Mount Gay Rum Distillery, Barbados

Mount Gay rum
••• Mount Gay rum. Richard Whitaker/CC by 2.0

The Bottom Line

Mount Gay is one of the oldest and best-respected rum distilleries in the world, and its name is nearly synonymous with Barbados. With 1,500 rum shops on 167 square miles of island, the drink is an undeniable part of Bajan life, so learning the history of the drink is arguably more than just mere tourism, but in fact a cultural expedition.

Mount Gay Silver is the company's white mixing rum, while the famous Eclipse is a barrel-aged gold rum perfect for a rum and coke. The Mount Gay XO, aged 8-15 years, is a premium rum suitable for sipping or mixing fine cocktails. The Mount Gay 1703 and Black Barrel are blends of aged rums best enjoyed straight up.

A tour of the Mount Gay Rum visitor's center is a must-do attraction for Barbados visitors -- unless you don't like rum (and in the Caribbean, who doesn't?). The tour is educational and inexpensive, and the tasting afterward tests Mount Gay's boast of producing the best rum in the world.

Pros

  • Great opportunity to learn about the history and creation of one of the world's oldest rums
  • Gregarious and enthusiastic tour guides
  • Opportunity to buy reserve rums only sold in Barbados
  • The Mount Gay Rum store sells even top-shelf rums at bargain prices
  • The tour offers tastings of other spirits made by Mount Gay in addition to rum

Cons

  • It's all about the rum, so the tour is advertorial in this sense
  • If you don't drink (or like) rum, much of the hoopla may be lost on you
  • People with small attention spans might want to skip straight to the tasting
  • The bottling factory is sometimes inactive
  • So much cheap, delicious rum might actually kill you

Description

  • Admission: $15 for tour with signature rum tasting; $25 for tour with premium tastings. Lunch and cocktail tours also available. Children half-price. Call for details.
  • Address: Spring Garden Highway, Bridgetown, Barbados
  • Phone: 246-425-8757
  • Hours: Open daily, 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. 45-minute tours operate every hour.

Guide Review - Mount Gay Rum Distillery, Barbados

My nostrils burned, the aroma of undistilled liquor tearing through my sinuses. I pulled my head out of the jar and gasped. The room seemed a lot clearer.

Our Mount Gay Rum Distillery tour guide laughed. "Ninety-seven percent alcohol," she said. "Better than Vick's."

Emboldened by my survival, the other members of our group came up to sniff the jars of distillate, which contained a shallow pour of rum at various stages of maturation and blending. The hungry-looking trunk of a bulbous, copper pot loomed over me like a metal Heffalump. An artifact of rum-production technique that dates back to the 1700s, the pot remains an integral part of Mount Gay's rum-making process, giving the liquor greater body and nuance.

We moved on to watch a video detailing the transformation of sugar cane into the blended rum on the shelves, and finally into Mount Gay's bar to sample the product. We tried everything (all available at ridiculous discount at the adjacent store): the flagship Eclipse rum, the sweet passion-fruit Passoa drink, and the Irish cream-like "Punch Kuba." But the most exquisite was Mount Gay Rum's pride: the 12- to 17-year aged blend called Extra Old.

"Look at the legs," the barman said as we swished the snifters. "The slower they run down the sides, the better the rum." I watched treacle-colored fluid fall reluctantly down the edge.

"Now taste it," he said.

The liquid washed over my tongue with a pleasant sting, then burst richly on my palate with hints of vanilla, almond, and oak. The subtlety was astonishing; it made me question my preconceptions about rum. This was not a mixer; this was the star of the show. 

The barman looked at us knowingly. "Good rum," he said.

I nodded, and finished the glass. Good rum. Good tour. An hour spent learning about (and sipping) the drink of the Barbados is a happy hour, indeed.