as “kill-devil” or ‘rumbuillon’.
It wasn’t until 1703, however, that English businessman Sir John Gay initiated the world’s first rum business venture in Barbados. The distillation process was refined to a point where the beverage that has now become synonymous with the island itself was officially born. And thus, Barbados become the birthplace of Mount Gay Rum.
As explained by bubbly Emily, the historic Charles Fort was built in 1650 by the British military in defense of Carlisle Bay and Bridgetown. The largest fort on the island sits within the grounds of Hilton Barbados – we’re proud to house this historical landmark in our very home.
The fort is situated at Needham’s Point, which also boasts a number of exquisite beaches with the paradisaical combination of white sand and lofty palm trees.
As rum production took off in Barbados, Charles Fort protected this base of “liquid gold” as one of the foremost Bajan assets. The adjacent military garrison has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, meaning you don’t even have to set foot outside the resort to admire Bajan patrimony.
In the interior of Barbados, amid the cavernous entrails of the island, lies Harrison’s Cave. This breath-taking piece of natural architecture molds limestone with coral in ethereal patterns that woo the naked eye.
Mount Gay distils its rum using the fresh, naturally filtered water from deep inside the coral caves towering above emerald pools. This natural haven is one of the “seven wonders of Barbados” and the gleaming freshwater that gushes from its heart is a cornerstone ingredient of the rum that made Barbados famous.
The delicate rock composition of the caves also supported the vast sugar plantations of the past and continues to promote agricultural diversity.
Mount Gay and Other Distilleries
Rum lovers will have a field day at Mount Gay Rum distillery. If you’d like to learn what gives rum its particular flavor and what sets it apart from other Caribbean concoctions, start off with a tour in its veritable sanctuary. Discover the distillation, aging and blending techniques used to coax out its golden qualities and the subtle sweetness it imparts to its drinkers.
There’s a variety of rum tasting experiences you can indulge in to hone your knowledge with a practical touch. It’s true that Bajan rum tastes best when downed in Barbados!
St Nicholas Abbey distillery presents a prized opportunity to watch a working sugar plantation in action for those desiring to peek at the process in its entirety. You’ll see the live grinding of the sugar cane grown on the plantation, the traditional distillation process, and the barreling in bourbon oak casks which gives rise to the magnificent St. Nicholas Abbey Rum.