FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS RUM?
Rum is the Spirit of St Lucia. It is the connection of a people to its history - a link between hands in the soil from which sugar is grown, to hands in the air as we express ourselves at carnival. St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies captures and bottles that spirit. The process starts using molasses, the by-product of sugar manufacturing, puts it through a heavily controlled and monitored fermentation process, distils and then blends to achieve the right balance and flavours. The rum is then aged, each to the product’s specifications, blended, bottled and distributed. St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies has maintained a reputation for fine rums and liqueurs that are enjoyed in St Lucia and exported all over the world.
HOW IS RUM MADE?
Rum making can be an interesting process, below is a more visual process of the stages:
1. Raw Materials
Molasses, made from the juice extracted from sugarcane, is imported from the fertile river plains of sugar-producing Guyana.
Water, yeast & molasses are mixed and fermented at controlled temperatures for 24-30 hours.
The mixture is heated and distilled in either a pot still or column (continuous) still. Each produces a distinct flavour and each level of extraction gives a unique character to the spirit. The boutique and variety depend on the different draw points.
Maturation time depends on the type of rum to be produced – premium aged rums, called sipping rums, are aged the longest; mixing rums like Bounty take less time and white rums like Strong and unaged.
The exact character of each rum or liqueur is determined by a master team of blenders who are constantly developing new products once the right blend has been created and the product developed, those are meticulously reproduced on the production line.
The packaging of a product often makes the difference between a rum’s commercial success and its failure. No matter how critically acclaimed the rum, packaging has to catch the eye. The label needs to resonate with the consumer.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF RUM?
“People knew that the molasses left behind by sugar refining fermented easily, but only the bold risked drinking it. However, put it through a still and you had a potent and palatable drink. They called it Kill-Devil, or rumbullion, “a hot hellish liquor,” - and they loved it. Rum was born.”
Ian Williams, The Secret History of Rum
The history of rum is married to the organised production of sugar. European predilection for distilled liquors, and a host of other variables that converged on the West Indian archipelago in the seventeenth century, brought together all the right ingredients for rum production, an event which would have lasting repercussions on the culture of the region and the economy of the world.
The demand for sugar on the European market put sugar into a bracket of production which greased the cogs of the industrial revolution in Europe. Molasses, a by-product of the sugar manufacture process when left to ferment was found to produce a spirit now known as rum. The strong liquor appealed mostly to the slave population and to sailors and buccaneers, but gradually gained a wider, more appreciative audience as time and better distilling methods made it more palatable.
In the late seventeenth century rum rations, moderated by measures of water and later lime to prevent scurvy, were introduced by the Royal Navy as part of a sailor’s daily allotment. The naval connection gave the distilled drink an international platform. It wasn’t long before the process of rum distillation became more profitable than sugar production on its own.
Rum slowly emerged, not only as the preferred alcohol imbibed worldwide, but also as one of the most important economic commodities in the colonial economy. In the infamous triangle trade, rum became akin to currency and the pivot for the exchange of slave labour, manufactured goods and raw materials.
From a dubious start and a vibrant history, rum in its diverse varieties and blends has earned a favoured place on the palates of those who frequent the roadside rum shop to the fashionable cocktail bars of London, New York and Paris.
WHAT IS RUM IN SAINT LUCIA?
When sugar was introduced to the island in the late 1700’s it revolutionised the society, the reverberations of which are still felt today. The labour-intensive crop generated a demand that was satisfied by the trade of African slave labour, and later by Indian indentured labour, introducing what is now the primary demographic of the island’s population and rum’s first consumers.
The island of St Lucia featured many small plantation distilleries, remnants of which can still be found around the countryside. By the 1950s there were only two operational distilleries left on island - one of which was the Barnard Family Estate in Dennery, which was for the most part producing strong white rums. In 1972 the Barnards entered into a joint venture with Geest and moved their operations to the current location in the Roseau Valley. As sugar production had ended by then, the raw material, molasses is shipped from Guyana into the bay at Roseau where the viscous, aromatic syrup is pumped to storage tanks at the distillery.
The expansion of the distillery and its product range has meant the introduction of a portfolio of rum and rum-related products which offer a wider choice to a larger cross section of society. Rum has evolved both in quality and perception, to appeal to St Lucia and the world’s most discerning palates.
WHAT IS THE RHYTHM OF RUM TOUR?
In the Roseau valley in St Lucia, host to the agricultural community of Jacmel is St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies, producing world class rums and liqueurs in a process that has, like its environment, changed little in a hundred years. Here, guests to the historic, world class distillery can embark on a Rhythm of Rum tour that takes visitors on a journey that illuminates the connection between the production of rum and the historical and cultural heritage of the island.
The tour begins with a short video in the reconstructed ship’s hold and explains rum production, its connection to the island and the distillery’s family beginnings. Guests then proceed to the main distillery factory where it becomes clear that the making of rum has its own distinct rhythm and flavour. From the molasses vats holding the dark viscous and aromatic raw material to the open vats where final fermentation takes place, visitors are encouraged to engage all the senses to understand the unique phenomenon that is rum making.
Beautiful copper stills dominate the main floor where guests can observe the progressive distilling process with an opportunity to see and smell the spirit at its various stages. But perhaps most intriguing of this process is the casking of the spirit into oak barrels that began their lives in places far flung, in bourbon and port producing districts lending the aging rum both the colour and character of their previous contents.
St Lucia rums and liqueurs very much accompany the celebration of spirit and passion that has so characterised the island’s history. The rhythm of rum tour concludes with a Carnival extravaganza. Colourful costumes and the melodic sounds of steel pan envelope visitors in the Carnival interpretation centre.
The tour ends at a veritable rum buffet where visitors can sample the impressive range and find the rum or rums which best fit the individual palate. Whether it is a premium sipping rum, a crème liqueur or an invigorating spice rum, the Rhythm of Rum boutique stocks and sells your favourite St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies product.