The cultural significance of fermented spirits around the globe cannot be overstated, from the deep must of red and black fermented grapes in the vineyards of France, the strong, hard and palate-cleansing whiskeys, bourbons, and moonshines of the confederate south to the festive, flavorful sugar-infused rums of the Caribbean. Well-known for its appreciation of liquid gold, Barbados is one of the premier and oldest rum producers on the globe with the first spirits being produced at Mount Gay Distilleries more than 300 years ago. In this article, we’ll explore the history of rum as we highlight Barbados’ famed rum distilleries and the dedication to excellence in producing this celebrated spirit.
Four-Square Rum Distillery, established in the year 1720 and renovated in 1996, is located in the parish of St Phillip and is currently owned and operated by the Seale family. The Seale family is rich in the tradition of rum production with the Operations Director, Mr. Richard Seale, being a fourth-generation distiller himself. One of the perks of this tour is that it is conducted by Mr. Seale himself as he walks you through the entire production process from the initial fermentation to the stills and even goes so far as to break down the chemical process as well. And what is a rum tour without a tasting? Foursquare has a plethora of rums in their repertoire with fan favourites such as Doorly’s XO, RL Seales Old Brigand, RUM Sixty-Six and Foursquare Rum to name a few.
Next up on the list is St. Nicholas Abbey, originally a sugar cane plantation, the property was built in 1658. But it wasn’t until the 1750s that a man by the name of Sir John Gay Alleyne and his wife Christian introduced rum distillation to the property. The property was then purchased in 2006 by the Warren Family and has since been meticulously restored. It is not only known for its production of rum but also its green forested grounds, beautiful flower and herb gardens, colorful art gallery, and its historic architecture. Not to mention there is a grounds tour on their steam locomotive, a real treat for the entire family. The distillery currently makes 5 fruit-flavored spiced rums with the ages ranging from 5,8,15 and 22 years old and then a choice of a white rum with hazelnut and vanilla infused taste.
The West Indies Rum Distillery, one of the island’s older distilleries and the largest on the island, was opened in 1893 by George Stade and his brother in the hopes of making the world’s best rum. In 2017 the distillery was purchased by Maison Ferrand and has since continued its heritage of high-quality spirits. The West Indies Rum distillery is responsible for 80% of Barbados’ rum production. Some of its catalogues are the renowned Cockspur and Malibu rum and the young but impressive Plantation rum. A fun fact, world-famous country singer Kenny Chesney picked West Indies rum distillery to be the manufacturers of his highly-rated Blue Chair Bay rum.
Last but by no means least, the Mount Gay Distilleries is Barbados’ crown jewel. The owner and founder of the now legendary distillery was ironically named John Sober who had a vision for the distillery and commissioned the services of the esteemed distiller Sir John Gay Alleyne to help lead the way. The distillery has since gone on to not only win numerous awards and prestige but has also captured the hearts of critics and connoisseurs worldwide. One emphatic lover of Mount Gay Rum was the first president of the United States George Washington who famously demanded that he have a barrel of Mount Gay Rum at his Inauguration after he visited the island in 1751. Today the distillery is not only known for its rum but also its lively and energetic tours. The tours have multiple packages, inclusive of a distillery and aging warehouse walkthrough, a premium rum experience, cocktail workshops, and a signature rum tasting.
Do not hesitate to schedule a tour at either of these distilleries with your personal concierge at Port Ferdinand or Saint Peter’s Bay as you will not regret the opportunity to experience a true taste of Barbadian history and the rum that flows through the country’s veins.