In Barbados, the rum needs no umbrella

on 07/03/11 at 9:35 pm

Spirits

It's estimated that there are as many as 1,500 rum shops that operate the length and breadth of Barbados. Photo: Peter Wilson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

The beverage of the islands gets some respect.

We’re in the old stone tasting room at historic St. Nicholas Abbey on Barbados, surrounded by copper-pot stills and oak barrels and the nose-ticklingly spicy aroma of the aged rum in our glasses.

Outside, the warm Caribbean breeze rustles through acres of sugar cane that one day will end up in a glass just like this. Because what we’re tasting today isn’t just a luscious award-winning rum, but the distillation of 350 years of Caribbean tradition and, if all goes according to plan, the spirit of the islands’ future.

“We are really providing an authentic product,” says Larry Warren, owner of St. Nicholas Abbey. “It’s the truest single-cask rum in the world.”

When Warren bought the Jacobean manor a few years ago, it was on the verge of being turned into condos. Now, not only has the Bajan architect refurbished the home to its 17th-century grandeur, but he has also revived the old sugar plantation. He plans to work it the way it was done before modern mechanization — and that includes making rum from sugar canes harvested on his own land, then juiced, fermented, pot-stilled and aged. It will take a few years to become self-sufficient, of course, so until then St. Nicholas Abbey 10-year-old rum is being produced with the help of the highly regarded Foursquare Distillery.

“We’re trying to make it a sustainable business,” Warren says. “These products will ultimately sustain the lands. The sugar cane will sustain the lands.”

The cane will sustain a new type of tourism, too, attracting the sort of visitor who travels with tasting glass in hand.

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