Published on October 10th, 2016 | by Gavin0
St Nicholas Abbey, Barbados
I first came across St. Nicholas Abbey at the UK Rumfest seven years ago, where I was greeted by the master distiller Larry Warren, and a barrel of their famous golden rum. Much has happened at The Abbey since 2010; and on my first trip to Barbados, I had to pay the distillery a visit.
The first thing to know about St. Nicholas Abbey is that rum production is just one facet of this 350 year old estate. Set in over 400 acres, St Nicholas Abbey is one of Barbados’ most popular tourist destinations, enticing guests with picturesque gardens, The Great House, and of course, the promise of tasting some of the best rum that the island has to offer.
Getting to St Nicholas Abbey is just as much an adventure as the tour itself; I’d recommend taking the scenic route along the island’s east coast for windy roads and magnificent cliff edge views. Upon arrival, I’m in awe of The Great House, a building I’ve never seen in real life, but know all too well, as the historic mansion is imprinted on every distinctive bottle produced here.
Entry costs $23 USD and includes a tour of the estate, which is usually hosted by a member of the Warren family, whom have owned the estate since 2006. We’re welcomed by the beaming Simon Warren, the first son of Larry and Anna, and as we later learn, he’s also the resident comedian. Enthused at meeting a long time fan, Simon wastes no time in showing me the range of boutique rums in the collection, including the white rum and 12 year old. However, it’s the newest addition to the family which peaks my interest; St Nicholas Abbey 5 Year Old.
The 5 year old has particular significance to everyone at the estate because it’s the first rum crafted from start to finish at St Nicholas Abbey (all others were distilled at the Foursquare distillery before returning for ageing). For a relatively young rum, the flavours are punchy and bold, with almost as much charisma as our gracious host Simon.
We’re then taken to the distillery, which first begun rum production in the 1750s, and things haven’t changed much since then. They pride themselves on limited availability, and having observed the process first-hand, I can see why. The distillery keeps to labour intensive traditions, especially at the very first stage, turning sugar cane into syrup, and use a combination of column and pot stills distillation process. Even bottling is done by hand, and if you purchase a bottle in the gift shop, a personal message will be etched onto the face.
I’ve visited many distilleries, but none have felt as family orientated as St Nicholas Abbey. The Warren family deserves immense credit for restoring the estate to its former glory, and I hope the legacy (and rum collection) continues to grow and grow- a must if you come to Barbados.
You can buy St Nicholas Abbey rums from Master of Malt