Rum and Romance: The Perfect Marriage
By Melanie Reffes
Nothing beats discovering rum on its home turf. Shaken and stirred with the finest spirits in the world, rum-fueled cocktails and rummy punches are the hands-down favorites of twosomes enjoying quality time in the Caribbean . Also popular for couple-bonding are tours through a rum distillery to see how the real stuff is made, sipping the gratis samples and learning how to create a creative cocktail guaranteed to impress. From time-capsule distilleries that still use old copper pots to ultra-modern ones that churn out thousands of bottles a year, rummin’ around a rum distillery is a liquid history lesson worth learning and an authentic slice of island life. Bottoms Up!
Appleton Estate | Jamaica
In the Cockpit region surrounded by limestone hills and the Black River, Appleton Estate has been making rum since 1749 and will reopen in November after a refresh of the facilities. Two hours south of Montego Bay, the heirloom distillery that makes the world’s oldest barrel-aged rum uses naturally-filtered water and sugarcane that is grown, cut and juiced at the Estate. A national treasure in the Nassau Valley, the distillery is also where Joy Spence has the honor of being the first woman in the rum-producing world to hold the prestigious title of Master Blender.
“To create a new rum,” she says as she scurries about her rum lab, “you first identify the style of rum, then look at the stocks that are available bearing in mind the compatibility of the different marquees and how they’ll react when they’re blended together.” Tours show off the big copper pots that give the rum its distinctive character and the ageing house where the potent spirits rest in oak barrels for up to 50 years.
A tasting session, complimentary bottle and recipes for artsy cocktails like the gingery Jamaica Mule and lemony Honey Soother are included in the tour price. Should you work up an appetite, add USD$15 for a Jamaican lunch. Although bottles are sold island-wide and duty-free at the airport, the gift shop is the only place you’ll find the Appleton Estate Edition ready to go in a fancy wooden box.
Angostura Distillery | Trinidad
Nowhere else in the rum-making Caribbean do butterflies and rum marry as nicely as they do in the Angostura Distillery in Trinidad’s Port of Spain, which also houses a museum, art gallery and retail store. Start with the tour where the ‘1919 Aged’ variety (named for the rum found in charred casks that were filled in 1919 and discovered after a fire thirteen years later) is made and stay to peruse the magnificent butterfly collection.
Although the world’s market leader for bitters is also distilled in the massive complex, it’s the fine rums that are the main ingredients in classic Trinidad cocktails like the pink grapefruit-infused ‘Rum and Ting’ and the diet-forgetting ‘Jammy Rum Sour’ blended curiously with half an egg (no yolk) , raspberry jam and vanilla-flavored ‘Reserva Rum’. Tours are given Monday to Friday at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. with a minimum of eight rum-lovers on each tour. The USD$10 ticket buys the guided tour that includes sampling at the horseshoe-shaped bar and plenty of time to check out the butterflies.
Cayman Spirits Company Distillery | Cayman Islands
In a gray building with tiny windows, the small-batch Cayman Spirits Company Distillery is only maker of rum in Grand Cayman. Nondescript on North Church Street in George Town, the distillery with its giant steaming copper contraptions and bubbling tanks of water simmering with sugar cane harvested at the farms in the East End, looks more like a warehouse in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory than a rum distillery. Using a unique technique called ocean-ageing, the rum is stored in oak casks and dropped 42 feet underwater or exactly seven fathoms, where the motion of the ocean ages the aptly named Seven Fathoms Rum to smooth perfection.
Linger in the Tasting Room for the samples of the signature Seven Fathoms, Governor’s Reserve Rum and the fancier varieties flavored with coconut.
Habitation Clement |Martinique
Sandwiched between the fields of sugar cane and the Atlantic Ocean on the east side of Martinique, Habitation Clement is where Rhum Clément has been distilled for more than a century. A historical landmark registered with the Ministry of Culture since 1996, the plantation is equal parts distillery, museum, botanical gardens, fine arts gallery and gorgeous venue for weddings, not to mention the only Creole plantation that is entirely open to the public. The family mansion, decorated with the original furnishings and keepsakes, is time travel through the pages of French West Indian history.
Formerly known as Domaine de l’Acajou, the shrine to fine rum is open every day of the year from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the last tour getting underway at 5 p.m. Self-guided with audio in English, tours last 90 minutes and cost about USD$13 or 12 Euros.
Courtesy of the catwalk that passes above the two wings of the distillery, rum-philes can see where the aromatic rums are aged, fermented and stored. Yes, the rum tastings are the big draw but stay awhile and peruse the gift shop with its shelves of rare bottles and petit versions of rum barrels (holds four gallons and costs about USD$180), which just may make your at- home bar the hippest on the block.
Original story from USA Today. For more images, see the original article here.