Barbados and rum have every right to be in the same sentence, as the island produces some of the finest grog to be found anywhere on the planet. A business that carries on the tradition of producing fine Bajan rum is the West Indies Distillery, a venue with a rich heritage that started with a man named Georges Stades.
Stades impact on the rum industry was prolific and it was fascinating to learn about his story on a webinar hosted by The Rum Lab’s Federico Hernadez. West Indies Rum Distillery: Diving Into 4 Generations Of Rum-Making featured master distiller Don Benn and Master Blender Alexandre Gabriel, who recounted the life of Stades and how the distillery came into existence.
Making A Mark
The webinar began with Alexandre introducing how Georges Stades came to Barbados and his motivations. He was a German inventor who fled to the Caribbean in 1893, choosing Barbados because it appealed to his values.
Stades wanted to showcase the power of fermentation and distillation, so he designed his own column still, which the distillery still uses parts of in the modern day. But Stades was more than a distiller. He had an entrepreneurial mindset, creating relationships with other businesses and putting his rum at the forefront of the conversation.
Interestingly, the West Indies Distillery was built to be a distillery, rather than a sugarcane plantation or estate. Stades was eventually joined by an English chemist called D’Albuquerque, who analysed the quality of the rum. D’Albuquerque became so invested in the rum that he gradually joined the West Indies team on a full time basis and became the master distiller.
A Lasting Legacy
Stades’ influence continues to be a part of the distillery, with his designs serving as inspiration for new machinery and equipment. One of his most enduring creations were wooden fermenting vats that gave the distillery’s rum a signature bready note.
All of this information was taken from The Vault, an on-site archive that contains the complete history of the West Indies Distillery. Alexandre and Don were extremely passionate about sharing Stades’ story, highlighting the impact that he had on Barbados.
There was also some exciting news released. The West Indies Distillery is officially paying homage to their creator by releasing a new rum with Stades’ name on the bottle, introducing him to a new generation of drinkers.
Throughout the presentation, the idea of a distillery having DNA came up. Whether it’s the buildings or the people, a distillery is a living thing built to be greater than the sum of its parts. The West Indies Distillery is the DNA of Georges Stades immortalised. That’s such a powerful image, reflecting the legacy of a man who built something that will always be remembered.
Want to learn more about Bajan rum? Check out The Rum Ration’s review of Mount Gay’s webinar.