Drink Life Beverages

Barbados Rum: Ten Things to Know

Once a British colony, the island is steeped in rum history and drawing international acclaim for its

Many histories of rum note that the first distilled spirit known today as rum was made in

Richard Ligon, an English author, and half-owner of a Barbados plantation, lived on the island between 1647 and 1650

…convey the skimmings of the three lesser Coppers, down to the Still-house, whereof the strong Spirit is

Other historians note that cane spirits were distilled in what is now in Brazil as early as 1532

But wait, there’s more! Historian Marco Pierini provides compelling evidence that the first Caribbean rum was

Kitts and/or Martinique, possibly predating Barbados by a few years

Based on historical documents, the Mount Gay brand says that rum making has occurred at the Mount

In an interesting twist, Mount Gay was originally named Mount Gilboa

However, that still makes Mount Gay one of the oldest brands directly connected to a specific distillery

As elsewhere in the Caribbean, most rum making in the 1800s was done on sugar estates with

By the late 1800s, most estates found it hard to remain profitable; many stopped operating or were

It was also the first time column distillation was used to make rum on Barbados

However, it had no rum brand to call its own for nearly 130 years

Today we know the West India Rum Refinery as the West Indies Rum Distillery

In the early 1900s, a Barbadian law prevented distilleries from selling rums in quantities of less than 10

Some of these merchant names still live on today as brand names, including Doorly’s (Martin Doorly),

To exit bankruptcy, the distillery sold ownership shares and became a publicly held company

In many cases, merchants buying rum from the distillery also purchased its shares, making them both customers

Thus, the distillery was essentially a shared “co-op” resource used by Barbados rum brands for many years

However, in the past, many Barbados merchants flavored their rum before sale

The molasses spirits are usually distilled with lime and soda, often in the presence of vegetable roots,

It’s important also to note that such practices were commonplace elsewhere in the Caribbean and with

Luckily, there are many rum makers today selling rum free of flavorings

In terms of distillation output, West India Rum Distillery is the largest, distilling over 80 percent of the

As for Mount Gay and Foursquare, they are approximately equal in distillation capacity and quantity of casks

Both have over 40,000 casks, making them the largest holders of aged rum on the island

In addition to its four rum distilleries, Barbados is also the home to WIRSPA, more formally known

WIRSPA’s member countries and their distilleries work on areas of common interest relating to Caribbean rum,

Although WIRSPA members often meet at various Caribbean locales, the organization’s day-to-day operations are performed at

[Disclosure, I am WIRSPA’s Community Envoy, facilitating information sharing between rum enthusiasts and rum makers

Founded in 1996, Foursquare Rum Distillery has received enormous international acclaim and countless awards in the last few

Since then, Richard has won multiple awards for himself, the distillery, and its rums, including the Exceptional

For you bourbon enthusiasts, Foursquare has even been called the “Pappy of Rum

Want to read more about Barbadian rum? Check out my collected writings here

[i] Ligon, Richard, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes, 1657