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.
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.
Rum in St 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 differentiates St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies is we are a small innovative, quality-driven rum producer.”