Mount Gay

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Mount Gay History

One of the oldest distilleries extant anywhere in the world, Mount Gay is Bajan rum of outstanding quality. Typified by a drier, estery flavour and produced from molasses, Mount Gay use over 300 years of expertise when making every bottle. This rum is perfect both as a sipper on a hot day, and in citrus-forward zesty cocktails.

All Mount Gay rums begin with water. Barbados is itself an island of porous coral limestone, which acts as a natural filter for the subterranean water. The majority of Mount Gay’s rums are made with water drawn from Harrison’s Cave, an ancient cavern that was once underwater. Mount Gay then filter their water a further three times to ensure absolute purity when making their rums. Of course, all rum requires a sugar product to distil, and Mount Gay uses strictly molasses from Barbados Molasses, which is some of the very finest in the world. In the 18th Century, the sugar product was so highly prized it was nicknamed "black gold" and was pulling nearly as much revenue as the crystallised sugar sector of the business. Barbados has the perfect geography for growing cane, with wide, flat plains, and extremely fertile soil. The Molasses gives a fruity, yet dry and slightly grassy quality to the finished rum, as opposed to the vegetal and fresh nature of sugar cane juice distillate and the rich, intense quality of Demerara rums.

Interestingly, Mount Gay practices open air fermentation, adding a proprietorial yeast strain. Molasses is mixed with water and boiled to sterilise, with the ratio varying dependent on the sugar content of the Molasses, but generally does not exceed a 4:1 mix. Fermentation takes 2 to 3 days, and is not temperature controlled, with the distillery making inventive use of the trade winds on the island in cooling the tanks. Distillation occurs in a mix of both column and pot stills, with distillation from both stills blended expertly to make their rum bottlings. The column stills produce an almost neutral spirit of 97% ABV, whilst the pot stills distill to around 55-60%. Interestingly, Mount Gay make use of a retort in their distillation process, meaning that vapour condenses and returns to the still, thickening the body of the spirit and increasing the contact with the still. Mount Gay typically use 200 litre former Jim Beam barrels, though for their Black Barrel release they make use of heavily charred Tennessee whiskey barrels. Due to the heat of the Caribbean, maturation occurs at a greater speed than in cooler climates. Mount Gay have 4 large warehouses, which are organised in a racked style. Mount Gay cask their rum at 68%, and dilute this down to 43% with water, though they add no sugar, unlikely many of their distilling fellows. Indeed, Bajan distillers are only allowed to add a scant amount of caramel colouring and water.

Mount Gay is known for a drier style, demonstrated with aplomb in their flagship bottling, Eclipse (named after the appearance of Halley’s Comet and solar Eclipse of 1910). This stalwart of the market remains one of the best value rums around. The distillery exceeds Eclipse with the excellent Extra Old, a marvellously fragrant and dry rum, with a rich molasses finish. At the top of their range is the 1703 bottling, a recent addition, handcrafted by Master Distiller Allen Smith from rums between 10 and 30 years in age. This beautiful offering is full of banana milkshake and vanilla notes with a rich oaky flavour throughout. Mount Gay is both delicious straight, or in cocktails, particularly in its signature serve- the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Timeline

  1. 1493

    First trace of distilling on Barbados.

  2. 1663

    Mount Gay claim there was some distilling on their estate at this point.

  3. 1703

    A deed of sale reports there to be a stillhouse on the site.

    At some point in the 18th century a William Sandford purchased the area.

  4. 1747

    The estate is inherited by Sandford’s son, the ironically named James Sober.

    Later in the century, Sober and his son, Cumberbatch, were spending much of their time away from Barbados in England, and the running of the plantation and distillery fell to his friend, Sir. John Gay, after whom the distillery is named.

  5. 1757

    Gay is elected to parliament, and would hold the seat for 40 years. He later became speaker of the parliament, and was something of a rarity amongst the landed plantation class- as he was a fierce advocate for the abolition of slavery.

  6. 1801

    Gay dies and the distillery is named after him.

  7. 1860

    The plantation and distillery finally leaves the hands of the Sober family.

  8. 1900s

    Aubrey Ward purchases the distillery in the early part of the century. He proved an astute businessman, who expanded the operations and the sales of distillery with the assistance of his partner John Hutson.

    Aubrey’s son, Darnely DaCosta Ward, takes over the running of Mount Gay, and continued to turn his efforts towards the international exports market.

  9. 1989

    Ward dies, and his majority interest is purchased by Remy Cointreau, who greatly expand the business, and raises its international profile. Mount Gay is now one of the most readily available and well-respected rum brands on the market.

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