In terms of national identity, rum is to Jamaica what whisky is to Scotland. For anyone going on a Jamaican holiday, getting into the spirit of this beverage is a sure-fire way to tap into the heart of this island’s culture – and chill out in true Bob Marley style.
Rum is produced from fermented molasses – a sweet by-product of sugarcane – and its story is on show in the fields enclosed by the rolling rain-forested hills of inland Jamaica. As a rum tourist, you can get out into this lush landscape where slaves were first brought to toil in the Jamaican sugarcane plantations in the 17th century. No surprise perhaps given the hardship of their lives that it was these slaves who discovered how to ferment molasses, creating a shortcut to liquid pleasure which has fuelled the island ever since.
You can visit the splendid Appleton estate in the Nassau valley for a world-renowned tour of one of Jamaica’s foremost rum producers. An expert guide will take you on a journey back in time, showing you the copper stills where the fermented molasses is stored, and the oak barrels in which the spice-infused rum absorbs its characteristic flavor.
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of Jamaican independence, this year Appleton released special rum casked for fifty years by two generations of master blenders. A taste of this may be too much to ask, but the tour guide will certainly ply you with a range of Appleton’s other luxury offerings.
If Appleton marks the traditional standard in terms of rum and rum tours, there is another, more off-the-beaten track option for the hardcore rum tourist, eager to see how the spirit of the drink lives on. Islander Chris Blackwell is famed for recording the world’s finest reggae artists on his Island label in the seventies. This year, the charismatic entrepreneur has stepped into the rum trade, launching a range of Blackwells rums onto the world stage.
The rums, which have already been commended at events such as the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in New York, are produced using organic methods on Blackwell’s estate in rugged Cockpit Country, North West Jamaica. The Pantrepant Farm is already open to guests, as one of the ‘Island Outpost’ selection of homegrown visitor experiences. With official horseback tours of the estate said to be in the pipeline, rum lovers will have the chance to get to the beating heart of a new marketing phenomenon that puts rum and reggae hand in hand.
So with all this to see and do, what are you waiting for? Get your swashbuckles on, and come to find out what made the original pirates of the Caribbean say: ‘Yo ho ho and a barrel of rum’!
Photo courtesy of Rum.cz