Words by Kate Krader, with assistance from Mark Ellwood
(c) 2018, Bloomberg
In the realm of jobs that sound so good someone must have made them up, Global Ambassador of Rum ranks up there with Rooftop Pool Bar Critic. Yet, Ian Burrell does hold the title. The Jamaican-born Burrell is the industry spokesperson, a paid consultant who is hired by spirit brands to spread the good word. He travels the world, teaching consumers and industry professionals about rum, from how it’s made to inspired ways to drink the stuff. He’s transported his mobile tiki bar as far as Antarctica in the name of education.
There are more than 50 legal distilleries in the Caribbean islands alone, and Burrell has visited every single one of them. Here are the best of the best, from historic farmhouses to postcard-worthy plantation houses-the ones he likes to hang out in when he’s not ‘working.’
River Antoine Rum Distillery, Grenada
River Antoine started producing rum around 1785. Though it’s not the oldest distillery in the Caribbean, it’s notable because the crew still makes rum in much the way it was done centuries ago, with a water-powered wheel to crush the local, organic sugar cane. Visitors can see those traditional methods in action, including cooking, fermenting, and distilling in old pot stills, on guided tours and tastings.
St. Nicholas Abbey, Barbados
Barbados is the island that is said to have created rum around the 1650s, as sugar cane production took off. Decorated with gables, grand arches, and cedar-panelled sitting rooms, it’s one of the finest historic sites in Barbados, period. Its distillery, meanwhile, is the newest on the island, built in 2009. Among the handful of rums St. Nicholas produces is the excellent, honey-coloured 12-year-old, made from molasses and aged in old bourbon barrels. Cherry Tree Hill, St. Peter.
Appleton Estate, Jamaica
Appleton, one of the big names in the rum world and the oldest distillery in Jamaica, recently spent $7.2 million to renovate the estate, which features eco-friendly distilling. Visitors can try their hand at distilling, juicing the cane, and boiling “wet sugar.” Afterwards, it’s sample time: Don’t miss the 50-year-old offering. This is the oldest barrel-aged rum in the world, with powerful, smooth flavours of vanilla. Nassau Valley, Siloah District, St. Elizabeth.
Diamond Distillery, Guyana
Guyana is technically in South America, yes, but it’s part of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), a political grouping of 20 countries in the region. And its Diamond Distillery is a mecca for rum geeks. Set on the banks of the Demerara River, the distillery dates back to 1670 and uses some of the oldest and unique rum stills in the world. Three of the stills are made of wood, as opposed to copper or stainless steel. This helps give its El Dorado rums a unique taste, with richer flavours of brown sugar, coffee and smoke than most rums have. A visit here feels like time travelling. 44b High St., Kingston, Georgetown.
Featured Image: Surya Prakosa, Unsplash