Master Blender: Mount Gay Offers The Best Of Rum, Barbados Style

Author  Dawn A. Davis

Rum aficionados can thank Barbados for the derivative of sugar that brings to mind pirates, plunder and the Caribbean. According to historical documents, rum was born in Barbados in 1703. The island’s famous rum Mount Gay is named after Sir John Gay Alleyne, the man that first produced the hay-colored spirited liquid. The company was actually owned by John Sober, who asked Sir John to manage it.

double copper pot stillUnder his direction the rum was developed. The company was renamed Mount Gay after its manager. It wasn’t until the mid 20th Century that the brand earned international recognition, when Aubrey Ward and his business partner John Hutson, a marketing genius, took over the distillery.

Located in the northern part of the island in the parish of St. Lucy, Mount Gay rum is considered the best because of the superior molasses derived from Barbados cane sugar and its distillation and fermentation process. â€œOriginally when they planted sugar cane, it was to get the sugar,” explained Darrio Prescod, Mount Gay’s brand ambassador. “But, in the process of extracting the sugar there was an unwanted byproduct, a very thick syrupy substance, molasses. But, when they realized the fermentation of this molasses could be distilled into rum it offset the cost of running the refinery and essentially doubled the profits. So, molasses then became ‘black gold’.”


Perhaps one of the most important ingredients is water. Barbados is a landform of coral limestone. Most of its abundant water is trapped beneath the earth. Tapping into it for drinking, islanders realized the water was filtered through the porous coral limestone, making it one of the purest drinking waters available. This is the liquid source for Mount Gay rum. So, starting with pristine water makes all the difference. To demonstrate the cleanliness and the source of the water, the distillery has been using the same well for over 300 years, the original well used by its original owners. It is said to be more than 300 feet deep.

“The fact that we are taking water from the same well and you can actually see it for yourself, you know it’s not a fabricated story,” said Prescod. “So, when you think about it, because this is coral filtered water, we think the island of Barbados was made for making rum.” Then, the mixture of water and molasses is allowed to ferment with the addition of yeast, and timing of course. The fermentation of this mixture, called a wash, is what gives the rum its personality, explained Prescod, who said the distillery uses two fermentation processes — open air and controlled - resulting in different types of characteristics.


The unique distillation process of the combined ingredients then takes place before the process of maturation in specially charred American white oak barrels begins.
There are two distinct ways of distilling. Single distillation is done in a 50-foot tall column that produces an alcohol content of about 95 percent by volume. The rum gets its unique flavor from the second type - double distillation - which is done through a copper pot producing an alcohol content of 85 percent, but with a more aromatic character. The shape of the copper pot has a lot to do with the rum’s signature. Managing these processes is key to the rum’s taste. That’s controlled by the refinery’s Blues, the master distiller, who has been at the plant since 1965, according to Prescod.

“Using similar double copper pot stills as Sir Alleyne used in the 1700s creates a unique flavor characteristic only to Mount Gay rum,” he said. The last step involves the creativity of Allen Smith, Mount Gay’s master blender. Varying degrees of aged rums are blended, filtered, and chilled to perfection.