Best Rums of Barbados
In Barbados, the consumption of rum is no simple task. It’s a lifestyle! A ceremony! It’s an important part of the local culture!
From the elder to the younger, it’s a sure staple. Yes! Even our children have a go! Every so often, Bajan parents or grandparents will give the young ones a little sip – some for a bad cough or a quick way to get them off to bed, but also just for the naughty novelty of it all.
While the drinking of rum is a culture, the brewing of it is a true pillar of the nation’s heritage. Rums have been traditionally brewed and distilled on the island long before the formal end of slavery in 1834, with records going back as far as the 1700s. It was brewed by people of all walks of life, from the enslaved to the colonizers to the indentured servants – truly a country’s marvel.
Now, although Barbados lacks many natural resources, one industry that produced and remained well sustained before and after 1834 was the sugar cane industry. As its name suggests, sugar cane is the primary crop used to manufacture sugar, which has been Barbados’ major export for many centuries, yes centuries!
Barbados has produced and exported sugar as well as long island cotton from the time it was colonized in 1697!
Why do I refer to sugar all of a sudden? In the midst of our rum talks? Well, that’s because a natural by-product of the sugar industry, blackstrap molasses, is the key resource to almost all rum making in Barbados.
Regardless of the changes throughout the nation, namely the abolishment of slavery, followed by our formal Independence from the British in 1966, the sugar industry remained so robust and undaunted that the traditional production of rum almost doubled!
People began to truly experiment with the crafts of blending, aging and flavoring. This has led to a plethora of unique products and brews, all known to pack massive power!
Here is a selection of the most awarded, most popular and/or unique rums of Barbados! In no particular order as their differences truly keep them in their own corners.
1. Foursquare 2004
This rum is blended with a selection that is distilled from molasses in different ways – pot and column. It’s a vintage release which was aged for 11 years using ex bourbon casks.
Taste: Woody and rounded, it’s a flavour that quickly overpowers everything else, with a classic burn for every sip!
2. Doorly’s 12 Year Rum
This Barbados rum comes with a twelve year wait. Aged in former white oak casts, then later switched to a hybrid port wine cast, Doorly’s flavor reflects the unique process.
Taste: Somewhat nutty with a tiny hint of a dark berry flavor, like plum or cherries. Overall a strong taste with a powerful ability to set in quickly. Meaning, don’t drink it on an empty stomach or you’ll definitely be stumbling!
3. The Real McCoy – Single Blended 12 year Rum and 5 Year Rum
The twelve year rum, as the name suggests, is another rum aged for 12 years before hitting the shelves. It is aged in charred oak and bourbon casks, all of which comes through taste wise. The 5 Year rum is aged for 5 years only also in bourbon barrels/casks.
12 Year Taste: A hint of caramel and vanilla with a strong woody finish, topped with a light spicy aftertaste. A rum with a fantastic punch and that classic burn that lingers for some time.
5 Year Taste: A smoother rum, with a hint of butterscotch and oak wood. A much subtler rum, especially for those new to the culture of rum drinking.
4. Mount Gilboa Rum
This is another special rum in that it’s a solely pot still product, which means it was NOT a blend of the usual column still and pot still like most Bajan rums.
Taste: The smell of it has a rich fruity note, which reflects to a lighter degree in its taste. A tiny hint of cinnamon spice, Gilboa Rum packs a noticeable, long lasting burn. To be sipped with grace, not chugged like water or you’ll certainly regret it come morning.
5. Plantation Barbados 2001
A purely vintage product, undergoing three cask changes. This Bajan rum is first aged in bourbon and sherry casks for 9 years then finally in cognac casks for the last few years.
Taste: A super smooth rum with a strong vanilla taste and a light sweetness. It gives a gentle burn when swallowing, covering the tongue and throat with its taste.
6. Foursquare Port Cask Finish
Another rum heavy on the cask mileage, with 3 changes of casks during its 7 years of aging. It is aged first in bourbon casks, then sherry casks, and finally in cognac casks, with each one leaving their particular touch.
Taste: Dark berries, like ripe plums or jamu fruit, hints of a sweet spice like cinnamon or nutmeg. Very long lasting burn with a dry finish. Overall a powerful rum, whisky drinkers would like this!
7. Mount Gay 1703 Master Select Rum
Mount Gay is the oldest rum brand in Barbados. With rich history dating back to, as you guessed it, 1703! Though no longer locally owned, the rums produced still retain their integrity. 1703 Master Select rums are limited edition releases with rums that have been aged between from 10 to as long as 30 years!
Taste: Oat wood, fruity notes of raisins and cherries. Lighter hint of roasted nuts. Long lasting but a subtler burn, overall very smooth on the tongue.
8. Cockspur Rums
Another seasoned brand, dating back as far as 1884, Cockspur rums are typical classics. The rums are traditionally brewed with no sugar and known for their powerful punch.
Taste: Rich, hints of black coffee and vanilla with a long lasting burn when swallowed. Whisky lovers may also love this brand. Never to be had on an empty stomach though… Or you might just blink and wake up the next day with not a clue of what happened!
9. Stade’s Rum
Unlike other Bajan rums which mostly use molasses as a base, Stade’s uses brown sugar. Their end rums are blends of both pot and column distilled. Their white rums and brown rums are quite distinct from each other in taste.
Brown/Gold Taste: Both fruity and spicy notes. Raisins and cinnamon with hints of pineapple, also oak wood.
White Taste: More stringent and dry. Hints of vanilla, clove and black coffee.