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Caribbean Food & Drink

A Rum Lover’s Guide to the Caribbean

coupls drinking rum in the caribbean
Chris Osburn
Written by Chris Osburn

Can a single sip of rum send you sailing to a tropical island in your mind? Then you’ll love dreaming a little while with us as we explore some of the best Caribbean rum distilleries to visit. Yes, a number of distilleries – big and small, famous and not-so-much – across the Caribbean are open to the public with guided tours and tastings.

So pour yourself a shot of your preferred poison or mix your favorite cocktail and let’s get island hopping!

Jamaica

whiskey distillery

Jamaica is home to producers of some of the world’s most popular, award-winning, and best-tasting rums. Two of the very best – Appleton Estate and Hampden – offer tours of their facilities. The Appleton tour, deep in the heart of the island’s Cockpit Country, gives visitors a true taste of Jamaica and a hands-on opportunity to discover what goes into making premium quality rum. The Hampden tour, near the cruise hub of Falmouth, similarly provides a chance up close learning about rum-making and how it ties in with the history and fortunes of Jamaica.

Martinique

Martinique, distillery of Habitation Clement in Le Francois in West Indies

If distillery tours are your thing, then the friendly French-speaking island of Martinique is your ideal destination. There are a number of tours of distilleries here. The island even has its own “Route des Rhums” crossing the island north to south hitting its 10 distilleries along the way. Among the most highly rated distillery tours are the ones at Rhum JM, Saint James, and Habitation Clement.

Puerto Rico

casa-bacardi-in-puerto-rico

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Joe

Perhaps you’ve heard of Bacardi? Puerto Rico is Bacardi’s base. The brand has its own Casa Bacardi, which just so happens to be the world’s largest premium rum distillery. Tours take you behind the scenes from barrel to bottle and conclude with a tasting.

Trinidad

a glass of rum on the beach, trinidad

Trinidad’s Angostura is one of the biggest rum producers in the Caribbean and maker of the world’s best-selling aromatic bitters. There’s no bitter end to an Angostura distillery tour, but visitors do get to see the Bitters Room, where a sneak peek of distillery facilities can be enjoyed. The tour also includes a look at the Barcant Butterfly Collection — a nearly 100-year-old collection of more than 700 species of butterflies.

Barbados

Beautiful Barbados has been a haven for rum distilleries for more than 350 years, including one of the world’s leading brands and oldest rums: Mount Gay. The Mount Gay Rum Visitor Centre invites guests to its distillery, which dates back to 1703. The stories shared on a Mount Gay tour are as potent as the rum distilled there! Other distilleries to visit on Barbados include St Nicholas Abbey (with its own working sugar plantation) and the Foursquare Rum Factory.

Grenada

Freshly cut sugarcane stalks at the River Antoine rum factory in Grenada, Caribbean

Similar to the island itself, Grenada’s River Antoine Estate Rum Distillery tour is a hidden gem that’s traditional, respectful of nature, high quality, and inexpensive. The privately owned distillery is the oldest running water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean. Last we checked, a tour cost just $2.

Cuba

Homemade Cuba Libre with fresh lime, brown rum and crushed ice on an old wooden table.

Not the easiest island to get to for many Americans, but rum lovers know Cuba is one of the world’s key producers of the amber spirit and originator to some of the most famous rum-based drinks. Tours of old Bacardi Rum Factory museum in Santiago de Cuba (operations have long since relocated to Puerto Rico) and the Museo del Ron Havana Club in Havana offer deep insight into the island’s drink of choice. Couple your tours with visits to pre-revolution bars, such as El Floridita, La Bodeguita del Medio, the former Trader Vic’s (now Restaurante Polinesio) etc. etc. etc. … and cheers!

Haiti

Okay, so Haiti is a bit of an advanced option for experienced travelers and only the most ardent rum aficionados. But if that’s you, then the Rhum Barbancourt distillery near Port-au-Prince is the place to be. Producing premium rum since the 1860s, the Barbancourt distillery is located in an oasis of calm on the edge of the frenetic capital of Port-au-Prince.

Bahamas

beautiful young woman mixing her cocktail with a plastic straw in a glass, decorated with a lime slice, on the beach on a hot warm summer day in the Caribbean sea

The John Watling’s Distillery tour encompasses the bold history of the Bahamas, with tales of the distillery’s namesake buccaneer, a taste of its spirit that’s been made here since 1789, and an opportunity to take in the grandeur of the Buena Vista Estate in downtown Nassau.

There are so many more islands and distilleries across the Caribbean. Where’s your favorite port of call and what’s your favorite rum?

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About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.