Published on October 23rd, 2016 | by Gavin0
Mount Gay Rum Distillery Tour, Barbados
They say you should never meet your idols because you’ll only be disappointed. I’m not into celebrity culture so the nearest equivalent to an idol for me would be to visit the home of my favourite rums. So while on a recent vacation to Barbados, it was imperative that I took a trip to the island’s most recognisable rum, Mount Gay, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
My trip sends me to the leafy parish of St Lucy in the north of the island. Sitting atop a slight knoll (known locally as Mount Gay), the distillery is easily recognisable on an otherwise flat stretch of land. We’re greeted by Dario Prescod, a born and bred Bajan whom joined the Mount Gay team after school and was recently promoted to the prestigious role of brand ambassador for the Caribbean territory.
My biggest curiosity before coming to the distillery was how things have changed since owners Remy Cointreau decided to rebrand the range a couple of years ago. Darrio responds by pointing out numerous improvement works that have taken place which were long neglected, clearly showing Remy’s commitment to building the brand into a truly international product. However, being primarily a cognac manufacturer, Remy also knows the importance of sticking with tradition, and as Mount Gay are officially recognised as the world’s oldest rum producer with over 300 years’ experience, tradition is something they have by the bucket load.
We begin the tour by visiting the well which the water for Mount Gay is drawn. Although located in a dingy, unassuming corner of the distillery, I was fascinated to learn that this is the same well that has been used for producing Mount Gay since production began in 1703- if that isn’t keeping with tradition, I don’t know what is!
We’re then shown the open air fermentation process, a typically Caribbean laissez faire approach to fermentation, allowing for nature (and whatever else decides to take a dive in the tub) to influence the process. This method of fermentation has long been forgone by many rum producers in favour of a more consistent lab controlled process. Although open fermentation may not be as manageable, it has worked for so long, who are we to question?
Mount Gay also happens to be one of the few remaining rum distilleries that follow a double copper pot distillation process. However, as well as following this traditional process, they blend the result with a modern column still distillation. Column still distillation is the more scientific of the two methods, producing a consistent result time after time. Although copper pots don’t produce to the same standard, the results have something that the columns can’t produce…character. Blending both enables Mount Gay to obtain the stability of the column, whilst retaining the unique characteristics that make Mount Gay what it is.
The final piece to the puzzle, and arguably the most important, is the barrel ageing. The Mount Gay range consists of five core products starting from unaged white rum through to the ultra-premium 1703. Although I enjoy Mount Gay XO for sipping, my favourite is Black Barrel, a rum that can be easily sipped neat, but is priced reasonably enough for you not to feel guilty about mixing it in your favourite cocktail. One thing I notice is that Mount Gay steer clear of age statements and Master Blender Allen Smith explains “it’s ready when it’s ready, not before”, a phrase that happened to be the tag line for Black Barrel’s launch. Allen also has the enviable job of tasting every barrel to find out exactly when they are indeed ready- having seen the huge warehouse that holds all the barrels, I wonder how he ever remains sober!
From speaking extensively to Darrio, it’s clear that rum is more than just a job to him; it’s a way of life. Even after work Darrio informs me that he can be found in a local rum bar sipping a Mount Gay Black Barrel Dark and Stormy, and many Bajans have a similar affiliation to Mount Gay. Having witnessed first-hand the craft that goes into making this rum, it’s easy to see why Mount Gay remains THE rum of choice for the local population.
If you are lucky enough to visit Barbados, The Mount Gay Visitors Centre is open daily where you have the chance to sample the entire range of rums as well as various signature cocktails. More information can be found at http://www.mountgayrum.com/Share This Post