Mount Gay Rum (Barbados)

Back with a review of another rum distillery from our trip to Barbados. I promise Lynn and I relaxed and sat on the beach during our trip to Barbados. But we also packed in some great activities! In addition to our visit to St. Nicholas Abbey (read my review here), we also stopped by Mount Gay Rum’s distillery.

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There are three tours to choose from: their Signature Rum Tour, the Interactive Cocktail Tour, and Bajan Buffet Lunch Tour. We decided to just take the Signature tour. It was most informative, you saw a short film, and did a lot of tasting.

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On the tour you get to try everything but the 1703. Rum, like whiskey, is affected by the time in the barrel. That was something the English learned as they shipped it to England and the rum rocked back and forth for weeks in the barrels on board the ship. They offer a complete selection of rum. They offer the Silver, Eclipse, Black Label, XO, and 1703 Old Cask Selection. We bought a bottle of the Silver to make mojitos when we got back to California, and a bottle of the XO for sipping. Surprisingly, sipping Rum is not much different than whiskey, or bourbon.

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After the tour we got a table on the patio and had a wonderful Mt Gay Silver Rum mojito. They were cooking french fries and they smelled great and I can tell you they were great with a mojito. All the food looked really good but we were not hungry.  The Interactive Cocktail Tour took place in the bar right next to us and out on the patio, so we watched it for a bit while we sipped our mojitos. The class looked like a lot of fun and after watching it I would recommend it.

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A little bit about Mount Gay rum, which I knew nothing about before our visit (mostly pulled from their website)… The Mount Gay Rum story begins in 1703. George Washington spent 6 weeks in Barbados when he was 19 years old. He visited some of the Rum Distilleries and no doubt probably visited Mt Gay. Rum, originally called “Kill-Devil” by the Barbadians who first distilled it, is truly a product of the island with their abundance of molasses combined with their thirst for alcohol lead to this unique discovery in the production of spirits. Sir John Gay was a respected leader and businessman who worked tirelessly in service of the island of Barbados. A friend of Sir John Gay’s, John Sober, inherited a then-unknown distillery and had asked for Sir John’s help in managing it. Sir John Gay took quickly to the business of making rum. He refined the distillation process and began producing a noticeably superior product that we know today as Mount Gay Rum.

Sailing vessels carried exotic trade from the colonies and introduced Caribbean flavors to Europe and the Americas. This period of shipping was an important part of Mount Gay’s Heritage. The Mount Gay Rum Red Cap is a symbol of accomplishment in the sailing community. It can only be worn by sailors who have raced in a Mount Gay sponsored regatta where, upon completion of the course, they are awarded the cap. You can’t buy one in the gift shop, you have to earn it.

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I have never really been a rum drinker and enjoyed my re-introduction to the spirit. I enjoyed our time in Barbados and learning about rum. I will be drinking more rum in the future.

Tasting Rum in Barbados (St. Nicholas Abbey Distillery Tour)

Surprise! Lynn and I were in Barbados last week. We decided to go on a little island vacation this summer and had a great time. Naturally, while there, we had to taste some of the local spirits – rum!

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When in Barbados you must try the Rum. Barbados is famous for its sugarcane and when you are stuck with sugarcane and great limestone filtered water you make RUM.

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Our first stop was St. Nicholas Abbey. What an incredible find. Lynn had read about it and knew we would love it. One flat tire and driving on the left made a little rum welcome by the time we arrived. The home was built in 1658 by Colonel Benjamin Berringer, and it is one of the island’s oldest surviving plantations. The Jacobean style architecture is unusual for a Caribbean home and one of only 3 in the Western Hemisphere. The other 2 are Drax Hall also on Barbados, and Bacon’s Castle in Virginia.

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When you visit St. Nicholas Abbey you get a tour of the home, the boiling house, distillery, and gardens. Part of the tour includes a home movie shot in the c1935 by Charles Cave and gives a glimpse of life on the plantation and the island. The narration is also fun and so British. They serve a wonderful lunch on the terrace. Plan to spend a lot of time there tasting, eating, and touring.

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The current owners are Larry and Anna Warren who bought it in 2006. They bought the property to preserve it as part of the island’s heritage. They have meticulously restored the property with their sons Simon and Shae. It is their mission to develop St. Nicholas Abbey as a heritage attraction, cultural centre, and self supporting plantation. Part of that mission has brought them to develop St. Nicholas Abbey Rum. This will help to sustain the legacy of the plantation. They are also unique in that they use their own sugar cane to make this rum. They also sell brown sugar, molasses, and other homemade products.

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They are making their rum with classic Bajan balance and finesse. It is a great introduction to rum for Cognac, Whiskey, or Bourbon lovers. It has a mellow sweetness having been aged in bourbon barrels. It is a deep amber color with hints of vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon. Sound al little like your favorite Bourbon? As a review of the rum I can say I enjoyed it as much as any excellent bourbon.

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They sell their rum in 3 vintages. When we were there they offered a 5, 12, and 18 year old rum. What they sell on line through a few stores in the UK may have slightly different vintages. Most of their rum is sold right at the abbey. We spent some time with Anna in the bottling and packaging building. Another great old building they had restored. They have one lady who bottles, seals and labels every bottle. They hand bottle about 8,000 bottles a year. It was fascinating talking with Anna. You could sense her passion for the plantation and the rum. She and Larry along with their sons are doing something they love and putting that passion into every bottle. The bottle is a work of art. The bottle is etched with an image of the great house and sealed with a mahogany cork symbolic of the trees on the plantation. The top of the cork has a leather insert, hand stamped logo on the top.

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Everything has been done with style and class. Larry, a renowned architect, and Anna have shown incredible attention to detail.   From their product, to the tour, to the products they sell in their store it’s all first cabin. Even the tour guide’s uniforms reflect their passion to detail. When you go to Barbados you MUST tour St. Nicholas Abbey. You will be impressed with their rum and pleased you took the time to tour the Abbey and a rum distillery.

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