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The Tippling Point | Carribean Rum Gets its Richness From the Magic Earth Where it’s Produced

Started in 1703, Mount Gay rums are usually matured in lightly charred American oak barrels that have been previously used to age American whisky.

Manu Remakant |

Updated:April 14, 2019, 1:47 PM IST
The Tippling Point | Carribean Rum Gets its Richness From the Magic Earth Where it’s Produced
Representative image.

Everyone is now wise about the value of Caribbean rum. But what is so special about Barbados, the hub of this dark drink? Why is the drink born in the island so highly rated?

The answer lies in the rich soil and flat terrain of the sunny place that is Barbados. Even during the height of the sugar boom in the 18th century, rum from the island was highly coveted (no wonder former US president George Washington insisted its presence when he took office).

The story of Mount Gay

When John Sober purchased Mount Gilboa distillery in 1747, he wasn’t sure about its future and had no idea about rum production. So he sought the help of Sir John Gay Alleyne, his trusted friend, and asked him to manage it.

Alleyne was no ordinary guy. He was a respected community leader who served the Barbados House of Assembly for nearly 40 years. He even became its speaker twice. As a vocal opponent of slavery, Alleyne’s words resonated in the Parliament. On the other end too, when he was asked to run the distillery by Sober, the man excelled. Soon, rum from Alleyne's plantation became the most sought after drink from the West Indies.

When Sir John Gay Alleyne died in 1801, Sober wanted to name the drink from his distillery after him. But such a famous man he had become by now, the name ‘Alleyne’ was already taken by another production house in Barbados.

Sober christened his distillery Mount Gay, taking his friend's middle name.

Started in 1703, even before Sobers took over the distillery, rum from the newly-christened Mount Gay plantation is the oldest rum establishment existing (Now Remy Martin has taken over the plantation) in the world.

What Makes Mount Gay Special?

Let’s begin from the water that goes into the Barbados rum. As the island is formed of coral limestone, the porous earth itself acts as a natural filter for the groundwater beneath, emphatically spelling out its purity. Now, take molasses. Initially Mount Gay used imported sugar from Guyana and the Dominican Republic. But once the richness of local soil was recognised, Mount Gay started its own plantations, trusting the terrain to add its own magic to the rum (even otherwise sugar from Barbados was considered one of the best in the world. Imagine the kind of rum that could flow out of it!)

The mix of water and molasses in Mount Gay is then fermented using a carefully selected yeast, before it is distilled in both copper pot stills and columns stills. Oh, no! You cannot drink the hot rum straight from the bottle after distillation. The drink needs to mature. Don’t worry. The tropical Carribean climate and the trade winds do a brilliant job in ageing the rum, whereas elsewhere in temperate climates, scotch and other drinks continue to sulk inside the dark casks for longer period.

Mount Gay rums are usually matured in lightly charred American oak barrels that have been previously used to age American whisky.

Till date, the company has released many editions of this rum; many commemorating important events in the history of Barbados and also its rich nautical heritage. Its top tier includes Mount Gay XO (Extra Old), Mount Gay Black Barrel and Mount Gay 1703, which is its top ranked specialty bottling.

For an unforgettable Barbados experience, try its Mount Gay XO: The Peat Smoke Experience. The smoke is subtle, though noticeable if you listen with your palate. The initial aroma of caramel and vanilla will soon give way to ripe tropical bananas. The style of Barbados falls between the highly aromatic, occasionally pungent Jamaican rums and the very light Cuban rums. With more subtle hints playing hide and seek in its dark hue, the rum lover in you has a lot to explore in Mount Gay.

Remember, you hold a drink that could tell you nearly 300 years of wonderful stories.

(Mount Gay is now part of the French liquor giant Remy Martin).

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)

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