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Rum Travel: A Caribbean Distillery-Themed Itinerary

Posted by Tim Roberts on Jun 5, 2024 1:56:34 AM
Rum Travel: A Caribbean Distillery-Themed Itinerary

Distillery Blog Post Series Part 2

Two rum cocktails with a Caribbean beach backdrop

Welcome to the second edition of the distillery itinerary series. Here, we will dive into the spirits of the world. While great rum is produced in various regions around the globe, historically, its roots come from the Caribbean. Countries like Jamaica, Barbados, and Puerto Rico are the birthplaces of rum distillers and still produce some of the best rums on the planet.

So, before we embark on this tipsy tour, let’s take a look at the origins and history of this famous flavored spirit.

Where Did Rum Come From?

A sugar cane plantation in the Caribbean rum travel and tour itinerary

Whether it’s whiskey from barley in the Scottish highlands, tequila from the agave plant of Mexico, or, in this case, rum from the sugarcane plantations in the tropical climate of the Caribbean, it’s always interesting to find out where the ingredients of a spirit originate from.

Unfortunately, the Caribbean sugar cane industry has a dark history. Convicts and prisoners from the British Isles as well as enslaved people from Africa were used for slave labor to grow sugar cane to become such a profitable industry. Through the courage and sacrifice of many individuals, the Caribbean rum industry underwent many hard-won changes over the centuries and today contributes significantly to several small island nations' economies.


A 'Cheat Sheet' for Distillery Tours

Inside of a beautiful rum distillery with copper pots in the Caribbean rum travel itinerary

Suppose you're excited about exploring the Caribbean's impressive array of rum distilleries and would like a better understanding of some of the general terms that may be referenced during your tour(s). In that case, we've put together the following 'cheat sheet' to give you a leg up before you even set foot in the door:



Rum production involves several key steps:

  • Harvesting: Sugarcane, the primary ingredient in rum, is harvested and transported to the distillery.
  • Processing: The sugarcane is crushed to extract its juice or molasses, a byproduct of sugar production, used as a base. Molasses is also used to make brown sugar.
  • Fermentation: The extracted sugarcane juice or molasses is fermented with water and yeast to convert sugars into alcohol. This process typically takes a few days to a week.
  • Distillation: The fermented liquid is distilled in pot stills or column stills. Pot stills produce a more flavorful and complex rum, while column stills result in a lighter and smoother spirit. Some rums are distilled multiple times to achieve the desired flavor profile.
  • Aging: The distilled liquid, known as ‘rum’, is aged in oak wood barrels to develop its flavor and character. Aging can range from a few months to several decades, depending on the desired style of rum. It can also be aged in ex-bourbon barrels.
  • Blending: After aging, different batches of rum may be blended to achieve a consistent flavor profile, such as a hint of dark chocolate or sweet caramel.
  • Bottling: The finished rum is filtered, diluted to the desired proof with water, and then bottled for distribution and consumption. Next, you're sipping rums!

Types of Rum

While there are multiple types of rum available on the market, three of the most common include:

Light Rum

(Also frequently known as white rum or silver rum.) Regardless of the final color, all rum starts with the same clear spirit you see with light rum, which is filtered and bottled directly after distillation and features a more neutral flavor.

Dark Rum

Dark rums, by contrast, undergo an aging process in wooden barrels for a specific period of time. Aged rums acquire a stronger and ‘darker’ color and flavor profile from the time spent in their particular type of barrel.

Spiced Rum

Spiced rum, as the name would suggest, has spices added and is typically aged for a period similar to dark rum. As of late, spiced rum is the flavor of the month, whereby rum makers such as Captain Morgan, Admiral Nelson and Sailor Jerry offer notes of vanilla, cinnamon spice and a smooth finish contributing to the rum's quality.

Factors such as the type of sugarcane used, the fermentation process, the type of stills, the aging conditions, and the blending techniques all contribute to the flavors and character, whether it be spiced rum, dark rum, or light rum.

It’s also important to note that not all rum comes from the Caribbean. For example, Bundaberg Rum, a popular Australian rum distillery in northern Queensland where sugar cane is also grown, tastes distinctly different with toffee, honey and dried fruits, providing a more amber color and sweetness than its Caribbean counterpart.



