Friday, November 18, 2011

When in Barbados...

St. Lawrence Gap
When visiting any country, there are things one must see and do to have a proper experience. When in Barbados, rum shops, beaches and rum distilleries readily come to mind. In fact, it may not even be possible to visit without running across these ubiquitous features of the isle. A little over a year ago, the rum distilleries in Barbados marked the topic of our first article. Today, we report with a fresh update from a few of our favorite Bajan spots.

Gaggs Hill Rum Shop
Rum shops are a collection of similar yet uniquely different places one can go for a Bajan rum experience. The colorful exteriors and charming decor provide a roadside attraction. Let's stop and take a look! Often their facades represent brands or local distinctions. There is even a book, The Barbadian Rum Shop: The Other Watering Hole, written by Peter Laurie, with some great photographs for reference. Inside you may find some locals slamming out an exciting game of dominoes. Join in! It's a rum shop, not a bar, so one doesn't order a "rum and coke". Instead, you would select the type of rum and order a bottle, a cup, some ice and perhaps mixers pouring it how you like it. Just as the look and feel of each Rum Shop differ, the brands of rum available, for example, Mount Gay Rum, Old Brigand, Cockspur, Doorly's also may vary. What's your flavor today? Cockspur Old Gold please! Also, you have a choice of bottle sizes ranging from 200ml or 375ml to 500ml. So, how thirsty are you? Rum lovers have tens of hundreds of Rum Shops to explore while traveling in Barbados. Time for some rum!

Cockspur Old Gold and a dash of Coke!

If you practice or preach the gospel of Rum, a trip to St. Nicholas Abbey may be equated to a Christian's experience visiting St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Whether it is your first visit or not, quality and history are always present. Arriving through the lush surrounds of the Cherry Tree Hill entrance, we find our friendly tour guide, Simon Warren, quick to deliver a smile and sense of humor. A host with the most...he orders up a round of their freshly made Bajan Rum Punch. Yum!

It is a glorious day as we make our way down to a small room and find a variety of beautiful hand-made products. Kathy is sifting sugar granules by hand to remove imperfections before bottling. Yes, let me repeat, sifting sugar granules by hand. Shall we try perfection? My spoonful of sugar goes down easy; no need for medicine here. Next, we sample the molasses. If it looks like quality and tastes like quality; you get the picture. But, just in case you don't, go ahead and take a look at the photos below.

Kathy sifting sugar
The effort and care that goes into each of St. Nicholas Abbey's products are clear. The craftsmanship performed here hasn't changed since my last visit. However, there are a few products we are seeing for the first time. For example, we admire a new, hand designed pottery jar to hold their sugar in addition to its smaller glass counterpart.
Blackstrap Molasses and Gourmet Sugar
After viewing the thoughtfully human processes behind each of these finished products, I no longer question, "which product to buy?" That question has now been replaced with "how many can I carry back?"

Gourmet Sugar in pottery

Annabelle is a sight to see. Upon arrival, she is in the middle of fermentation and distillation processes and we get a close up. It may not be rapture, but we are ecstatic! Admiring the light reflecting off of the liquid distillate in the circular viewing holes is amazing! (see photo) It gives the viewer a better understanding of what is going on inside as the ethanol condenses leaving behind other less volatile chemicals. This yields a liquid product of higher alcohol concentration we like, called rum. By way of Elvis, the distiller on duty, we receive a short course in blending to stimulate the mind and the palate on our way out. Awesome!

Distillation close up
Off to the Tasting Room!

A brief stop to cut a few stalks of sugar cane to snack on...
Fresh cut sugar cane

St. Nicholas Abbey 8yr & 12yr "Single Cask" Barbados Rum
The tasting room brings it all together in a glass to complete the tour. Literally surrounded by casks of rum, we stand before a table showcasing bottles of the 8yr and 12yr Barbados Rum. Tunnel vision sets in. Notice the difference in color. (see photo) One can easily get lost in the bottle's details, all done by hand, which I have written about in a previous post. We raise our glasses into the light and sample a generous pour of each. Cheers to Simon! Sipping the 8yr is easy. We take a brief break only to be distracted by some of the other fine goods on display. How about a Molasses cookie? (see photo) I am told they are made by Simon's grandmother. This is my type of rum communion! For those visiting the Terrace Cafe, I would only suggest saving room for a cookie or two after your delicious meal. After the palate cleansing cookie, we go forth to sip the 12yr. The first taste is more intense, showing off more woody notes in a complex flavor profile deserved of much more personal attention. Good thing they sell (and personally engrave) bottles on site! Once again it is another rewarding visit to St. Nicholas Abbey.

Molasses Cookies

A round of applause to Simon, our brilliant tour guide, for a wonderful tour and learning experience!

Sugar Cane and the Sea
Cherry Tree Hill

Touring the Foursquare Distillery and having the opportunity to be part of a tasting with Richard Seale is a real treat. At the UK Golden Rum Barrel Awards, he was endowed with a suitcase full of awards to bring home. More recently, at the 2nd Annual Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival in Barbados, many of his rums took the gold in the CAB Awards. Richard is full of knowledge and insight. Ask questions, listen closely and rum knowledge you will gain. This brief visit has also brought some exciting news to share!

Doorly's Fine Old Barbados Rum

Doorly's Fine Old Barbados Rum
The beautiful new bottles for the line of Doorly's Fine Old Barbados Rum are here! The consistency in size and shape with new labeling designs is fun to look at. (see photo) The new labels are thoughtful. The age statement appears at the top of the label, proudly centered above the brand name.The left side of the each label displays a different Macaw. We are told as the age of the rum goes up, so does the rarity of the parrot. In fact, the Macaw chosen for the Doorly's 12yr Rum is extinct. We get to taste the newly released 12yr. Winning!

St. Nicholas Abbey
Having just visited St. Nicholas Abbey, I recalled the bird at their entrance upon looking at the new bottle design for Doorly's Rums. The new bottle's rounded dome shape just below the neck appears to resemble the top of this classic bird cage. Similarly, the Macaw on the label looks as if it represents the one in the cage. (see photo) The parallel is remarkable and the combination of the bottle shape and artistic depiction of the Macaw on label are fitting. Coincidence? Things that make you go rummmmm.

An impressive first tasting!

Cheers to Richard Seale and the Foursquare Distillery on their awards, new bottle design and their exciting new product - Doorly's 12yr!

A final note to my Northwest readers, the rums of St. Nicholas Abbey and Doorly's are not available in Washington State at present. However, one may find Doorly's Rum if traveling up north to British Columbia, Canada. Check out BC Liquor Stores website for more details. A vacation to sunny Barbados is another idea to consider. If these suggestions are not in the cards, you may also find some of these rums being tasted locally at one of The Rum Collective meetings in the near future. So stay tuned rum lovers! 
St. Lawrence Gap Sunset
Until we meet again Barbados...


  1. Loved reading through your adventures in Barbados! Your pictures, narrative and subtle humor blend together nicely. Looking forward to your next article... Cheers!

  2. Thanks for sharing this amazing information about barbados rums, Barbados is one of the most popular and preferred tourist destinations in the Caribbean. one day agra tour