Bahama Bob's Rumstyles

Thursday, March 1, 2012

When I Think About Rum, I Think about Cane Garden Bay

    Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands is the site of the oldest continuously operating rum distillery in the world.   At least according to the people who operate Callwood Distillery believe.     This is one of the oldest and most primitive pot distilling operations, but it still produces rum every year.    The operation is a remnant of the Arundel Estate bought by Richard Callwood at the end of the 18th century.    Although there is no official record of haw long that rum has been made at the distillery, the architecture of the building indicates it was built in the mid 17th century.        Richard Callwood was a buccaneer planter that also owned Thatch Island, bought the estate for his son Richard Callwood II.    The distillery still to this day remains in the hands of the Callwood family.

     The pressing of the sugar cane produces a juice that is then placed in large kettles in which they are boiled.    The cane juice mixture is then  placed into barrels for fermenting.   The fermentation process takes about 18 or so days.   The fermented wine or beer, depending who you talk to, is then placed into a copper pot still and brought to a boil using scrap wood and coconut husks so the alcohol will turn to vapor and then run through a cooling coil that liquefies the alcohol to be condensed in a cistern from which the rum drips into a copper tub that sits in the floor of the office.   The boiling process takes the better part of a day and is done at a comparatively low heat.     This is why the stills last so long at the distillery.    The pot still that was retire just a few years ago dates back to the slave era on the estate.   

     There are only two rums that are sold by the distillery, one is a white rum that is used mostly by the local islanders, and a dark rum that is aged about 4 years in oak barrels and seems to be more popular among the tourists.     These are sold at the distillery and a few retail stores on the island.    

     The next time you sail or drive into Cane Garden Bay, take the time to walk back up the road about a quarter mile from Stanley's and visit this very unique and fascination distillery.    It is an experience that will take you back to the beginnings of rum making.     ;o)