8 Rum Distilleries in the Caribbean You Must Tour

The following are eight of our top suggestions for the rum traveler with a discerning taste for luxury travel and a desire to explore the fascinating history of the Caribbean:


St. Nicholas Abbey Rum Experience - Barbados

Historic Nicholas Abbey house and rum distillery in Barbados

Step back in time and savor the charm of a bygone era with the St. Nicholas Abbey Rum Experience, nestled within the lush hills of Barbados. This historic plantation, dating back to the 17th century, offers visitors a captivating journey through the island's rum-making legacy. 

As you wander the cobblestone paths of the beautifully preserved Jacobean mansion, you might notice the air is filled with the sweet scent of sugarcane. Immerse yourself in the rich history of the estate as knowledgeable guides regale tales of centuries past, from the cultivation of sugarcane to the art of traditional rum distillation.

The meticulously restored steam mill and stainless steel tanks are a testament to the ingenuity of generations past. You’re then led into the atmospheric rum distillery, where aged copper pot stills and wooden casks evoke a sense of timelessness. With most tours, you cap off your experience with a tasting of St. Nicholas Abbey's exquisite rums. Mmm…


Distillery Tour Details:

Where: St Nicholas Abbey, Cherry Tree Hill, St. Peter, Barbados, West Indies

When: Fridays only

Cost: Pre-booking required at $250 BBD per person


Appleton Estate Rum Tour - Jamaica

The resident donkey at Appleton Estate rum distillery tour in Jamaica

A tour of the iconic Appleton Estate brings you right to the heart of Jamaica's rich rum-making heritage. Nestled amid the lush landscapes of St. Elizabeth parish, this distillery offers visitors a glimpse into the artistry behind one of the Caribbean's most celebrated spirits.

From the moment you step onto the grounds, the air is infused with the tantalizing aroma of molasses and oak barrels, setting the stage for an immersive exploration. You get to wander through centuries-old copper pot stills, where skilled craftsmen meticulously distill the finest blends of sugarcane molasses. 

On the Joy Spence Appleton Rum Experience, you will learn about the time-honored techniques passed down through generations, from fermentation to aging in the estate's vast barrel houses. And of course, you get to indulge your palate with tastings of Appleton's signature rums, each sip revealing layers of complexity and character. We highly recommend their flagship VX as well as the velvety smoothness of their rare reserves. Oh, and you can share a drink with the resident donkey (pictured).

Distillery Tour Details:

Where: Appleton Estate, Siloah P.O, Santa Cruz, Jamaica

When: Tuesday to Saturday 9.00 AM - 3.30 PM, walk-ins welcome

Cost: Make a reservation


Longueteau Distillery Rum Tour - Guadeloupe


The Longueteau Distillery holds the distinction of being the oldest operational distillery in Guadeloupe, one of the Caribbean’s French-speaking islands. In 1890, Henri Longueteau acquired the estate from the Marquis de Sainte-Marie, and by 1895, he had converted an antiquated sugar refinery into a facility for crafting rum directly from pure cane juice. Over the course of several generations, each one contributing its expertise, the distillery has maintained a steadfast commitment to producing high-quality products using similar technologies while upholding the cherished traditions of Guadeloupe.

You can now do a one-hour guided tour learning about the rum-making process and the history of the distillery along with tastings of their various products which provide features of the best Caribbean rums available today.

Distillery Tour Details:

Where: 97130 Capesterre Belle Eau, Guadeloupe

When: Monday to Saturday from 9h-18h

Cost: Make a reservation for a one-hour tour



Don Q Rum Tour - Puerto Rico

Don Q Rum Spanish mission mansion and museum in San Jose, Puerto Rico

Don Q is a Puerto Rican and colonial North American institution, with the famous distillery still being run by the latest of six generations of the Serrallés family. Boasting more than 150 years of dedicated craftsmanship, the family's unwavering dedication to the individuals and methodologies that embody Don Q has solidified its position as the undisputed favorite within the realm of rum, particularly in the vibrant landscape of Puerto Rico.

It’s worth visiting the historical American colonies for the rum and museums. Here, you can discover the rich history of rum, trace the evolution of Don Q, and immerse yourself in a hands-on mixology workshop where you craft your own signature fruit blend cocktail. You can even engage in a virtual reality event! And this is all set against the backdrop of the breathtaking vistas of Ponce.

Distillery Tour Details:

Where: Castillo Serrallés Museum, Ponce, Pueto Rico

When: Wednesday to Sunday

Cost: $60 USD per person (tours in English and Spanish)



Mount Gay, Barbados

Sugarcane plantation used for rum distillation on the Caribbean island of Barbados

Mount Gay Rum is a personal favorite of ours. It's incredibly smooth to drink neat but makes an excellent mixer for cocktails also. It hails from the famed rum-producing nation of Barbados, an island formed from coral limestone which performs as a natural filter for the groundwater. This makes the water among the purest in the world and gives Mount Gay rum its unique flavors.

The Mount Gay Tour lets you visit where it began in 1703, taking you through its fully operational rum-making headquarters. Here you will see the main production area and processes like fractional distillation, vapor cooling, and the standard method using industrial labor firsthand. They also have excellent workshops such as cocktail making where you and your travel companions can exchange alcohol with each other, enjoy a sweet and savory pairing, and indulge in a premium rum-tasting experience.

Rum and Barbados sounds like a great combo to us!

Distillery Tour Details:

Where: Exmouth Gap, Brandons Spring Garden Highway Bridgetown, St. Michael

When: Monday to Friday. Saturday season.

Cost: Pre-booking requires $70 USD payment services for a 2-hour tour


Habitation Clément - Martinique

The gardens and original cottage of Habitation Clément rum distillery in Martinique

The Habitation Clément estate is a true jewel in Martinique's crown. Exploring the renovated old distillery, now reimagined as a rum interpretation center, provides visitors with an insightful journey into the manufacturing process. The meticulously restored building and machinery, completed in 2005, offer a multi-level exploration connected by charming footbridges, showcasing the rich tapestry of industrial heritage.

We suggest you also explore the breathtaking botanical discovery trail spanning 16 hectares of meticulously manicured gardens and grounds and be sure to leave time to visit the historic main house, modeled after the Domaine de l'Acajou in Le François. Serving as the residence of the Clément family from 1887 to 1986, it stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the estate.

Distillery Tour Details:

Where: Habitation Clément, 97240 Le François - Martinique

When: The entire estate is open 365 days a year 9 am to 6.30 pm.

Cost: 13 € per person


Cayman Spirits Co. - Grand Cayman Island

Georgetown beachfront, home to Cayman Sprits Co. in the Caribbean

Cayman Spirits Co. does things a bit differently - they have revived the age-old tradition of crafting genuine, ocean-aged rum in the Caribbean Sea. This is because, in an anaerobic, pressurized setting like the ocean floor, it functions akin to a time capsule. Here, the sea preserves a consistent temperature, while gentle currents cradle the bottles in a rhythmic sway.

Cayman Spirits are renowned for their signature Governors Reserve Rum and Seven Fathoms Premium Rum, both of which you can taste on their tour. Within the custom-built 5000 square foot facility, you'll encounter its impressive 1200-gallon Vendome copper pot still, towering over at 30 feet, alongside the iconic Gun Bay Vodka tower. Quite impressive.

Distillery Tour Details:

Where: 68 Bronze Road, Georgetown, Grand Cayman

When: Daily - must book ahead online

Cost: $15 USD per person for 30 - 40 minute tour


Hampden Estate Distillery Tour - Jamaica

Aerial shot of Falmouth, town in Jamaica home  to Hampden Estate rum distillery tours

The historical distillery on the Hampden Estate in Jamaica dates back to 1753 when it operated as a large sugar plantation run by Mr. Archibold Stirling of Scotland. The distillery is in a stunning jungle-like location off the beaten track from the historic town of Falmouth, a destination featured in our ultimate world cruise itinerary. To get there, you drive down a dirt road through bamboo tunnels and cane fields to arrive at a gorgeous historical estate with lush surroundings and exotic wildlife. 

The Hampden Rum Tour delves deep into the workings of the still-operational distillery. On the tour, you'll see the enduring 260-year-old rum-making process that remains in practice today, and indulge in sampling their renowned Pure Single Jamaican Rum. You can also wander through the Hampden Great House's idyllic rainforest surroundings, steeped in the grand estate's rich history.

Distillery Tour Details:

Where: Hampden Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica (30 minutes from Falmouth cruise pier)

When: Monday to Friday 10AM and 11AM

Cost: Price not listed, runs 2 hours, email tours@hampdenrumcompany.com for reservation


This is just a sampling of the many food and drink-themed itineraries you might consider for your travels. For more ideas, check out our coverage of The Best Street Food of the World, and The Culinary Capitals of the World.



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