Written by Karen Rollins

Barbados’ long history with rum


Anyone who knows anything about Barbados knows this island has had a long and enduring connection with rum – some people claim it is the birthplace of the drink and it’s certainly recognised as the first country where the distillation of rum took place.

Shortly after being colonised by the British in 1627, slaves working on sugar cane plantations are said to have discovered that molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process, could be fermented into alcohol. This ‘traditional’ liquor had a crude taste and was initially only popular among slaves and sailors.

In 1703 Sir John Gay Alleyne (of Mount Gay fame) decided to set up the world’s first commercial rum distillery on the island and the popularity of the beverage eventually spread to Europe and North America.

Windmills popped up all over Barbados to grind sugar cane to extract the juice and the production of ‘agricultural’ rum boomed just as the island’s sugar industry began to decline.

Today Barbados’ rum industry is still going strong with a variety of flavours, strengths and distillation methods – the old-fashioned distillation by pot stills and the newer method by columns.

Rum connoisseurs can find every version of the beverage on the island including dark, flavoured, white, gold, spiced and premium edition rum.

If you want to see how rum is made, you can join a tour at one of the island’s four distilleries, which usually includes a much-anticipated tasting session – after that you’ll know what to ask for when you visit one of the country’s 1,600 rum shops.



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