I grew to become a ‘rummelier’ in St. Kitts — right here’s the way it went

As extra of a connoisseur of advantageous spirits than advantageous wines, I used to be intrigued to study I might grow to be a “rummelier” in St. Kitts.

The Caribbean island not too long ago launched its Kittitian RumMaster program, which incorporates expert-led sensible and theoretical programs at two distilleries. Within the one-day tour, you’ll higher perceive the advanced historical past of the spirit, create your individual spiced rum and research the science of blending rum-based cocktails.

My day begins at Wingfield Property, website of the Caribbean’s oldest surviving rum distillery and residential of the not too long ago launched Old Road Rum Company. Underneath the warmth of the mid-morning solar, I wander the plush grounds whereas my tour information factors out notable options, together with the traditional ruins of the excavated distillery and sugar plantation.

“This could have been the sugar mill the place the sugar cane stalks had been squeezed to extract the juice from the plant. And that steam boiler would have crystallized the sugar,” says Bon Jovi. (Sure, that’s his actual identify.)

Rum production is deeply connected to St. Kitts history, and old sugar mills remain.

Standing by a towering stone chimney, which was presumably the giveaway {that a} distillery existed on this website, Jovi reveals that the Widdowson household purchased the property within the Nineteen Seventies, when it was nonetheless coated in overgrowth from a neighbouring forest reserve.

In 2013, with the assistance of archeologists, the household found they had been sitting on a historic distillery. Archeologists have since established that rum was produced right here as early as 1681, making Wingfield the oldest intact distillery within the Caribbean. This property was as soon as owned by Christopher Jeaffreson, an ancestor of former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson.

The manufacturing of rum is deeply related to the historical past that has formed the two-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The house of the primary British and French colonies within the Caribbean, St. Kitts has an advanced historical past, rooted in slavery. When Christopher Columbus sailed to St. Kitts in 1493 — which was then inhabited by the Carib individuals — he named it St. Christopher, which was shortened to St. Kitt’s by English settlers, who established a colony on the island’s west coast. The French established their very own colony in 1627. Divided between the French and English within the seventeenth century, the island was given to Britain; St. Kitts and Nevis achieved independence solely in 1983.

The Brimstone Hill Fortress, begun in 1690, is a landmark from St. Kitts' colonial era.

This colonization introduced brutality, together with the genocide of the Indigenous Caribs and the importation of African slaves, thousands and thousands of whom didn’t survive the treacherous transatlantic journey. Those that did had been pressured to construct up the island for the good thing about colonizers, which included clearing tobacco and rainforests to make manner for sugar cane.

By 1775, with 200 estates and 68 sugar plantations producing the “white gold,” St. Kitts grew to become generally known as Sugar Metropolis, and was one of many wealthiest British colonies on the time. The considerable sugar manufacturing led to considerable rum manufacturing.

“You couldn’t stroll anyplace with out seeing a sugar plantation once I was child,” says Outdated Highway Rum founder Jack Widdowson. However the island’s final sugar cane manufacturing facility closed in 2005, after St. Kitts might not compete with international producers, and this, in flip, pressured the island’s once-bountiful rum manufacturing to fold.

Widdowson lived in Toronto and Nova Scotia for 14 years to attend college and work earlier than transferring dwelling to convey the excavated distillery again to life. “Once I realized what we had been sitting on when it comes to (the distillery’s) historic worth, I needed to do one thing with that historical past,” says Widdowson, who has been on the forefront of a motion to honour the island’s previous by bringing rum manufacturing again to St. Kitts.

Jack Widdowson of Old Road Rum is at the forefront of the island's rum revivalist movement.

In 2019, he launched Outdated Highway Rum, which is at the moment produced from imported batch rum (he received’t disclose from the place), aged for 12 years in former bourbon casks, after which blended and bottled. As a long-term ambition, he’s working towards distilling rum and replanting sugar cane on the grounds.

Roger Brisbane can also be a part of this revivalist motion to convey rum again. His distillery, Spice Mill Restaurant, is the second cease within the Kittitian RumMaster program. Brisbane created Hibiscus Spirits, a spiced rum infused with regionally grown roselle hibiscus. Additionally referred to as sorrel, it’s extensively consumed within the Caribbean.

At his stunning beachfront distillery, my fellow rum-masters-in-the-making and I mix cloves, vanilla and different components to create varied flavour profiles as Brisbane guides us by means of the methodology of infusing spices and herbs into spirits. After growing and bottling our personal signature spiced rum to take dwelling, we shake up vibrant coconut rum cocktails.

After all, you don’t must enrol in a course to expertise rum on St. Kitts. On the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, mixologist Kendie Williams generously pours tastings of notable overseas manufacturers like El Dorado and Zacapa, together with Brinley Gold Shipwreck. You may also pattern the resort’s personal (and really uncommon) Topped Monkey Rum — just one barrel of it was produced.

The Timothy Hill Overlook offers one of St. Kitts' iconic views.

No matter you do, find time for the vigorous Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill, which has served up its well-known Killer Bee rum punch for 30 years in Nevis. The cocktail comes with a warning from nearly each native: watch out. I take one sip of my Child Bee (I requested for a small serving) and perceive why — two of those infants and I’d absolutely be beneath the desk.

The partitions are plastered with pictures of those that have survived this killer cocktail, together with Justin Trudeau, Beyoncé and Jay Z, and Magic Johnson.

The bar’s proprietor, Sunshine Caines, who embodies his identify, emerges from a spirited desk of teetotallers to greet me with a giant, vibrant smile. Apart from divulging that he makes use of Outdated Highway Rum in his Killer Bees, he received’t reveal what makes it so potent.

It’s a full-circle second for Caines, who labored on the sugar plantations as a toddler, an arduous expertise. “It taught me that arduous work can convey success,” he says. “Not (success) like Jeff Bezos however success in life, and I’ve used that success to share what this island affords: pleasure and kindness. To me, sharing that’s what makes you profitable.”

I’ll drink to that. Not solely does the island share pleasure and kindness, however it’s additionally suffused with a dedication to honour the previous by bringing its historical past into its future.

How you can grow to be a licensed “rummelier”

The Kittitian RumMaster program is a three-hour tour, $150 (U.S.) per individual, supplied weekly (Wednesdays). After you’re tutored in rum custom and method on the two distilleries, you’ll obtain a certificates of completion. To enroll, go to “The Joys of Rum” on stkittstourism.kn.

Charmaine Noronha travelled as a visitor of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, which didn’t assessment or approve this text.


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