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Gourmet getaways

Barbados Rum

Andrew Hogan October 2, 2014

In the rum world all paths lead to Caribbean and in June I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful island of Barbados and sample its most famous export. As an amateur rum connoisseur I was keen to experience the source of rum greatness; the Mount Gay rum factory. 

Mount Gay is an iconic rum brand which hit mainstream heights as Daniel Craig’s drink of choice in the opening scenes of James Bond epic, Casino Royale. However Mount Gay is far from an overnight success and is steeped in Bajan heritage. 
At your service
Actually Barbados is the home of another iconic rum brand, Malibu. With average temperatures of 25 degrees all year round, it is no surprise that the sugar cane used to produce rum has flourished since first being introduced to the island in the 1600’s.
On my visit I had the chance to learn about the 300 year old process of rum production. I heard from passionate local guides how the time—honoured process of refining, aging and blending has helped to produce Mount Gay’s distinctive flavour.
Legend has it that following a lengthy journey across the Atlantic, shipped rum tasted even better on its arrival in Europe. As a result Mount Gay rum is now aged in bourbon barrels for 7 to 15 years to give it that rich flavour.
Take your pick!
Before the aging process can begin the rum is double—distilled in huge floor to ceiling copper pot stills. We were led through the distillery and got a chance to appreciate the vast quantity of rum produced here every day.  We were taken to a small screening room to learn a little bit more about the history of Mount Gay and its founding father, Sir John Gay. 
After watching a short video we learned that it was Sir John Gay’s friend, the aptly named John Sober who inherited the distillery before asking Sir John Gay to manage it. The video was insightful and entertaining and gave a good overview of the rum’s history. However, it was now time to get down to business, let the tasting begin!
As part of the tour we had the chance to taste four varieties of Mount Gay: Eclipse, Extra Old, Black Barrel and 1703. Each was exotically described by the tour guide, enough to tempt even the most stringent teetotaller. 
My favourite label was the black barrel rum, described as full bodied with notes of oaky vanilla and spice. Maybe it was the evocative description or the fact that it was my third rum, either way it tasted great. I generously offered to help anyone struggling to finish their glass; unfortunately they were all enjoying the rum too.
Life's a beach in Barbados
After four tumblers of neat rum some food was definitely needed. We were treated to a Bajan buffet featuring a selection of local dishes such as flying fish. I wasn’t sure if the rum was teasing me but after re—reading the menu a couple of times, it clearly said “flying fish”. Turns out that flying fish is a popular winged variety on the island and as the name suggests it does indeed fly (to escape predators in the water). 
The fish tasted mild but meaty and went great with Bajan black—eye peas and rice, all washed down with, you guessed it, a glass of rum punch. The buffet was a delicious way to finish the tour and we took the opportunity to soak up the midday sun on the deck area outside the restaurant.
Tours of the Mount Gay rum factory start at USD $10 and run hourly. For the full rum experience I definitely recommend the Bajan buffet tour which includes food, tasting and transportation. 
When the sun goes down the party begins!
Whether relaxing on the beach or on a catamaran on the turquoise waters you will never be too far from a steady supply of rum. And take it from me, nothing goes better with a rum cocktail than a glowing Bajan sunset and accompanying warm evening breeze. Hopefully I’ll be back in Barbados very soon. In the meantime I’ll have to settle for a Mount Gay rum and mixer to remind me of the blue skies and flying fish of this beautiful island.