02 February 2009

Barbados Rum Report

This is the newest exciting addition to Sandpiper's site. While transiting the Caribbean we will be sacrificing our bodies while we do in depth research discovering as many of the Caribbean’s rum distilleries as possible and reporting what we discover what the rum situation is like at each island. Not only is rum great to drink, it is a huge part of the history of these islands. From the very first settlers, it is still a major part of each islands economy.

We are using a book we recently discovered, ‘Rums of the eastern Caribbean’ written by fellow cruiser Edward Hamilton who sailed thru these islands on his boat, sampling all these delicious rums while he wrote his guide. He is also know as the ‘Minister of Rum’ by fellow cruisers as he has quite a supply of rum aboard and he holds tasting nights with fellow cruisers in whatever anchorage he happens to drop his hook in.

A brief lesson on where rum comes from and why it is so popular here in the Caribbean: Sugar Cane is grown throughout the Caribbean which is harvested and then run thru a crusher that squeezes out all the juice.  The juice is then collected and made into sugar that is exported all over the world. What is left is molasses. This molasses still has a small amount of sugar left in it. It is left to ferment, then distilled into delicious rum.

Some of this is sold as white rum. Or it is left to age in recycled whiskey barrels from America,  which turns the rum into a golden color. Once this is judged to be of proper age it is bottled as aged rum, or mixed with local spices and sold as spiced rum.

Barbados was established in 1627 and had 120 drinking houses in Bridgetown alone! Rum was first known as ‘Kill Devil’, a hot and horrible liquor. The largest distillery on the island is also the oldest in the world, ‘Mount Gay’, that started business in 1663!! We were fortunate to drop by the distillery for a tour and tasting while visiting the island.

There we learned that Mt. Gay is a sponsor of many regattas around the world. And if you’re a participant you receive a red Mt. Gay ball cap. This is the only way to receive their cap. If you wear your cap to the distillery then you are given a ‘special’ treat. Since we are already planning our next visit to Barbados, it looks like we will need to find a regatta first.

Barbados also has Cockspur Rum that was founded in 1884, West Indies Rum Distillery that was founded 1893 and several smaller distilleries.

Barbados is NOT for the recovering alcoholic as the island is covered with drinking establishments called ‘Rum Shops’. Some of these are large bars. But most are so small that only two persons can sit inside. Others are just small huts where one just stands outside. In order to be a true rum shop, the establishment has to have a rum number issued by Mt. Gay, as this is the official rum on the island. There are hundreds of these all over the island, and mostly this is where the locals come to drink. Most locals have a neighborhood rum shop near their house where they come to drink in the afternoons, much like a local pub back home.

Our favorite haunt, ‘Red Man Bar’, is just a short swim from Sandpiper. It is a bar for tourists from the cruise ships during the afternoons. In the evenings when the tourist have returned to their ships, it becomes a rum shop for the locals, ‘Team Sandpiper” included.

The most affordable way for the locals to drink at a rum bar is order a bottle of rum. You get a Coke bottle full of Mount Gay Rum, a large bowl of ice, and a pitcher of water. You then fill your cup with ice, as much rum as you need, and a little water. The code in the rum shops is that once you open your rum then it is fair game for anyone else to grab some of your bottle. Or if your bottle is empty and someone else opens a bottle, then you grab his.

While indulging in this local pastime one evening and sharing stories of our travels we had mentioned how much Australians love their beer. We were quickly schooled that this view needed to change. So now we say Bajan’s love their rum.

Barbados is a bit laid back when it comes to enforcing any laws for anyone whom has consumed too much rum and is running around in public. On one of our many nights at the Red Man Bar we met a large Barbados man that had spent his entire afternoon at the bar drinking rum. It was already quite apparent by his slurring speech. While he was telling us his many stories a couple of cruise ship tourists walk by. He yells out to them, much to our disbelief, “Need Taxi Mon??” He was on the clock with his taxi looking for passengers to take back to their ship. And he was having a hard time just talking to us, less drive some tourist safely back to their ship.

Luckily for them they declined the ride back. Laughing at the situation I asked one of my new friends if this guy was going to get in his car and drive around. He told me that there are no laws in Barbados against drinking and driving. There had been a rash of accidents around the island due to so many people driving around full of rum. So a group had been formed to force the government to take action. The Minister of Tourism gave a report on the front page of the Barbados newspaper saying that there was no way that they were going to let the police take action as it might cut into tourism!!!

The taxi driver then told me that drinking rum improves his vision, and that the more he drink, the better driver he is. This was confirmed to me weeks later in yet another rum shop where one of the local ex pats told me that the problem on the island wasn’t people drinking to much and then driving. It was the sober drivers that were causing all the accidents on the island because the sober drivers were out of sync with all the other drivers on the road.

No comments: