Barbados has a reputation for producing some of the best rum on the planet, with Mount Gay representing what makes Bajan rum so special. As the oldest rum distillery in the world, Mount Gay has plenty of rich heritage to draw from and it was a pleasure to learn about the history of the brand on a recent webinar hosted by Cocktail Wonk’s Matt Pietrek.
The webinar featured Mount Gay’s managing director Raphael Grisoni, process manager Fitzroy Smith and master blender Trudiann Branker.
Centuries of heritage
Raphael kicked off the webinar by introducing the history of Mount Gay and it’s connection to Barbados. Interestingly, the first record of the sugarcane spirit appeared in Barbados in 1650, making the island the birthplace of rum. Mount Gay can trace it’s heritage as the oldest rum distillery in the world from two deeds created in 1654 and 1703, which stated rum was already being produced at the Mount Gay estate during these time periods.
The next point of discussion was on Barbados’ terroir and how it shapes the rum. Sugarcane is planted in different plots and the distillery treats the plant to protect it against ratoon stunting disease, an affliction that reduces the size of sugarcane and makes it less effective.
With Barbados being filled with coral stone, this naturally effects how Mount Gay rum is produced. During production, coral stone filtered water is drawn from an artisanal well that has been at the estate since 1703.
The water is combined with Caribbean and Bajan molasses, which both have unique qualities. The Caribbean molasses tends to contain different minerals from the region that it’s sourced from, whereas the molasses produced in Barbados usually has a higher sugar content for increased yields. Melding the two together brings out rich flavours.
Fermentation and ageing
Fitzroy went into detail about how Mount Gay rum is fermented and the distillery uses two types of fermentation. One is done in stainless steel vats in a column distillation approach, while the second involves open air oak casks and pot still distillation.
After this, Trudiann explained her role in blending and ageing the rum. Mount Gay age their drinks seperately in a variety of barrels, which include American oak, bourbon and cognac casks, with each imparting a different flavour profile. In terms of a signature tasting profile, Mount Gay rum contains notes of almond, ripe banana, fresh vanilla and dark chocolate.
Committed to protecting the environment
As an environmentally conscious brand, Mount Gay is involved in a range of sustainability projects. Raphael mentioned the importance of water conservation and Mount Gay regularly reuse water to ensure that they aren’t being wasteful. Biodiversity is another project that Mount Gay is involved with, planting trees every year to promote a greener planet.
The webinar was educational, entertaining and definitely appealed to my inner history geek. If you’ve never tried Mount Gay rum before then now is the time to try their bottles. But if you are familiar with the brand then I’d love to know what your favourite bottle from their collection is!